Written by: Kathie Houchens
Date: September 30, 2016

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According to many experts on the ages and stages of life, as we mature there comes an inner urge to give back, to invest in the world around us, to leave a legacy of compassion. As October arrives with the many colors of autumn, two that you might have noticed were the blue lighting to draw attention to prostate cancer and now the pink everywhere to remind us of breast cancer, both real threats to our wellbeing. Statistics show that each year about 300, 000 women/men are diagnosed with breast cancer and about 230, 000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The National Cancer Institute reports that 1 of every 2 men and 1 of every 3 women will face some kind of cancer in their lifetime. How can we step up to make a difference for ourselves and for those we love?

If you have dealt with cancer firsthand you may want to help others with cancer. Meeting a survivor gives hope to the newly diagnosed. Sharing stories of healing experiences helps lift spirits when the journey gets tough. If you join a support group, experience and compassion can make a difference. You will find that it has a positive effect on your life, too.

If you enjoy mentoring and like to talk, there are organizations that have telephone hotlines. They will train you to receive calls, listen to concerns, and share easy-to-understand information over the phone. Here is contact information for two non-profit groups that offer support for breast and prostate cancer.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure
877-465-6636
helpline@komen.org
ww5.komen.org
Us TOO International
800-808-7866
ustoo@ustoo.org
www.ustoo.org

Volunteers often say that they feel better and even build new friendships through volunteering in this way.  Some other opportunities include support-group leadership. You could give your time and expertise to a group already formed or start a new group. Help to get going is available from the above organizations as well as many others.

Locally the Cancer Support Community, http://cancersupportohio.org/, and the OSU Jamescare for Life, https://cancer.osu.edu/giving-back/volunteering/jamescare-for-life, would welcome your time and talents.

Raising awareness is also important. There are opportunities to educate others about prevention and to help with free screening at health fairs, workplaces, churches and other venues. Invest your gifts of teaching and encouragement.

If fundraising is something you enjoy, consider offering your skills to an organization that needs help. Or just do your part by making a contribution to participate in an event like a race, a golf tournament, a concert, a play, or an auction. There are many options to choose from.
Or how about being an advocate by talking to lawmakers locally or nationally? A friend in a support group I lead has made dioramas featuring Petey the Prostate Crusader.petey-cbus-doc-sm

Petey is a walnut about the size of a prostate gland who dresses up for the occasion, sits on the desks of mayors, senators and congressmen and women and has his own Facebook page. He always starts a conversation! Get involved with organizations that support legislation that affects people with cancer, or lend a hand in local groups that promote changes in policies around access to health care or research funding. While there are abundant ways in which to become an active force in combatting cancer and its effects on patients and families, you don’t have to join an organization to make a difference. If there is someone you know on their journey through cancer treatment and healing, there are many simple ways to help.

You could…
• Offer to bring a meal
• Make a trip to the library, post office or supermarket for them.
• Care for a pet.
• Rake leaves or mow grass.
• Drive them and / or accompany them to an appointment.
• Be a compassionate listener (not an advice giver).  Acknowledge concerns and provide reassurance when you can.

Perhaps you have an experience to share as a survivor, a caregiver, an advocate or a volunteer. There is power and healing in a community that cares for each other. Invest your generativity in a way that makes a difference.