The Center for Building Hope's programs are designed to enhance cancer treatment by focusing on the emotional, psychological and educational aspects of well-being while surviving cancer. Below are personal stories from people affected by cancer who have found support through CBH.
Carol Lystad's 2001 metastatic breast cancer diagnosis left her feeling lost in a sea of endless treatment options, with no easy way out. It was not news she expected to hear after 17 years of remission from her first bout with breast cancer. Carol felt she had nowhere to turn for real answers or support and needed to make some very important decisions immediately.
Then Carol's doctor suggested she contact The Center for Building Hope. At CBH, Carol found a warm community of people also affected by cancer, who were getting answers, finding support and, most of all, empathy, understanding and love.
Carol faced recurrences a number of times and had moments of sadness, but her spirit and her CBH support network never let that happen for long. Carol credited CBH as the reason she remained a cancer victor rather than a cancer victim throughout her struggle. Carol’s legacy is one of strength and love that continues to inspire participants as they begin their cancer journey.
During a summer Floridan thunderstorm, Bill Henderson and his wife, Janon Zordan, rode home in their car after learning that the treatment for Bill's bladder cancer had been unsuccessful. It was a tearful, quiet ride. They had been together through every step of Bill's cancer experience: the initial diagnosis, doctor's appointments, treatments, setbacks–and now, they would face Bill's surgery uncertain and frightened.
Not knowing what was ahead, but sure they would need even more support than they could gather on their own, Janon urged Bill to look into the Center for Building Hope many times. Not being much of a "joiner," Bill was hesitant, but Janon continued her effort to get him to CBH. After a ten-day hospital stay fighting an infection that brought Bill close to death, he realized that to better fight his medical challenges, he needed more information and the support from others who experienced similar challenges. After attending a Newcomer's group, which left them feeling more hopeful and less alone, Bill and Janon attended the Couples and Cancer group.
Eleanor was vigilant about her healthcare. Her daughter, a physician, made sure Eleanor had annual check-ups, including x-rays, just to be on the safe side. Eleanor was shocked when her routine, annual x-ray revealed lung cancer. Her career as a painted was going well and she felt great–no symptoms of any kind. How could this happen?
A neighbor told Eleanor about the Center for Building Hope. She was immediately impressed–from the openness of the leaders who shared their personal journeys with cancer, to the compassion she received from staff, volunteers and participants.
Eleanor joined the lung cancer group and drew strength being with people who understood her. She attended nutrition and exercise classes and experienced peacefulness from the rhythm of Quigong. Eleanor found art therapeutic and was inspired to continue creating. Through her life-changing experiences at CBH, Eleanor says she is now painting with fervor, inspired from a place deep inside.
Traci was the single parent of a four-year-old son when she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. She spent the next 14 months in and out of hospitals. When Traci returned home, she found the doctors had saved her life–but she had lost her son. Bobby, now five years old, refused to let Traci hug him, prepare his meals or even put a band-aid on him. Traci felt lost.
Then, Bobby began having "accidents." Traci had called the Center for Building Hope after she was initially diagnosed for help with explaining cancer to her child. So, she reached out again. The next day a counselor met with Bobby and over several weeks they explored his feelings through talking, painting, and playing games together. At the counselor's urging, Traci took Bobby to her follow-up doctor visits so Bobby could hear firsthand that his mother was leukemia-free. The counselor helped Bobby understand that his hugs wouldn't make his mommy sick. Within a couple of months, Bobby stopped having accidents. Today, Traci and Bobby are connected once again.
Linda moved to Sarasota in 1999, knowing it could provide the healthy environment she desired. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 63, it was a surprise, but she was not frightened. She had overcome uterine cancer 30 years before, when she was a mother with two young children. That was a difficult time, but she had made it.
Now, after hearing the doctor's diagnosis, Linda went directly to the Center for Building Hope, a place she had referred others to for years. As a survivor who had battled cancer alone, Linda recognized the profound gift of the Center for Building Hope for cancer patients and their families.
As a dance instructor and movement specialist, Linda knew how important exercise was to recovery. Linda joined the breast cancer exercise, yoga and Qigong classes. She attended the breast cancer networking group and nutrition classes. The staff, volunteers and participants shared her journey and supported her. She found the community she needed to face cancer once again.
When Francesca found out she had a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit, the doctors gave her three months to live. Months of inexplicable symptoms had her doctors thinking she was a hypochondriac. She was relieved to have a diagnosis. Then her deepest fears surfaced. She was an architecture professor with a family.
What would happen to them?
Francesca took an active part in her recovery and the Center for Building Hope welcomed Francesca and the brain tumor support group she co-founded.
The hospital where Francesca received treatment shaped her recovery. It had a cafeteria with an outdoor terrace and sculpture garden. It was there, during her treatments, that Francesca began to dream of a place of being well, a place where health, science and nature would exist to serve the whole person.
Francesca has become a strong personal and professional voice for the life giving force a green environment has on health. 13 years later, she is a brain cancer survivor.
When Emilio was diagnosed at 53 with prostate cancer, he felt his career as an actor and lifestyles model was over. He needed to make choices about his treatment and could find no answers. His insurance was about to lapse and he did not have the family support he so badly wanted. Alone and overwhelmed, he went in for surgery.
In 2007, Emilio's cancer was back. This time, a doctor handed him a brochure. It said, "The Center for Building Hope." Emilio sought information and fellowship at CBH. He knew that if he stayed home alone, he would give up. He attended educational programs such as "New Discoveries in Cancer," and met people he could talk with on the "Sail Away from Cancer" yacht cruise. Exercise classes helped lessen his fatigue and he voiced his emotions with a therapist. Emilio feels volunteering with CBH to inform the Hispanic population of the many free services available to them helps him find meaning and self-worth.