CANCER IS LONELY….
AND CHEMO IS EVEN WORSE IN THE TIME OF COVID-19!
I should know since I had four months of chemo for pancreatic cancer before my Whipple surgery, and two more months of chemo after the hospital kicked my wife out from my ICU recovery bedside as they locked the doors to help prevent the spread of Covid-19! Being treated for cancer can be terrifying, especially without the love and support of family and friends. Isolation makes everything worse when people can’t support you in person. Social distancing can be especially cruel in times like these.
When I started my first four months of chemo I was greeted at the hospital by smiling nurses, and my best friends and family came to each session with a hot lunch. After Covid-19 hit, the nurses were fully gowned in personal protective gear and I was isolated in a small infusion room with just an I.V. drip and my own mask – no smiles, and no friends, and certainly no fun! As I sat in the infusion room I started to feel sorry for the newly diagnosed patients who would start their chemo in isolation. It made me sad, angry, and want to try to help.
To that end, I am working with a number of non-profits to distribute strength stones as virtual “chemo buddies” to newly diagnosed patients. My hope is, with your help, to create a thousand six-packs of strength stones that we can give away to these patients before their first chemo session. I like to think of these as virtual chemo buddies. They can be given to family and friends with a request to hold on to the stone during an upcoming chemo session. Loved ones can be there in spirit to share their strength and to offer hope! A necessary connection in these difficult times.
As a sculptor, my work has always had a purpose that was spiritual, and my career was always about using my art to help others. I created The Glass Ribbon Project over fifteen years ago to support women with breast cancer. I was inspired to create strength stones after I read the story of a cancer nurse who was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she told her mother about the diagnosis, her mom reached down and picked up two stones. While keeping one for herself, she gave one to her daughter and told her “I will reach into my pocket and hold on to my stone whenever you have a procedure or treatment, and I will say a prayer.” Her mother and I both believe that there is a real connection between people that makes a difference. When people share their strength and hope – healing happens!