CareBOX Program Blog

CareBOX Program Blog

Inspired to Donate My Time

Tim Kelly profile pic

In 1988, my grandmother was diagnosed with uterine cancer. At thirteen years old, I had no understanding of what cancer was, how you got it and if you could treat it. All I knew was that it seemed extremely painful. After failed treatment options, my vibrant, English grandmother couldn’t open her eyes or speak as the disease completely took over. I didn’t know it at the time, but cancer was something that was going to affect my life over and over again.

My mother was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer in 2001, and after false hope and several treatment options, she also spent her last days in extreme pain, and passed away less than six months after diagnosis.

My father called me in 2009 to let me know he had been diagnosed with stage four prostate cancer, and according to his Oncologist, the chances of surviving it would be slim. Having lost one brother to the disease, and having another who beat it (twice), he told his Oncologist that he would do anything to live. My father had just retired to his dream home on the lake, was remarried, and now had three grandchildren. There was no way he wasn’t going down without a fight. Lucky for him, his Oncologist was a strong proponent of lifestyle changes that help suppress cancer cell growth. My father changed his eating and lifestyle habits and studied every publication to educate himself on how he could beat the odds.

Thanks to his lifestyle changes and experimental hormone therapy, my father’s cancer has been in remission for six years. We all look forward to his three month checkup emails always titled “still cancer free!”

When Melissa Wilson called for volunteers to deliver care supplies to cancer patients, I couldn’t wait to help. The CareBOX Program provides a much needed service to those in need, and with every delivery, I’m reminded of friends, families and strangers who helped my family when cancer struck.

We all feel good when writing a check to a charity, but it feels better to donate your time to those in need.

Tim, Volunteer CareDRIVER

A Meaningful Connection

On Saturday I had the honor of delivering supplies to my first ColorCancer patient—93-year-old Wellington, whose supply list was fulfilled by some of my very best friends. I don’t know that I could have had a better first delivery experience. Upon walking into their house, the walls were masked by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, spanning from politics to astrophysics to world history, travel trinkets and tapestries from the Middle East, and their TV showing BBC’s coverage of the Paris attacks. His wife, Dorothy, had bright blue eyes and was a former journalist and writer, once working for the sister of John Steinbeck’s second wife. Dorothy said she preferred BBC, as it’s not “bias” like other outlets. Wellington was an engineering professor, and together they lived all over the world, even though, as Dorothy said, “Professors never have money—but the work covers the travels.” His walls of books were the collections of all his years spent in academia, across all coordinates imaginable. They were still in love.

They told me stories of living in Taiwan and Thailand, Iraq and Lebanon, and eventually spent several years working as part of a physics program in Mexico. They loved living in the world, which they agreed is never as the media portrays—the locals being warm and friendly most places they went, including in the Middle East. They told me stories of their roadtrips through New England, once finding a “curmudgeon” with books for sale in a barn on the side of a two-lane. They stopped to take a gander and a grumpy old man said, “I’m not open.” And they said, “That’s OK,” and proceeded to help themselves to his collections. [He ended up making a pretty penny despite his attempt to ward the two off.]

Dorothy went on to share their experiences with poor veteran care in the United States, particularly in the country, telling the sad story of Wellington’s father dying alone in rural South Central Texas with little assistance or programs to help with his needs, despite being a well-respected WWII vet. That loneliness, they both agreed, was the saddest part of dying in America. They said the best part of the at-home delivery was the “conversation that came with it.”

I left their house with an overwhelming set of emotions, stemming from the synchronicity in meeting another scholarly grandad, the sadness of what’s happening overseas, and the harsh reality of the elderly being left to fend for themselves with little care no matter how good a life they led.

ColorCancer is an incredible program, and if you’d like to get involved, they’re always seeking CareDONORs and CareDRIVERs to help fulfill their supply and delivery needs. You can find out more at: careboxprogram.org. [Thank you again for introducing me to the program, Melissa.]

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-Ashley Halligan, CareDONOR and CareDRIVER

CareBOXProgram.org: As seen on…

Stay connected at Facebook/CareBOXProgram and follow us @CareBOXProgram.

In case you missed it: Check out the incredible press CareBOXProgram.org has received recently!
1. KLBJ with BDOE

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2. Austin Monthly

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3. We Are Austin

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4. KVUE with Quita Culpepper

 

5. West Austin News

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6. Austin Fit Magazine

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7. We Are Austin with Jordan Steele and Taylor Ellison –Click here to watch!

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Coming Soon….

iHeart Radio Stations in Austin on February 21st!

My “Now What?” Moment

30db09_7fb462f4322b4008a8357840c05343a8We all have those pivotal moments in our lives that change the way we see the world.  We remember the date, where we were, who we were with and maybe even what we were wearing.  For me, it was July 29, 2011 and I was sitting by myself in my car in sweaty workout clothes when my phone rang and Eric, my then 43 year old husband, said, “meet me at the hospital, they found something on the MRI…”. It turned out that he had Brain Cancer.

Unfortunately, all too many of us have a similar story. That moment when we learned either we or someone we loved was diagnosed with some form of cancer. When the shock wears off, we look around and ask “now what?” We have the doctor(s) to tell us the treatment plan, the nurses to help us with the medication, but who helps the patient and their family figure out how to make the journey more comfortable? Many endure treatment for weeks, months and even years.  Patients and their families often don’t even know what questions to ask.

The Care Box Program was designed to help the patient and their families figure out what at-home care items the patient will need to help them feel better and stay as strong as possible throughout their treatment. Patients are invited to choose from a list of over 70 at-home care supply items that will help improve their quality of care and reduce the financial burden that a cancer diagnosis has on everyone.  Donors are invited to make a real and direct impact on the life of a cancer patient by donating one or more of the items selected by the patient.  It is just that simple!

30db09_9be06bb8a0e14df09106e9cabc9465e7Unfortunately for me, Eric passed away within 2 weeks of his diagnosis so I had no time to figure out the answer to the question “now what”? What I do know is that he would be so happy and proud of me for helping make a real and direct impact in the lives of cancer patients and their families by helping them begin to answer the question “now what”?

I invite you to share your “now what” moment with me!

Lisa Keefauver

Reflections on 22

Since the launch of the Care Box Program in October 2014, ColorCancer has provided 22 local cancer patients free at-home care supplies worth over $11,000 – improving their quality of care and reducing their financial burden. The number of individuals in need of supplies as they endure treatment grows every day.

We have learned so much since the launch of the Care Box program:

Our CaredFOR (cancer patients receiving the Care Boxes):  Taught us that cancer doesn’t discriminate by age, race or gender and that we all need caring for sometimes.

Our CareSHOPPERS (donors who donate the needed wishlist items): Reminded us that people are generous by nature, and if you give someone the opportunity to help another person, they will step up.  Oscar, our first Care Box Recipient, had his wishlist granted by donors in less than 24 hours!

Our CareCONNECTORS (health care referral partners): Helped us better understand the day-to-day challenges cancer patients face and how the more than 74 items available on the Care Box Wishlist make a real impact on their quality of care.

Our CarePACKERS (volunteer care box packers): Showed us that taking an hour out of your day to join with other volunteers to assemble Care Boxes is rewarding and can even be fun!

Our CareDRIVERS (volunteer delivery drivers): Shared with us the overwhelming emotional reaction of the cancer patients and their families when they receive their Care Boxes (sometimes a car full of supplies) that will improve their quality of care.

We are excited to continue learning and growing.  In fact, that growth is coming soon with the launch of a brand new website in July 2015 that will allow us to be more efficient and effective. Our goal being to meet the needs of at least 20 patients monthly.

We invite you to be a part of this important community making a real and direct impact in the lives of cancer patients in the Greater Austin Area.  Help us meet the needs of the increasing number of patients served by visiting our CaredFor campaign and making a donation today!

Jillian Domingue and Lisa Keefauver

 

My Inspirations

30db09_d4bcfc3df20e44a3b7f7eb85e76f4929When I was in Kindergarten, my friend Aly, who sat on top of the monkey bars everyday at recess, passed away from Leukemia. How could there be a sicknesses that didn’t go away with a few meds, watching my favorite show, and hugs from a mom? What a confusing and unfair world. I remember sitting at her funeral with my friend Hannah and not understanding all of the sadness going on around me. In my 7 year old mind, I just did not understand why she would not be able to sit on the monkey bars with me during recess anymore.

Her loss stayed with me, so I decided to volunteer at The Ronald McDonald House at Texas Children’s with my mother to help give back to those impacted by this horrible disease. During one of my regular volunteer shifts on the oncology inpatient floor, I picked up a census from the front desk and my world was immediately shaken. My friend and teammate, Gabby, had just been admitted. I remember walking back to the family room in a state of complete shock. I made eye contact with my mother as tears started rolling down my face. How could this be happening? Again, it just did not make sense and was not fair. This is Gabby, my teammate who was supposed to be joining our team in a tournament that weekend. As I stepped out of the family room, Gabby and her parents were walking down the hallway to their new room. I stood there in complete shock and totally silent, fighting back tears. Gabby’s face had zero emotion. She was in complete shock and I will never forget the look on her parents faces. How could this be happening? I gave them both a huge hug while muttering, “I’m so sorry,” as tears poured down my face.

My natural instinct in a crisis is to go into “fix it” mode. How devastating to know I couldn’t “fix” this for her! That is my biggest struggle. I absolutely had to do something, so I decided to design a shirt the day after Gabby was diagnosed that said “Team Gabby” on one side and “STAY STRONG” on the back. My mom helped me purchase around 100 to give to Gabby’s family and friends who had been gathering at the hospital to show support. It was this single decision throughout this whole experience that paved the way for me to realize how one small thing can make a huge impact. That initial 100 quickly grew to over 2,000 shirts that covered Gabby’s high school and community. When Gabby passed away, she had made such and impact that she filled both a church and gym with standing room only to hear her service. It was Gabby who inspired the community by her perseverance and faith and the shirts only helped make that impact visible to the entire community. Some of Gabby’s final words and her message to those she left behind was, “To Be A Beast.” This phrase has stuck with me and inspired me throughout all of the wonderful struggles that come with starting a non-profit. To me, “Be a beast” means never give up when things don’t go your way and to fight through them like hell. Gabby lived these words. The day after she was diagnosed, she went into a ten hour surgery that left a scar that wrapped around her abdomen. Within around 10 days, she was back in the batting cages doing what she loved most. This is how I aim to live my life.

These two losses inspired me to start ColorCancer. In the beginning it was just a concept, but I knew I had to do whatever I could to make a positive impact in the lives of those facing cancer. As I began the process of launching ColorCancer, I again had my world turned upside down. Ruel, my friend and teammate, had just found out he had aggressive Stomach Cancer. Life isn’t fair! The earliest days of ColorCancer involved him laying on my couch and giving me his opinions on what I should do with the organization. The room was always filled with a lot of laughs whenever he was around. I’m still in shock to this day that he is no longer with us. He would always joke that he wanted to be a stay-at-home dad and married to a rich wife. If he were still here I’m sure I would be watching this scenario happen in real life as engagement and baby announcements flood my newsfeed. But it’s not. All I have are small reminders from Facebook that suggest inviting him to an event I’m creating, and each time the reality sets in again that he is no longer with us.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up into a nice little blog, but these are all the reasons that I push forward with all that I have to make ColorCancer a success. I would never tell anyone that starting an organization is easy. It is incredibly hard work. Each day is either the worst or best and you will feel like a complete failure at times. You will second guess each and every decision you make. You will read into each and every reaction you get from new people that hear about your organization. It will keep you up at night. But it is all worth it. I would have never predicted that ColorCancer would be where it is today. We are making a HUGE difference in the lives on individuals with cancer and it’s only the beginning. I will continue to persevere and “Be A Beast” until I know ColorCancer will continue providing free at-home care supplies to cancer patients as long as there is a need.

Join Me in Taking a Leap of Faith

30db09_2d89d78a518c451eb46195837c6d7b83I took a leap of faith, moving across the country to work for a small non-profit that was dreaming of launching a program to provide direct cancer support. Part of the appeal of working for a young non-profit is that it feels as if the sky is the limit and the mission is at the center of our every day conversation –  providing free at-home care supplies to cancer patients in need! It is so rewarding to spend your day focused on making a difference in the life of someone impacted by cancer.

My role as Program Director has required me to be on the phone, speaking in the community, Emceeing events, and sending notes and emails to individuals and businesses I’ve never met.  Putting yourself out there can be tough. Good thing for me, I’m an extrovert so it isn’t too much of a stretch. Still, no one likes to hear “no”,”not now”, or “no thanks” or even worse get no reply at all.

Thankfully, we have had a lot of individual donors take a leap of faith and say “yes”, providing over $12,000 worth of at-home care items to stock care boxes for the 25 local cancer patients we have served through the Care Box Program since October 2014.

We have also been fortunate to have some families and companies say “yes” too.  We have had some incredible companies donate at-homw care items directly to stock our shelves, going directly to the cancer patients we serve. Still others have believed in us by donating to help us have an office space, lights, shelves, internet, and even a little paycheck. This has allowed us to move into a space that has on-site storage and a space for volunteers from the community to come help us box up and deliver the care boxes.  These incredible Founding Partners also allow us to have our ColorCancer Promise – 100% of all donations made on colorcancer.org go directly to providing at-home care supplies to cancer patients in the Greater Austin Area!

Want to take a leap of faith with me?  Be a part of this incredible cancer support community by joining the growing list of individuals, families, and companies that are making a real and direct impact in the lives of individuals with cancer in our community! I’d love to hear from you. lisa.keefauver@colorcancer.org.

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Shout out to Oncology Social Workers and Nurses

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I want to highlight the incredible ColorCancer CareCONNECTORS. ColorCancer partners with oncology social workers and nurses at Texas Oncology, Dell Children’s Hospital, St. David’s Hospital and Austin Cancer Centers to provide critical cancer support in the Greater Austin Area through our Care Box Program. As a social worker myself, I love partnering with these CareCONNECTORS – seeing their dedication, warmth, care and commitment to the cancer patients they serve.

They help the patient understand what items they will need to improve their quality of care as they endure treatment; such as life-saving nutritional supplements, a shower chair, or even a comfort item like a neck pillow for support during hours in the treatment chair. Together with their patients, these CareCONNECTORS review a list of over 70 at-home care supply items on the ColorCancer Care Box Referral Form and invite them to select all that they need.

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One CareCONNECTOR at Texas Oncology shared “I love this program because it let’s me offer tangible, practical and critical cancer support to my patients in their most vulnerable times.”

Partnering with these CareCONNECTORS also helps ColorCancer ensure donor dollars are wisely spent. Their knowledge of what is and isn’t covered by insurance for each patient or available through other programs reduces the risk of duplication of services. Still, CareCONNECTORS are thankful for a resource that is so readily available to patients impacted  by all types of cancer.  Another Texas Oncology CareCONNECTOR commented “The ColorCancer Care Box program stands out because so many resources we have available to patients have restrictions such as having to have a certain type of cancer, age, household income, etc. ColorCancer makes available these critical at-home care supplies to anyone with any cancer diagnosis in need in the Greater Austin Community.

As a social worker I have worked with kids in foster care, public housing, and community centers.  I know the important impact we make in the lives of children in need.  So I would like to say a special shout out to those social workers and nurses working with young children impacted by cancer.  A CareCONNECTOR at Dell Children’s Hospital recently reached out to say “I love what your group does and I wish you guys the best with the Care Box Program. I know for the patient’s that need your services, it’s a huge blessing! You all are changing lives!”

Way to go CareCONNECTORS!

Lisa Keefauver

We All Need Caring For Sometimes

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There are just some truths we can’t avoid in life. We are all in need of being cared for at some point and we will all take a turn providing care for others.  I think my friends and family would say that I have always been they type of person to care for others. In that same spirit, I decided to become a clinical social worker where my job has been caring for others.

When Eric was diagnosed with Brain Cancer and passed away nearly four years ago now, I found myself in unfamiliar and honestly uncomfortable territory…I was the one who needed caring for.  While it was easy for me to accept help for my daughter Lily, who was only 7 at the time, I resisted help.  In theory I knew that it was totally acceptable to be CaredFOR…still I struggled. Grief quickly forced me to move beyond my resistance and hesitation to accepting help and what I experienced was truly overwhelming. Friends, colleagues, family and even people I didn’t know came out of the woodwork to help me.  My family members jumped in and figured out a plan to help me care for Lily. Close friends and family helped me plan for and participate in Eric’s memorial service. Still other friends and colleagues devised a plan to deliver groceries and prepared meals to us 2 to 3 times per week for several months. My best girlfriends took turns getting me out of the house once a week to lift my spirits.

I hear from our CareCONNECTORS all the time that many of the cancer patients we serve through the Care Box Program are hesitant to ask for help because many of them have spent their lives caring for others. The ColorCancer team designed these terms to remind us all that it it takes the power of community to provide cancer support and care:

CaredFOR – Cancer Patient Care Box Recipient

CareSHOPPER – Patient Wish Grantor

CarePARTNER – Founding Partner/Partner to Support Operating Costs

CareCONNECTOR – Health Care Referral Partner

CarePACKER – Volunteer Care Box Packer

CareDRIVER – Volunteer Care Box Delivery Driver

I am extremely grateful for all of the support I received in the days, weeks, months and years after Eric’s death.  Experiencing the warmth and generosity while I was a caredFOR makes me thrilled to be a part of the ColorCancer Team.  Everyday I get to take a turn returning the favor by being a part of this incredible program that provides free at-home care supplies to cancer patients in need in the Greater Austin Area.

Lisa Keefauver

lisa@colorcancer.org

To Celebrate or Not To Celebrate?

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We all have those special dates that we love to celebrate.  Who doesn’t love to celebrate their birthday? Or their wedding anniversary? Or maybe even the anniversary of your first date? We also have those shared holidays that we are invited to celebrate – from religious (such as Christmas, Easter, Hannukah) to national (such as Memorial Day, Thanksgiving Day, Fourth of July). Then there are the “Hallmark” holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

Since Eric passed away in 2011, Father’s Day has been one of many tough holidays for us.  We have tried 1) Celebrating with a favorite dessert and a candle and some kind words 2) Making a card that we put up in the house 3) Celebrating with Grandpa.  So far, they have all ended with Lily and I in tears and a declaration that she didn’t want to do that again.  This year, I nearly avoided the subject of Father’s Day altogether. Midway through the day I decided to ask (instead of decide for her) “do you want to do anything in honor of dad today?” She said no. That was that.  I have learned from my wise daughter that everyone has the right to decide whether to celebrate or not to celebrate.

Like us, so many of you have lost someone to cancer and it makes celebrating some of these holidays/anniversaries very difficult.  In fact, they make us wonder how we will ever be able to celebrate again? We often feel pressure to join the crowd. But, like everything in life, there is no one right answer for everyone. For some, skipping the holiday all together is the right call. Still others just need a year off and then they can resume. Or perhaps we decide to just add a new tradition to the annual celebration that honors the person we lost.

This Father’s Day, I made sure to take a moment to call my dad to tell him how much I love him.  I texted Eric’s dad to tell him I was thinking of him on this day and how grateful I am that he raised such an amazing son I was lucky enough to call my husband for 9 years. The mother of one the teenage patients we served through the Care Box Program shared this with us on the 3 month anniversary of her daugher’s death “The Care Box Program is a really good program, it helped my family because I didn’t have to worry about getting supplies for me and also helped us financially and to focus more on Kim’s treatment and the trials ahead of us, so once again thank you and your team for all your support during that really difficult time in our lives. I know if Kim was still alive she would be saying thank you as well. God bless you all.”

For me, August will be full of more anniversaries that will make me ask myself “to celebrate or not to celebrate?”. They include both a “happy” anniversary (13 year wedding anniversary) and a “sad” anniversary (4 year anniversary of Eric’s death). Will I celebrate? Will I hold a ceremony or memorial of some kind? The truth is, I don’t know. What I do know is that I will figure it out for myself.  So if you are feeling the pressure to celebrate or act in a certain way on an upcoming holiday or anniversary, just be kind to yourself and know that it is OK to do whatever feels best for you!

Lisa