Our first year…

Editors Note: As the Chemo Buddies program celebrates their first anniversary working at OHA, the only thing Founder Jill Kincaid wanted to do was share the excitement with her sister Karen, who inspired the program. Because Karen is in heaven now, Jill wrote her a letter. (To read more about Jill and Karen’s story, click here.)

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My Dearest Karen,

WE DID IT! It is the one year anniversary of the Chemo Buddies program at OHA.

We’ve learned alot during this first year.  Our program doesn’t look exactly like you and I had planned it, but your essence is still felt in all we do. I am very pleased with the way things are working out so far. I’ve even gotten inquiries from some people in other states and I think that our little program has the potential to spread nationwide someday. (Hey, a girl can dream!)

The demand is so much greater than you or I had imagined. We had 6,500 patients this year in chemo. (OOOPS, I know, I’m not supposed to call them patients, but rather people… sorry.)

Gail is doing her best to mentor me and keep me on track with the organizational details. I KNOW that makes you happy. She is so smart!

You’ll be glad to know I’m not nearly as cynical as I used to be! People are GOOD! SERIOUSLY! I’ve never seen so much grace and kindness.

And I marvel at the human spirit. Cancer is one big black hole of evil, and I have a front row seat to the devastation it creates… but I also get to witness the way some people come together and rally to meet the challenges. I get to hear the stories of the silver linings that no one could have ever imagined. I love those stories. They fill me with hope.

And you’ll never believe how many people have stepped up to the plate to give so freely of their time and serve in the treatment room as volunteers. These selfless heroes, who get absolutely nothing in return, spend their days off and free time to bring light into the darkness. I am blessed to call them my friends. I didn’t know a single one of them a year ago and I believe God himself brought them to us to serve as Chemo Buddies.

And speaking of God, I’ve seen miracles! Times where people have experienced healing and there is no medical explanation for it. It never ceases to amaze me and I give God all the glory. (But to be honest, I do still wonder why God didn’t heal you. I miss you so much.)

The ladies at Mom’s church made some goody bags for the patients. It went over so well that we decided to make it part of what we do. We now make them and give them to new people on their first day of treatment. It is wonderful to see them go from anxious to delighted when we stop to chat and give them their bag. We’ve had students decorating the bags and making cards as well, so that has been an extra special touch as well.

The inmates at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility have given us almost 200 quilts to give to our new people. We’ve also started making fleece blankets so that people don’t have to use those horrible linty hospital blankets.

We’ve also been able to purchase both iPads and Kindle Fires for entertainment purposes to keep people from getting so bored during the long treatment day.

And this is exciting… some restaurants are donating meals now! Remember how hungry we were during treatment trying to make it through the whole day on blueberries and almonds? About once a week we have a meal donated for all the people by a restaurant. Talk about BIG SMILES! Apparently there IS such a thing as a free lunch! LOL.

Fundraising has been difficult, and I HATE asking people for money. I sure could use your salesmanship skills. We haven’t gotten any grants either. Some have rejected us because we’re so young and they don’t consider any organization under 3 years old for funding, and others just don’t understand what we do.  But even so, we have been able to do everything we’ve wanted to do through the generosity of individuals. Sometimes I sit and wonder how we’re going to make it and then the mail will come with a check and we continue on. (Yes, I’m learning alot about FAITH and the “Just in time,” God.)

Our original vision was to change the atmosphere of the treatment room to be more like someone’s living room. To make the day more comfortable and life giving. Karen, I think we’ve succeeded. I see smiles. I hear laughter. Relationships are blooming. People who come alone every week are NEVER alone because their friend the Chemo Buddy is always there. And these are real friendships – we look forward to seeing them and they look forward to seeing us. And of course there have also been times when I have sat and just listened as someone cries and pours their heart out to me. Someone who just needed a willing person to sit and listen, and because of you, I was there.

I have declared this new year to be the year of HOPE. I’ve got some big plans for 2013! For starters I want to form an Evansville Cancer Coalition and get all the do-gooders and different agencies at the same table to try to coordinate some of our efforts as a community. I’m tired of seeing the different color cancer ribbons competing with one another and pretending that one kind of cancer is more heart wrenching than another kind of cancer. That’s going to be a major undertaking, so if it is possible for you to give us any divine help, we’re going to need it.

We’re also planning a book called “Faces of Hope,” featuring portraits of the beautiful people that come through our doors. It is going to be magnificent. We’ve just launched our new “Youth Ambassadors of Hope,” program helping empower students to make a difference. And I would love to expand the Chemo Buddies program to every facility in Evansville that provides chemotherapy. I don’t know how that would work in the hospitals, but I’m sure it can be done. I just need to find the right person who has the power to say yes.

Karen, people frequently tell me that you would be so proud of me… and I wonder if that is true. You and I never told each other mushy things like that when you were here… How I wish I had spent more time telling you just how amazing and inspiring you are.

I miss you dear sister. I really miss you. I wish you could be here with me and we could be spreading hope together. I love you so much! But know that until we meet again, I will honor your legacy and my new friends and I will continue to carry on this mission to make life better for all the people in chemo.

xoxo,

Jill 🙂

Remembering Karen

Remembering Karen

 

 

 

 

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Jill Kincaid is the founder of Chemo Buddies which was inspired by her time in chemo with her sister Karen.  To help support Chemo Buddies, click here. To make a donation, click here. To learn more about the Youth Ambassadors of Hope, click here. If you want to send Jill a note, her email is info@mychemobuddies.com

Posted in blog, Evansville Cancer Coalition, Faces of Hope, family, Hope, Karen, Youth Ambassadors of Hope