CareBOX Program Blog

CareBOX Program Blog

A Sister’s Inspiration

Maria Photo for Blog

What inspired you to get involved?

I have an older sister who died of breast cancer.  She was already in stage III when she was diagnosed on February 1998 and she passed away on April 1999.  I was still in the Philippines then.  I took care of her and I saw how much she suffered while she fought hard to live.  I remember I was at her bedside holding her hand when she drew her last breath.  She was not just my sister but also my best friend and the greatest influence in my life.  She was the most generous soul I have ever known and I remember she told me that you don’t have to have much to help others.  And since her death, I have been trying to support, in my own little way, charitable organizations focused on fighting cancer. 

What’s your favorite part about being a CareBOX volunteer?

I have been a regular donor for St. Jude Research Hospital for about three years and a supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness.  But volunteering for CareBOX Program seems to me more meaningful because you get the chance to meet the patients and the caregivers.  Reaching out to them personally, reminds you to be more compassionate towards others, especially those in need. 

What have you learned about yourself as a result of your volunteer experience?

I realized that my adversity is nothing compared to others who are suffering from this illness.  It was a shame to complain. On my first delivery of the CareBOXes, I met the sister/caregiver of a lung cancer patient, who received the supplies.  I learned that she also has breast cancer. And I was in awe because in spite of this, she is still in good spirits.  Somehow, I drew strength from her.

What would you tell others who are considering being of service in their community?

I think, most of the people have it in their hearts, the willingness to help but they just don’t know how and when to start. I would tell them that there are many ways to be of service in the community.  You can donate, volunteer or as simple as helping spread the word.  They can get involved with organizations that they really believe and have an interest in.  It could be animal shelters or any charitable institutions.  And trust me, there’s nothing more rewarding than giving back and making a difference in the lives of people (and even animals). 

-Maria, Volunteer CareDRIVER and CareSUPPORTER

 

An Unexpected Journey

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One evening in the fall of 2015, I happened to see a segment about the CareBOX program on the local news. As I listened to a Father talk about receiving the surprising news that his young son was diagnosed with cancer, I could hear the pain and shock in his voice. He and his wife had no idea what to do or how to prepare for their sons cancer treatment, much less how they would juggle jobs, getting their other children to school and keeping up with all of the usual household chores. Then, I could hear a sense of relief in his voice as he began to talk about CareBOX and how they alleviated a huge burden for the family by quickly stepping in with the supplies his son needed and delivered them right to the front door. I was intrigued and wanted to know more. I immediately went to the CareBOX website and saw there were several patients in need of supplies, but one patient in particular stood out to me. He was in his seventies and had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After years of caring for aging parents and knowing what the challenges are for the aging with health issues, I knew I had to help this patient and immediately funded the supplies he had requested.

Shortly after that, Lisa Keefauver, Communications & Program Director, reached out and asked if I would like to meet the CareBOX team. I was so impressed that she reached out that I gladly accepted, however I had no idea of the unexpected journey I was about to embark upon. When I met the team it was obvious they had a strong passion and commitment to improving cancer care, it was absolutely contagious. When Lisa asked if I would be interested in volunteering it was an emphatic, “YES”. It was a three person team at the time, Lisa, Jillian Domingue, Founder & Executive Director, Diana Dobson, Event & Fundraising Director and two interns. They were in a small office with two tables and surrounded by the patient supplies. As a volunteer, I sorted supplies and packed boxes and while it may seem insignificant, it felt rewarding to know that a patient would receive much needed items and it would be one less thing for them and the family to do. Then, I made my first patient delivery to a young child. When I saw the gratitude and relief on the Mother’s face it was overwhelming and that’s when I realized what a difference CareBOX was making in the lives of cancer patients and their families. Helping those in need and making a personal connection is not just rewarding, its life changing. Today, CareBOX has far exceeded expectations. The team has added two more employees, Melissa Wilson, Volunteer Coordinator and Rhiannon Nunziato, Logistics & Supply Chain Manager and the office space has doubled in size to accommodate more supplies for the increasing number of patients. I’m amazed how far this organization has come in the last few months and I’m so proud to be a part of it. Currently CareBOX serves patients in the Austin area with a goal to branch out to other cities and beyond in the future. I have no doubt we will reach that goal. This success is driven by the hard work and dedication of the CareBOX team and a group of volunteers that are committed to improving cancer care. It has truly been an unexpected journey that is still going strong.

-Tammy Sullivan, Volunteer and Board Member

Stand Up for CareBOX Program!

5 Reasons to attend Stand Up for CareBOX Program
5. Perfect Venue
Atlassian
303 Colorado St.
Suite 1600

Austin, TX 78701

4. Unique Auction Items
  • W Hotel Austin/ACL Live Tickets
  • $500 Russell Forman gift certificate
  • 4-night stay in a Port Aransas beach house
  • Bicycle from Monkey Wrench Bicycles
3. Memorable Laughs
Featuring Comedians
brought to you by Stand Up Empire:
  • Brently Heilbron
  • Danny Palumbo
  • Kerry Awn
  • Abby Rosenquist
  • Andrew Dismukes
  • Megan Simon
  • Emily Howell
2. Food & Drinks
Featured sponsors of the evening are Tito’s Vodka, G&M Catering, terra imports, and Shiner Bock!
1. Improve Cancer Care
Stand Up for CareBOX Program, will bring the Austin community together to raise funds for local cancer patients. Since the program launch in October 2014, the program has increased the quality of life and reduced the financial burden faced by over 100 Central Texas cancer patients and their families. With the help from you, we can further touch the lives of cancer patients by fulfilling their needs of critical care supplies. The power to positively impact lives starts with you, so we invite you to make a difference today!
CareBOX Program | 512-296-2180 | CareBOXProgram.org

From One Mother to Another

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Years ago, right out of graduate school, I became a medical social worker and found myself working in some of the most challenging and inspiring settings. One of the more memorable ones was working with Pediatric Oncology patients and their families at a large Children’s Hospital. I wasn’t ready for the harsh reality and heartbreak that role entailed. I remember sitting with a mother whose son was newly diagnosed with Leukemia and she kept asking me, why…why did this happen…why my son. I didn’t have an answer for her. I didn’t know how to help this woman who was looking into my eyes so desperately and overwhelmed with her son’s diagnosis.

I soon found myself with a growing family of my own and a need to take a break from the medical world.  When the time was right again, I was ready to go back to work. I still felt like I could make a difference and my passion was still with serving the cancer community. I never forgot about that mother.

I set out to find a local non-profit to volunteer for and saw a news story about the CareBOX Program. The woman was speaking so passionately about her work and the program sounded like such a direct and simple way to make a positive impact on the lives of cancer patients. I was intrigued!

I met with that woman, Lisa Keefauver (Communications and Program Director) and the rest of the CareBOX team at the time, Jillian Domingue (Founder and Executive Director) and Diana Dobson (Event and Fundraising Director) and was immediately blown away by their passion and dedication for helping cancer patients. I signed up to volunteer on the spot and after a few months of getting to know them more and the program, they offered me the job of  Volunteer Coordinator. Since then, we’ve been lucky enough to bring on Rhiannon Nunziato (Logistics and Supply Chain Manager), to our team. We’re now five women who have set out to improve the quality of care for cancer patients.

If that mother from so many years ago was sitting with me today, I could say that I don’t know why this is happening but I could do something to help.  The CareBOX Program could take some of the burden off of her family and give care supplies that they would need along the way for her son.

I love my job!

-Melissa Wilson, Volunteer Coordinator

From Work-a-holic to Working for a Cause

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I came from the world of retail. Of pushing the sale of more widgets, surrounded everyday by techy work-a-holics who, like me, spent 70 hours of their life every week fighting fires. At first it was thrilling managing a global supply chain for a multi-billion-dollar organization. There was a time where I really thought I had it made, like I had finally arrived in my career. I had a flexible office schedule and was making a six figure salary and it was everything I thought I had ever wanted and…

I never felt so burned out and unfulfilled in my entire life.

I ached to be making a difference, to be doing something that left the world better than I found it. I quit my job (YOLO!) and after a short while, the CareBOX Program in Austin, TX found me.

The first time I met with Jillian Domingue (Founder and Executive Director) and Lisa Keefauver (Communications and Program Director) it felt like I was talking with friends I had always known. Cancer is a disease that has touched everyone’s lives in some way and it is the knowledge of this that forms an instant bond between strangers. Their passion for improving cancer care was awe inspiring and I knew instantly that I was exactly where I was meant to be. Diana Dobson (Event and Fundraising Director) is an awe inspiring, networking dynamo and Melissa Wilson (Volunteer Coordinator) is the amazing, calming presence that holds us all together. Now, as a part of this team, every day I have a new opportunity in Central Texas to help someone who is overwhelmed and ill-prepared to care for themselves or a family member after a diagnosis of cancer by making sure we have the supplies they need on hand, and ready to deliver to their home. In my life, I have watched loved ones’ battle cancer (and succeed!) and I have lost loved ones to cancer as well. Being younger at the time I didn’t have the capacity or knowledge to help in the way I wanted to but…now I have finally arrived.

The CareBOX Program needed my help to manage their inventory & logistics but they’re allowing me to be a part of this organization and help further the mission and have a positive impact in the cancer community; that is the greater gift. 

Rhiannon Nunziato, Logistics and Supply Chain Manager

My Dad is My Inspiration

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I will never be the same as I was before. I see things differently than some of my friends ever will at the age of 20. Sometimes I envy my friends for getting to have their fathers in their lives and getting to experience new things with them. They get to have their fathers at their college graduation, have them walk them down the aisle, be there for their firstborn child and meet their grandchildren. There are so many things as a girl that you want your father to be around for, and I envy anyone who gets to experience that because I lost my chance. I cherished every last moment I had with my dad and tried to make the best of it.

In July 2014, I received the scariest phone call of my life while I was at work. My mom called and told me that my father had had a stroke and they were rushing him to the emergency room. I rushed out of work and met them at the hospital. By the time I arrived there they were preparing to take him back to surgery. We got a few minutes to tell him how much we loved him and then sent him off. After they took him back, the doctor came in and told us what they were going to do and the risks with this surgery. After we talked to the doctor they took us to the ICU waiting room and we waited for what felt like HOURS. Finally, a nurse took us back to see my dad. The surgery had gone well, but he would not be able to respond to us because he was sedated so as not to pull out his breathing tube.

My dad began to recover very fast. He moved from ICU to IMU to a rehab facility to regain his strength before he would be able to come home. Three weeks after his stroke he was released from the rehab facility to come home. It was such a good feeling to see him progress so fast and be able to gain most of his strength back and see him walking again and just happy to be home.

But, little less than a month after his stroke, in August, my dad began to decline very quickly. We did not have any idea what was going on so we rushed him to the emergency room to run tests and to do another CAT scan of his brain. Once in the ER, it felt like forever for the test results. The doctor finally came in and told us they had found a tumor in his brain on the CAT scan and they wanted to do a biopsy to see if it was cancerous. The following morning we were back in the ICU waiting room once again waiting for the surgery to be done. We thought it would take a short amount of time, but it was much longer than we thought. When the doctor finally came in, he told us the biopsy showed the tumor was cancerous. They had removed as much of the tumor as they could, it was Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM­brain cancer). I was in total shock and extremely upset. The only thing going through my head was “This could not be happening, everything was just fine. He doesn’t deserve this!”

After finding out my dad had brain cancer, my entire life changed. I was now juggling school and helping to take care of my dad. We found out this cancer is terminal, one of the most aggressive cancers there is and the median survival is only about 15 months. We decided to do the standard of treatment which was radiation and chemo for six weeks. After doing the standard of treatment, we had to wait about a month to do another cat scan to see if the tumor had shrunk. At this next CAT scan, we found out that chemo and radiation did not work and that a new tumor had grown. More devastating news that we did not want to hear. My dad started to decline quickly and I decided that I could no longer continue school and take care of my dad. I decided that being with my dad was more important than school, so I dropped my classes and focused on being with my dad and making the most of what time I had left with him.

About eight months after his diagnosis in March 2015, my father lost his battle to this awful monster. I got to spend his last Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years’, and every other holiday right by his side and I am glad that I made that decision to be right there with him. That semester was one of the hardest semesters I ever had to go through, but it was a little bit easier to have so much love and support from family and friends. This fall I decided it was time to go back to school. I know that is what my dad would want me to do. I miss him every day.

Chandler, CareBOX Program Intern

Teen Rebellion Vs. Parent with Cancer

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Six years ago, my mother came into our yellow-painted kitchen and informed me she had cancer, again. This time it was thyroid cancer. If you have ever been bombarded with unexpected and unfortunate news, you’ll recognize this feeling. At 16 years old and having just my mom as my caretaker, I selfishly thought about myself and how I would survive alone. Who will feed me? Who will pay the bills? Who will help me apply for scholarships?

As time progressed and my mother weakened, my older sister in college didn’t have time to be there, so it was up to me to make sure she took her many pills, ate correctly and secure happiness, for both of us.

I wish I could have done more than partake in typical rebellious teenager acts. Instead of talking back, I wish I talked only sweet things to her. Instead of shutting her out, I wish I invited her to the movies and to school functions. However, when the cancer dissipated, joy seemed to fill our home again, which overcame the dry and bitter in the air.

Presently a senior in college, when I had the opportunity to help other cancer patients, I was overjoyed with gratitude. The CareBOX Program is a unique and hidden gem in the capital of Texas. I’ve never heard of anything like it and the staff behind this program are remarkable, driven human beings. These ladies help me become a better and stronger person every day. The compassion in their eyes fuels this program.

Cancer affects everyone and everyone has a story to share. Now you know mine.

This post is not only for my independent mother Lola, but also for my kind grandfather El who passed away in 2012 from bone cancer.

I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” Whatever happened in our past and whatever will happen in our future, these moments define who we are. Embrace it.

-Jasmine, CareBOX Program Marketing and Design Intern

 

Improving Cancer Care: One Box At a Time

There are many things that inspired my decision to intern with CareBOX Program. My biggest inspiration began on February 7, 2015. I remember receiving a phone call that shook the very core of my being. I sat in silence trying to process the words of my boyfriend’s step-brother saying, “I went to the doctor, and found out that I have Stage IV Colon Cancer.” I was speechless. It was the underlying Big C, the very word that has the ability to change lives in an instantaneous moment leaving a person searching for a meaning. The same word that makes you question your faith, lifestyle, future, past, and everything in-between. His diagnosis taught me that we are capable of displaying strength, growth, lessons learned, and so much more by simply allowing ourselves to be vulnerable with others.

As I fast-forward a few months, I stumbled across CareBOX Program while searching for internships and instantly fell in love with everything they stood for. My heart jumped for joy when Diana called me for an interview: I knew this is the kind of impact that I longed for. The CareBOX Program allows me to live out of a life mission of being a positive light, encouraging the faint-hearted, loving the rejected, and being passionately driven by being a change in this world. CareBOX Program encompasses every aspect by serving individuals across all demographics, genders, ages, etc.

In the past month of interning, I have realized that life can be fragile and completely unexpected. However, there are still beautiful people in the world that are willing to help in these situations. In the midst of the chaos and confusion there are people, like those involved with the CareBOX Program, that strive to meet the needs of vulnerable people one box at a time. As we continue to grow on a daily basis, the CareBOX Program displays how the idea of a college student has the ability to impact an entire city. Interning with CareBOX Program means more than simply checking off requirements for college completion, instead it gives one the ability to look outside themselves. The power to positively impact lives starts with you, so how will you make a difference in somebody’s life today?

-Dana, CareBOX Program Intern