Monthly Archives: February 2014

Turning the Ordinary Into Extraordinary

Melissa Bowen, CEO,

My first experience with cancer was when my friend, Wayne, was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Although I received updates through email from his caregiver, the updates were few and far between due to her intense role of caring and advocating for Wayne and we were not able to communicate with him directly.  I knew from this personal experience that communication was a challenge for those who were dealing with cancer.

When I became CEO of, I had no idea how personally a website could affect me and those facing a cancer diagnosis. I realized that could have been the solution to the communication challenges I experienced during my friend’s cancer diagnosis. It made me determined to help lead the organization so that others would know about our resource and not have to face the same challenges.  I am so grateful to be in a position to tell others about the helpful services we provide and to hear from the people we serve about how their lives have been improved by the work we do.

I’ve spoken with members who said they never knew just how many people cared about them until they set up a site with  One member, Peg told me how she was reluctant to let people know about her diagnosis, but once she did through her website, the support that came to her was unexpected and tremendous!  She said there were friends she hadn’t connected with in years who joined her site to keep up with her journey and offer words of comfort and support.

Another benefit I’ve heard expressed by members is that the site allows them to be more than their cancer. Their acquaintances can be updated via the website, so if they run into people at the store or in person somewhere, the conversation doesn’t have to start with an update on their cancer treatment. They can chat about other things in life, without having to start with a rehash of every painful detail.

I am constantly amazed by all the fabulous people I meet. I see them as warriors and heroes and it is so inspiring and humbling to know that they get up and face each day.  I know it can’t be easy and I can’t count the times I’ve been moved to tears by those we serve, like Dave, a member who told me’s service saved his life. I hear stories of how patients and their caregivers read and re-read comments people leave on their site, many times getting them through the night. It gives them hope and a little cheer, even on days when they don’t feel like coming out of the house or talking to anybody.  Knowing that our service can brighten someone’s day or help them keep going, pushes me to work harder and be thankful every day to be a witness to such precious moments in their lives.

In the course of my daily activities I also hear from friends and family who are following a patient using and what a tremendous help it is for them to be able to support their loved one.  They are grateful to have a way to find out the latest status update and see any volunteer needs on the Helping Calendar, being able to help without feeling burdensome. In addition, both the patient and their loved ones are gratified that they have the chance to say and hear things without being forced to deal with each person’s emotional reaction. Loved ones can access updates and process their own emotions, then move on to share love and support to ensure their loved one does not face this alone.

We provide a blog/journal website, an online calendar, a place to raise money and links to cancer resources. Individually, those components are just pieces of technology that exist elsewhere online. I like to think that we’ve lovingly brought these elements together to make it more than a website, more than a blog. It becomes an important part of the healing process, and that’s why exists.  To relieve the burden of communications for families affected by cancer and turn it into a piece of the journey where they have control over their own positive place of support.