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How You Can Help the Cancer Support Community

Cancer has an insidious way of making everyone involved feel powerless at some point or another. But there is always something anyone can contribute towards cancer support, whether you are a cancer patient yourself, a cancer survivor or the loved one of a cancer patient or someone who has lost someone to cancer or someone who just wants to help the cancer community.

Cancer has an insidious way of making everyone involved feel powerless at some point or another, but there is always something you can contribute toward cancer support. Whether you’re a cancer patient, a survivor, a caretaker, someone who’s lost someone or you just want to help, there’s something you can do. Here are some ideas to help get you started.

Participate Locally or Go Globally

If you live near a major metropolitan area, chances are there will be several times during the year you can take part in different types of local cancer support fundraising events, such as those sponsored by the American Cancer Society. While you’re probably familiar with cancer walks and races such as Relay for Life, the Avon 39 Walk to End Breast Cancer and the No Stomach for Cancer annual walk, you can find all types of events to get involved with throughout the year.

You can also help organize your own event. With organizations like Stand Up to Cancer, you can spearhead your own fundraiser online or real-life local cancer event with your coworkers. You could also offer to run an event in conjunction with your child’s school, which is not only a great way to involve the community but also teach your kids about the power of giving back.

Send Money Directly

If you don’t have time or interest in volunteering or participating in events, but you do have money to donate, you’ll want to send it where it does the most good. Charity Navigator is a great resource (and technically a charity itself) with a search function and rating system that can help you find the perfect charity that gives the most of their funds back to research, screening awareness or whatever cause you feel most passionate about. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation is a good example of a non-profit organization with a four-star rating: As of this year, 91 percent of funds raised go directly to research and awareness programs.

Donate Necessities

Many people with cancer need financial help for necessities,including some cancer-specific items that might not occur to you. Patients who lose their hair need hats, scarves and wigs; some people need rides to the cancer center and don’t forget about soft, warm blankets and travel pillows for those undergoing chemotherapy — it can feel ice-cold in that chemo room!

Check in with your local cancer center for information on how to donate and what they need the most for their patients. You can also visit one of the 170 local Cancer Support Community (CSC) locations to contribute needed items, volunteer your time with administrative tasks and help with professional lectures, workshops and classes. You can even donate your hair to charities that make wigs for cancer patients, such as Wigs for Kids, St. Baldricks, and Pantene Beautiful Lengths. Before you make the cut, be sure to check the organization’s donation guidelines

Speak Up

What many cancer patients and survivors may not understand about their experience is that they are full of useful advice and hope for patients undergoing treatment now. You can either share at a local support group for your type of cancer or you can join an online support group forum such as WhatNext or the CSC site, where cancer patients, survivors and those who love them can ask and answer questions, sharing their experience, strength and hope in a meaningful way. If meeting or talking to others directly seems daunting, consider starting a free blog on the CSC site or WordPress to share your story online.

Whether you want to give your time, your money or your experience and skills, there’s always a way to help with cancer support.

The UVA Cancer Center's Flourish Boutique accepts volunteers to help patients in need with supplies like wigs, caps and scarves among other helpful services.

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Naomi Mannino
Naomi Mannino