We work with an extraordinary group of families. In many ways they are quite different. The parents work in a variety of occupations: school teacher, software engineer, nurse, truck driver, police officer, postal worker, to name a few. Some have several young children to care for while others have only one older child still at home. They come from a myriad of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. But there is always a common thread: they are trying to hold their families together during cancer treatment. They hope to minimize both the short- and long-term financial impact that treatment has on their family. And, they want to continue to live a “normal life” under difficult circumstances.
Over the years we have worked with more than 500 families as they made their way through the cancer treatment. Here are the profiles of several familes that have participated in our program.
Terry and her husband Bob came to FamiliesCAN after both had been diagnosed with cancer: she with breast cancer, and he with multiple myeloma. Terry, who home-schools her two teenage children in San Jose, also has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. Bob, a construction superintendent, took some time off of work to help while Terry was in treatment. FamiliesCAN helped them with two months mortgage. Through her own personal crusade, Terry fought for the right for all women, including those confined to a wheelchair, to obtain a mammogram. She and her husband were also instrumental in helping FamiliesCAN procure just the right wheelchair for another FamiliesCAN patient. It was their very kind way of giving something back to FamiliesCAN.
May, the mother of a five-year-old and a ten-month-old, was diagnosed with hodgkin’s disease as she was about to give birth to her third child. She and her husband James reside in Sunnyvale. They came to us just as the high-tech economy went into decline and James was laid off from his job as a mask designer. May was the owner of a catering business and needed to juggle treatment, mothering, and managing her business all at once. FamiliesCAN helped by paying off credit card debt that had accumulated as a result of cancer treatment. May recovered, James went back to work, and at the end of a trying time everything was back to normal in their household. May, who has now catered several of the FamiliesCAN holiday parties with over 100 guests, makes the best roasted chicken and mashed potatoes in the Valley!
Cristen, the mother of a three-year-old daughter, applied to the FamiliesCAN program during her struggle against breast cancer. Residing with her husband in Sunnyvale, Cristen suffers from heart problems as a result of her treatment and is easily fatigued. FamiliesCAN stepped in and helped in two ways. First, we paid the rent for their mobile home. Next, our Program Director worked with Cristen to find a preschool for her daughter. A highly regarded program on the Peninsula awarded a full scholarship, providing a much needed respite for mom during the day.
Jennifer, a twenty-six year old from Santa Clara, applied to the FamiliesCAN program when she was diagnosed with hodgkin's lymphoma. At the time, she was the single mother of two young girls, ages five and eight. Jennifer volunteered to share her story on some radio spots that we were taping for NPR, but became so ill at the taping that she was hospitalized that evening. Her Mediport had become infected and she almost died. She slowly recovered from her illness, and FamiliesCAN helped her through the time when she was unable to work by paying her rent for three months and giving her gift cards for the girls. It is so nice to visit with her today: happy, smiling, healthy. This spring, there was another sign that Jennifer had achieved a full recovery: a new baby girl was born!
Leslie, an occupational therapist, joined our program after a diagnosis of Anaplastic Astrocytomas, which is a rare brain cancer. She and her husband Sonny, a physical therapist, were the parents of two young girls at the time, one of whom was diagnosed with special needs. FamiliesCAN helped them with childcare and mortgage. Leslie participated in the Back To Work workshop and, upon completion, did a cooking class for a Montessori school. Leslie was so inspiring that FamiliesCAN made a short film about her life and presented the film at a Vietnamese banquet held for Leslie and 100 of her friends and family.
Vonda, a childcare director from San Jose, was a single mother who turned to FamiliesCAN when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She endured extensive surgery and wrote “I feel as if the last two years I have been held together by doctors. It has definitely been overwhelming and I would really like to take some time away from it all and heal.” Our program director took Vonda under her wing and helped. Vonda lived modestly, and FamiliesCAN bought things to make her life easier: a more comfortable mattress to sleep on and a really nice pair of running shoes (we did the shopping with her). We gave her gift cards and paid her rent for four months.
Moises and Maria Luisa were long-time residents of the Bay Area and both were diagnosed with cancer. Maria Luisa finished her breast cancer treatment only to face Moises diagnosis of leukemia a few weeks later. Moises had always been the sole provider for the family, working for twenty-four years as a landscaper in Half Moon Bay. Their daughters, ages eight and eighteen, attended the public schools in Redwood City. FamiliesCAN paid their mortgage, car payment and insurance, and a portion of their credit card debt. Months later, FamiliesCAN helped with additional funds to help the family with a move to the Central Valley.