An Island long-term cancer survivor support organization recently received a $10,000 grant that will be used to provide valuable information and a platform for communication to those still affected by their diseases and treatments.
Hodgkin’s International, a volunteer nonprofit located in Tisbury that seeks to improve the quality of life for long-term Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivors, was given the grant funds by Movement Mortgage, which donates its profits to various benevolent organizations and charities.
Sam Chazanow of Connecticut-based Movement Mortgage was on the Island Monday to present Hodgkin’s International founder Erin Cummings with a check for the $10,000 donation.
“We are very diverse in who we serve — we want to serve nonprofits that are doing grassroots work within their communities, and we usually talk to members of our teams and staff and employees and get suggestions, then we look at that on a local basis,” Chazanow said.
According to Chazanow, the privately held company’s mission is to “love and value the folks that work within communities that [they] serve.”
“One of the things our company does is distribute profits to various organizations and charities. Today I am presenting a check from one of our foundations, GraceWorks Inc., to Hodgkin’s International,” Chazanow said.
According to Chazanow, he admires Hodgkin’s International’s mission of education and platforming for cancer survivors — particularly long-term survivors of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
He said its initiative to educate people on the late effects of cancer is important because that knowledge is often difficult to obtain, and people don’t know where to turn for help.
“Surviving cancer is tough enough, but it’s the aftereffects and the secondary effects of cancers that you can get — the depressions, the ancillary types of illnesses that are associated with that — and it can be very difficult to cope with,” Chazanow said. “It’s great to find people who are aware of this, and can help people involved in that same situation by educating and providing hope for those who are dealing with these aftereffects that can be so devastating.”
He said he is proud that Movement Mortgage can make these kinds of donations to help people on the frontlines, providing valuable services to the community. “It’s a blessing to be here today,” Chazanow said.
Cummings said the primary goal of the organization is to provide survivors with the information they need to stay alive, and live well.
Cummings is a Hodgkin’s survivor of 49 years, and she said many who are undergoing treatment for cancer are entirely unaware of the future implications, or how to prepare.
Over the years, evidence has surfaced that cancer and cancer treatments can cause debilitating diseases and ailments later on in life, and can even lead to other cancers.
When Cummings was treated for Hodgkin’s in 1972, she said little was known about the ancillary and long-lingering effects of cancer, radiation treatment, and chemotherapy. “What I didn’t know when I was diagnosed, and after I was pronounced cured, was that there were going to be these really significant ongoing problems, most of them stemming from the kind of treatment we got back then, which isn’t used anymore,” Cummings said.
Now hospitals and treatment centers have learned the limits of the amount of radiation and chemical therapies that can be used in order to mitigate the long-term effects, but that doesn’t mean those effects are entirely absent.
Cummings noted that most long-term survivors have no idea that some of their health problems could be directly caused by their past cancers or treatments. “We weren’t told about it when we were being treated, because they didn’t know 50 years ago. It’s not that we aren’t grateful for the treatment we received, because we are still alive to talk about it, but we became an organization because we realized that we were teaching each other about these things, and people were really desperate for reliable information,” Cummings said.
She stressed that even most doctors are unaware of these late effects, and how they can be addressed.
With the funding from Movement Mortgage, Cummings said, she hopes to hire people to manage the Hodgkin’s International website, and conduct outreach for those who need the information most.
For Cummings and many other survivors involved with the support organization, the community of caring individuals who have fought their own battles with cancer is like a family, where everyone can share their experiences, and provide comfort and information to each other.
“I know the Vineyard doesn’t have a survivorship clinic yet, but if I have my way, then they will one of these days. We need each other, that’s for sure,” Cummings said. “Many people live in constant fear that their cancer will come back, or they will have a new diagnosis.”
She added that speaking about experiences with cancer can be difficult, even with one’s own family. But when speaking with someone who shares those experiences, Cummings said it can be healing, and people often end up becoming lifelong friends through the support network.
“It’s really helpful to talk to someone else who can say, ‘Yup, I understand, been there and done that,’ and know that they speak the truth because they have been there,” Cummings said. “All of this makes it entirely worth it: every bit of pain, every hospitalization. The chance to know the people I have met along the way is a gift that I am forever grateful for.”