The first time I heard the words “You have cancer” was when my grandmother, Lila Rau, was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer. My instant reaction was, “She’s going to die.”
Defying fear, instinct kicked in to fight this horrific disease. My family and I waged battle by giving our loving support, attending every appointment, discussing options, and helping my grandmother feel as normal as possible.
It wasn’t easy. Mistakes were made because we didn’t know that the cancer was spreading at an alarming rate. Within a year, Lila’s cancer had spread to stage three and her chances of a cure had dropped from 90 percent to 50 percent. The type of breast cancer my grandmother had was aggressive. After a five-year struggle, she passed. This was the most devastating loss of my life.
Lila Rau was an amazing person who had an amazing spark for life. We were very close and shared everything. So close, that she entrusted me with her power-of-attorney and designated me executor of her estate.
Inspired to Serve
Now, I have the opportunity to honor her memory and serve others in their battle with cancer. Two years ago when my husband and I moved to Austin, I learned about an organization called Cancer Connection. I immediately contacted the organization and dived in head first to help others.
It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve learned that Cancer Connection is special because it deals specifically with the emotional and spiritual support of patients and families. Every volunteer is either a cancer survivor or caretaker who cared for a loved one with the disease.
Karen and Bill Greif founded Cancer Connection in 2004 to provide a network for patients and their families who are battling cancer in the Austin area. The mission is to ensure that no one in our community faces their illness alone. With over 400 trained volunteers, Cancer Connection provides one-on-one mentoring support by visiting patients in five Austin-area hospitals and seven oncology treatment centers. With caring hearts, volunteers listen and offer encouragement, support, and hope born from a hard-won experience. Other volunteers sew blankets for patients chilled by the infusion of chemotherapy and make hats for those who have lost their hair due to treatment.
Cancer Connection has also established a care fund that provides emergency financial aid for patients in active treatment. The fund can provide assistance with co-pays for medication, a metro pass for transportation, food, utility bills, and rent. Cancer Connection volunteers have touched the lives of patients and their families more than 12,000 times.
I love this organization. Even with limited resources, it never stops giving guidance, support and affection. Anyone who has either experienced cancer or watched the devastation of the disease knows that it can destroy self-image, self-worth and dignity. Cancer Connection reinforces the idea that patients are not alone, even in their darkest hour.
You Can Get Involved
Right now, the organization is gearing up for its annual fundraiser to make sure it has enough money to keep everything running for another year. The Divots and Diamonds Celebrity Golf Tournament will be held on October 29, 2012. The first four tournaments raised over 150,000 dollars and have been attended by hundreds of Central Texas residents.
We’re hoping this year’s tournament is the biggest and most successful ever. To do that, we need help from the community. Your help. We need sponsors and silent auction items. We need golfers to team up with our celebrity guests and if you’re busy that weekend, we’ll happily accept your check. Please help us accomplish our goal. To learn more, please click here.
Cancer Connection is an organization that is near and dear to my heart. It operates with a small, hard-working crew. Penny Decou, Connie Mcfarland, and David Worship work continuously to organize, promote, recruit, and fundraise. For them, it is truly a labor of love and compassion. Especially for Connie and David, who are cancer survivors.
I’m asking the Austin community to rally in support of this cause. If you can provide any assistance, please do so. If you have clout in the Austin area, please help Cancer Connection find sponsors, silent auction items, or individual donations. Remember, Austin needs this organization to provide emotional support to people who are facing the battle of their lives. Thank you in advance for any contribution you can provide. Be well, and if you need our services, please visit us here, at our website. You are not alone!
Tina Byram is a partner in November Media, LLC, an independent production and publishing company. She volunteered for Cancer Connection after the death of her grandmother from breast cancer.