Note to readers: This special series introduces you to our Helpline counselors and specialists, our frontline workers who are tirelessly assisting cancer patients and caregivers. They provide emotional support and navigation on finances, nutrition, referrals as well as challenges presented by COVID-19, including relief grants for financially distressed patients.
What has your experience been like working the dedicated Cancer Emergency Fund helpline?
It has definitely felt like there has been an increase in incoming calls —I think the word has gotten out! I am taking calls from patients, caregivers, as well as professionals, who are exploring possible financial assistance. In my mind, this speaks to the great need and layer of challenges the pandemic has imposed on those impacted by cancer.
Specifically, what does working the dedicated Cancer Emergency Fund helpline mean to you?
I have an appreciation for the broad criteria that allows many callers to be able to take advantage of this opportunity. As a clinical social worker, there are many things that I cannot fix or immediately resolve for our callers. However, having the fund available provides something tangible that benefits callers in a matter of minutes. I think of it as a way Cancer Support Community has the chance to impact callers in a meaningful, practical way during this challenging time. To know that there is a little relief on the horizon allows space for callers to feel a little more comfortable and provides something to look forward to.
Have you had to make any sacrifices to be available during weekend hours?
Willingly adding weekend hours has meant I have less time to myself and those in my family. I do this because as a social worker, I believe it is what the job requires in times like these. I have always accepted that working with humans is never a strict 9-5 job—unfortunately, challenges and crises do not tolerate a schedule.
Please share a call or experience that has stuck with you.
There is not one specific call that sticks out to me but rather the impact the grant has had overall. To hear callers tell you their story, each one different yet the same-- each person is doing all they can to get to the next moment. They often have been denied, too late to apply for other funds and are feeling so defeated that they are not sure how they have mustered the courage to dial yet another phone number to ask for assistance risking yet another rejection.
To hear their struggles is heart wrenching. The flip side is that I also get to hear the relief in their voice when I tell them they have met the criteria and will be receiving an application. What an impact to bear witness to the tears of frustration and fear paired with voices that are strained with anxiety transform into tears of gratitude and voices that are little more relieved as they say “Thank you, you have no idea what this means.”