In 1985 we started the R. A. Bloch Cancer Support Center on the grounds of the University of Missouri-Kansas City based on work done by Harold Benjamin at his Wellness Community. Like everything else we do, it is totally free to all participants and donations are never solicited. Early in its infancy, Raymond and Anna Lou LaTurner sought help at the Center. Apparently they received what they were looking for and soon they volunteered to help others. For over five years they have been conducting the Tuesday evening “Introduction to the Support Center”, through which nearly all new patients are introduced to the center. They gave us the following letter, which we wish to share with you. It spells out, as well as we have ever seen, why we work so hard to help the next person diagnosed with cancer. We believe you, whether you are a cancer patient, supporter, or professional working with cancer patients, will appreciate and be better off for having read it.
Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, wrapped in numerous ways. There is always the excitement of looking at a gift – wondering who it is for and what it is. As a volunteer I have received many gifts. Let me tell you about them:
They may walk into the Support Center – some with crutches or cane, some are pushed in – they need someone to help them. It is my job to accept them, to welcome them and take a look at them. Some are brightly wrapped with ribbons and bows – some more like boxes or bags – some large, some small – but each a treasure to explore. Some must be handled with great care – they are fragile, soft or tender – some ready to explode. So very carefully I begin to undo the gift gently lest I mess it up. Still I am not sure about the contents. It seems to say, please be careful when you look at me. I don’t always know what to do with the gift I see. Sometimes it is easy – I can see what it is – something for me to hug – maybe hold its hand – or just a gift that needs me to listen for a while.
You see, each gift has a special label on it: “Handle With Care”. I have just heard about cancer. It is real – it has happened to me or to one I love. Now tell me, how do you handle a gift like that? There is really only one way – you have to love – you have to care. It is not always an easy task. Think about it, how do you love something when you aren’t sure what it is? Nearly six years and I am still learning.
Number one: get them into a great support group. Everyone in the Group is eager to see my gift. The gift doesn’t want to talk or share – they just aren’t sure what cancer is all about. That doesn’t last long. You see that Gift has a great need – they need to be part of what is going on. Bit by bit, or with one big explosion, the ribbons come off. Wrappings and containers seem to vanish – because the group has shown them love, acceptance, compassion, tears, laughter – the ability to see someone really cares and understands. They want to be part of this- then we all share the gift. There is always enough to go around.
Oh, make no mistake – you will get more than you expected. You learn so much, not only about your feelings but the “yucky” side too. What all those new words really means, all the medicine, the treatments; and yes, and you still have enough blood left for them to take some more. Yes, it is normal to think I can’t take it anymore. Then you remember in Support Group we share; I’m not alone anymore. You may even have a special friend through all of this. I have – oh, what a gift. You may come to the place where you no longer need the Group – that’s wonderful – but you will always be remembered because you leave a part of yourself – your words of wisdom – your special smile – and your ability to reach out when someone needs you.
Yes, my gifts have come and gone – they have been many. I am a richer person because of each gift. There are no two alike. And richer because I met you. Thank you for a gift money cannot buy – nor time take away. You were my gift – you touched my life. Your gift was unique; I will treasure it. Because of it I will keep on giving, giving of myself to others.