Leader photo/ALY GIBSON Western Michigan University student Jessica Robinson models a dress from Laurie Anne’s in Dowagiac during the Cass County Cancer Service’s luncheon at the Elk’s Lodge Wednesday.

Archived Story

Cancer service luncheon requests volunteers

Published 5:57pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

“The monster affects us all.”

Those words, spoken by a Cass County Cancer Service volunteer, exposed a reality that many county residents come up against: a cancer diagnosis and the necessity of assistance.

The Dowagiac Elks Lodge, on Riverside Drive, welcomed the cancer support service and guests Wednesday for a luncheon and fashion show aimed at raising funds to provide assistance to residents living with cancer. The fashion show, organized by Laurie Anne’s, 122 S. Front St., Dowagiac, also auctioned off a new silver fox fur coat, which went for $125 with proceeds going to the CCCS. With less than a dozen volunteers working with the service to help provide assistance and take calls from patients, the service hopes to gain more recognition in the community and welcome more helpers.

“The luncheon is a celebration of who we are as people,” Marie Anderson, CCCS volunteer, said.

Anderson, who became involved less than a year ago, networked from her church’s cancer ministry to the service and decided to commit to volunteering when she gets home from her full-time job once a month. Another volunteer, Patty Strickland, has been involved with the service for nearly five years. After losing several family members to cancer, including her mother, Strickland said she wouldn’t trade the work she does for anything.

“The kids and people we’ve helped,” Strickland said. “I wouldn’t give that up. It can get overwhelming, and you may need a timeout, but you usually end up making friends who don’t just call the service anymore, they call you at home or on your cell.”

Strickland said the calls to say a patient of the service is in remission are often mixed in with calls to say a friend has lost the battle with the disease.

The service offers assistance in the way of gas cards for patients, help with paying utility bills to prevent the service from ending or just emotional support.

“Most of the patients we see, they have to humble themselves just to ask for help,” Anderson said. “You don’t realize how many people who were living paycheck to paycheck are diagnosed and then suddenly have no income, wondering who will pay the bills, feed the kids … feed themselves.”

Beth Pethick, of Edwardsburg, recently became a volunteer after waitressing during the meetings and helping at the annual golf outings.

“There’s so many reasons,” Pethick said of why she wanted to volunteer. “I was overwhelmed with the stories; it makes you want to dive in and help. I know I can help.”

Pethick was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was younger, saying when  patients receive  such a diagnosis, their world falls apart. The CCCS, Pethick said, helps put pieces back together as much as possible.

During the luncheon, the Dowagiac area Federal Credit Union, in conjunction with the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, also made a donation. Sheriff Joseph Underwood presented the check to Anderson.

The only qualification for cancer patients to receive assistance from the service is they must live in Cass County. For assistance, or to request assistance for someone, the service’s number is (269) 699-5551. Donations can be sent to Cass County Cancer Service, PO Box 676, Edwardsburg, MI 49112.

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