Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ways to give back through letter writing

     There are 2 letter writing sites that I also enjoy contributing to.
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 The first is: ChemoAngels. The purpose of this site is to assign patients who are currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments a buddy that will send them encouragement. I have been a ChemoAngel for a few years. I think I"m on my 7th? patient. My patients have ranged in age from 12- 65. A few have become friends of mine once they have graduated from the program.
     Some of my acquaintances have asked me questions like; "So, basically you write to a complete stranger who is not expected to write you back just to wish them luck with their treatments? Writing a card a week is a big commitment." Yes, although I usually send something a little more personal than "good luck this week."
      "Do your patients ever die?" I have had 2 patients die. One in treatment and one who had graduated.
      "Have you ever heard from any of your patients?"  I have heard from all but 2 of them and chat often with 5 of them.
      "Why do you do this program?" I first started doing Chemoangels because they put out a call to people to get involved. One of the women who was a patient of mine, who has since passed away, was a woman named Mary. She was an older widow who had lung cancer. She was the first patient that I ever became close to after she was out of the program.  She and I were pretty different from one another and I wasn't sure if she really connected with my letters (since they don't have to write you back) and one day I went to my mailbox and found a card from her. It was a Thanksgiving card. In it, she wrote that even though she was surrounded by family at home, she felt like I had become family and that she felt very close to me. She told me that she was extremely thankful for my letters because they gave her something to look forward to, she enjoyed hearing what I had to write and, most importantly, it made her feel normal- like I wasn't tiptoe-ing around the fact that she was sick, but I didn't dwell on it either. The card meant a lot to me and gave me renewed energy to take on more patients.
       This week I am celebrating the last chemo treatment of my current patient! If you're a letter writer, I would encourage you to check out ChemoAngels.
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      The second site I like to "spread some love" is The World Needs More Love Letters.  This site was founded by Hannah Brencher in 2011.  This encourages letter writers to send some postal love (or leave letters in public) to people who are needing it. To be honest, Timmy was a recipient of a bundle from this site about 4-5 years ago. He was struggling with some kids at school and his feelings of not fitting in. They chose him to be a recipient of a bundle and we probably got 100 letters. Each letter was personal and beautiful. We hung them up all over his room and he read them over and over again. Just last month, I realized that a man from one of my penpalling groups was one of the people who had sent him a letter. It was a huge boost of confidence for him and he felt extremely special. We still have all of those letters in a large manila envelope somewhere. Occasionally we will take them out and read them. Current letter requests are for an inspiring teacher, a sister-in law in need of encouragement, a widow who has just lost her husband, and a mom who just lost her child. I so not think that I have many beautiful words that will inspire people, but I do believe that it is important for people to know that they are loved and not alone. The letter requests are here if you feel led to write one!

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