Wed, April 24, 2024

Best of Faith Friday: Not Fighting Alone

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Steve Swanson passed away in March 2024. ABD will publish his “Best of” Faith Friday stories. Like the Bible, Steve’s inspirational stories are timeless.

No one who is battling cancer should ever try to walk through it alone. That is foundational for the people behind Cancer Support Services in Augusta.

Cancer Support Services began back in 2004 and spells out its mission on their website this way, Cancer Support Services (CSS) assists cancer patients with their financial and emotional needs during treatment, including lodging and transportation services, to facilitate healing and create better outcomes.   

Incorporated in 2004, Cancer Support Services serves men, women, and young cancer fighters and is a grassroots 501(c) 3 nonprofit charity.  There is no other agency in the area providing comprehensive cancer support services.  

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Their name was originally “The Lydia Project” with a singular focus on serving women battling cancer. They have adapted over the years to changing needs. Now, they are also supporting men and youth in their fight against cancer. After two years of prayer and discussions, they officially renamed the ministry Cancer Support Services on May 1, 2022. The Cancer Support Services website explains the goal behind the name change, “The new name more accurately mirrors the population served and reflects the broad array of comfort and assistance the organization provides to individuals fighting all types of cancer. We hope the Cancer Support Services brand serves as a more easily recognizable beacon for those prayers and a helping hand during their personal battles with cancer – in all its forms. Our mission, philosophy, and spirit have not changed. We remain committed to bringing financial, emotional, and prayerful support and hope to anyone impacted by cancer.”

Covid precipitated many changes at CSS. Even though those days were difficult, they never closed or missed one day of serving others.

Director, Michelle Canchola said, “We pray each day that we can be an instrument of His work. You can’t have but about that, you just take what comes.”

She also shared this observation: “We don’t always see the bigger picture, do we? We just don’t know what we’re being part of. It’s really something to kind of celebrate, it really is.”

Just since January, they have had three dozen referrals for kids needing assistance. Two requests for kids came in just during the morning I was visiting their offices. One was for a seven-month-old, the other for a 13-year-old.

Canchola has a diligent team. Their solid infrastructure enables them to impact many cancer fighters and their families. In 2022, they helped pay for over 2,300 transports. They currently have fourteen transport vendors that help reach people from the CSRA and surrounding counties. As of the day I spoke with Michelle, they had already provided 1,392 lodging nights for cancer fighters this year, as well as 1,690 transports.

Their CSS logo, locally designed by Jeremy Mace at Powerserve, is in the shape of a shield. Canchola said this is a great picture of what they do.

“It’s not just a logo, that’s a shield, and that’s what we represent, a shield for cancer fighters,” she said.

Their name change has markedly increased the volume of requests they receive.

Canchola explained it this way: “If we have one regret about the name change, it’s that we didn’t do it sooner. People are looking for cancer support services, and that’s where the name fell right in.”

What are the specific services they offer?

  • Transport to cancer treatment from area homes
  • Lodging to be near cancer treatment for out-of-area cancer fighters
  • Prescription and medical supplies
  • Assistance with past-due utilities and rent
  • Monthly outreach and prayer for anxious cancer fighters and caregivers.

Prayer is a critical component of the work they do.

Considering how prayer impacts cancer fighters, Canchola said, “They’re walking by faith. That prayer gives hope, it gives resolve. If you lose that resolve, you don’t fight that fight. I think we’ve discovered how far more reaching it is than we can see. We can’t see how far-reaching that prayer is and the outcomes that come from it. You can go to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets, but where are you going to go for prayer? Well, you can go to the church. What if you don’t belong to one? A lot of cancer fighters get a new diagnosis, and they oftentimes start a new relationship with God that they didn’t have before.”

Canchola told me the story of a man from Michigan who went to their website and asked for prayer. The CSS staff immediately sent him a prayer card to let him know his request was received and that he was being prayed for. On the next prayer day, another note was mailed out. The man later reached out to CSS to express his gratitude for receiving two handwritten notes and prayer.

As our conversation concluded, Canchola told me she believes many people are living in fear.

“There are many ifs and what ifs — Covid, the bad flu, people estranged in their relationships,” she said.

In response, Canchola has volunteers that regularly call cancer fighters to let them know they are thought of and prayed for.

She added, “I don’t know how many people around us realize that in their backyard is this nationwide and worldwide outreach – ‘cause we get requests from other countries.”

Although there is a great team in place, more volunteers are needed. Right now, specifically, in the areas of writing notes, outreach volunteers, and lodging volunteers. If you want to help, your first step is to fill out a volunteer application online at www.cancersupportservices.org. You can also make a donation there or request help if you or a loved one are in a cancer battle. Cancer Support Services is here to help and provide their services at no charge.

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