Tiffany Young, 39, a social worker and counselor at the Buddy Kemp Center, knows that people battling cancer are often confronted with frightening, negative images.
She wanted to find a way to inspire people in the Charlotte community who are just starting out on their cancer journeys, balance out the messages of fear.
I wanted them to see other people who started where they did, Young said, but are now surviving and living their lives fully.
The Presbyterian Buddy Kemp Cancer Support Center, a homelike facility on Colonial Avenue in Myers Park, was established in 1999 as a place for providing cancer survivors with support services and programs.
Young, who has overseen individual and group counseling sessions at Buddy Kemp for the past seven years, came up with the idea of a calendar to capture a true picture of who cancer effects and, in turn, to inspire those who in the midst of seeking treatment.
She and her colleagues reached out to medical professionals at Presbyterian Hospital who regularly treat and interact with cancer patients, including the hospitals rehabilitation and wellness program, the infusion room, and the inpatient and radiation departments, and asked for any cancer survivors story that has inspired them.
A selection committee mulled over the responses and selected 12 to be featured in the first calendar, released in 2009. They have repeated the process each year since, with the fifth Hope, Stories of Survivorship Calendar released this year.
We try to be representative of all types of cancer, ages and diversity, Young says. The calendars also provide a wealth of information about resources, clinics and support services that are available to cancer survivors. Each November, the Buddy Kemp Center hosts a release party for that years calendar, attended by the survivors who are featured in it, their medical teams, families and care providers.
Each nominee says a few words, Young said, and it is very emotional and touching.
For Sandra Niven, 58, being featured in the 2013 calendar was a huge honor. Niven was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 and has endured surgery and chemotherapy but has also enjoyed several years of being cancer-free. She enjoys volunteering at the Buddy Kemp Center and visiting women who have had mastectomies or are struggling with cancer.
The calendar was another opportunity to give back, she says. To put it out there that a cancer diagnosis is not a death sentence. Life goes on. Theres hope.
Other people featured in the 2013 Hope Calendar with Niven include Billy Sneed, a prostate and bladder cancer survivor since 2005 and career musician, who says that he is now enjoying the sweet sound of victory with my wife; and Catina Scott, a gynecologic cancer survivor since 2011, who says that cancer threw a huge detour in her life plans but that she learned to take advantage of the free time and that she took the scenic road to recovery.
The smiling faces gracing each month are able to draw meaning from their cancer experience, to make sense out of something that doesnt make sense, Young said.
And for the cancer survivors starting out on their journey, the calendars provide concrete evidence that they can get through this, said Young.
Katya Lezin is a freelance writer. Do you have a story idea for Katya? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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