Thoughts from Kim Bender:
I survived ovarian cancer when I was 20 years old. Going through something like that, and surviving it, made me want to give back and help those locally dealing with any kind of cancer treatment. I can relate to their experience – battles of chemotherapy, life-changing decisions and maturity, and financial instabilities that run in parallel with the physical and emotional tolls. I wanted to shoulder that burden a little for someone else. Coming across a link to breast cancer led me to volunteer for Sustain Inspire Survive (SIS), a cause that helps others going through a similar fate.
I remember sitting in the hospital room with first an IV full of chemicals, and then an IV to prevent the nausea that the chemicals caused. I did this for seven hours straight, five days a week while studying my Software Concurrent Design book and whole-heartedly wishing I could just be a normal girl. At one point I counted over 40 unhealed punctures across my arms and hands from the IV needles, and then the nurses began to reuse the existing punctures after running out of room. The entire weekend that followed the treatment was always spent in bed because my body was consumed with chemicals. A mixing bowl by the side of the bed to escape the nausea, and a mom who continually tried to bribe me with my favorite foods but failed miserably since everything tasted silvery metallic. A mom who always cried by my side as she helplessly watched my body literally deteriorate, with the hope that it would build up the white cells blood count in time for the next week of treatment. A mom who tenderly brushed my hair each morning until finally every brush stroke took out whole chunks of hair and there was nothing left. I’d get questions like “Why would you shave off all of your hair??” or “Why did you dye your hair?” from those who didn’t know I wore a wig. Others asked, “Why don’t you just walk around without hair and be proud?” They didn’t realize that seeing myself without hair constantly reminded me that I was sick, and I was different, and not in a good way.
But then who would have known that having cancer would teach me how to put makeup on like a pro, thanks to a “Look Good, Feel Good” class held at the hospital that gave makeup and lessons to cancer patients? Who knew that a wig donated by the hospital would be my flagship gift to help dodge the uncomfortable questions and awkward stares on my college campus for the months following the treatments?
It was one of the toughest times of my life, and I feel so lucky, and incredibly grateful, that my family was by my side every step of the way. All of those “little” gifts from the hospital were major contributors to my emotional strength and helped me get through it all. Just the smallest bit of support can make an immense difference to someone who is struggling to find hope and any ounce of optimism given helps carry them through the most difficult and unexplainable trials.
SIS, a local non-profit, helps relieve the financial burden of those dealing with breast cancer treatment by rewarding grants to participants. Breast cancer accounted for over 15% of all U.S. patients diagnosed with cancer in 2017, the third largest category of cancer (beneath Respiratory and Digestive) with 16% of the cases resulting in death, according to an American Cancer Society report.
Being on the Board of Directors for SIS has been wonderful! We have helped hundreds of cases annually in the Rochester and Buffalo, New York areas. SIS is striving to help more people in the area and potentially expand to surrounding cities across New York.
I hope you will join me, and Mindex, as we work together in 2018 to support SIS.