This year the Dorothy S. O’Brien Award is awarded to Cancer Lifeline Volunteer Jeanne Hall. This award was established in 1990 by an anonymous donor as a tribute to Dorothy and her belief in the importance of self-determination and empowerment.
Jeanne has embraced her role as a Lifeline volunteer deeply and has soared beyond the expectations set. Her personal experience has made her an important advocate for others facing cancer – she has had the great challenge of having to put her opinions and beliefs to the side as she attends to others’ experiences and helps them come to their own decision on what is best. She has participated in many programs through Cancer Lifeline and that has enriched her experience as a volunteer. She truly gets both the volunteer and clients perspective and uses those perspectives to offer suggestions to enhance our training and our programs. Jeanne is an attentive listener and is always sharing important feedback from clients about how to improve our programs. Jeanne is a highly valued member of the Cancer Lifeline volunteer team and clients are truly honored when she picks up the call.
Several months ago, we talked with Jeanne about her cancer experience. Here, in her own words, is why she volunteers for Cancer Lifeline.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, I had taken yoga classes with Christy Fisher for over 20 years. (She is the owner/lead teacher at Phinney Yoga Center.) At some point in the past, I had heard her speak about teaching yoga classes for people impacted by cancer.
I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May of 2017. A few months later, I asked Christy whether I could participate in her yoga class for people living with cancer. She told me that she offered it through Cancer Lifeline (CLL).
In August of 2017, I registered for Christy’s gentle yoga class. At that point in time, I was solely focused on registering for her class and did not explore any other program offerings. I was amazed and grateful that the class was free.
I found Christy’s gentle yoga class to be a calming, supportive experience, Unfortunately, I was unable to attend regularly due to side effects from treatment. (I began chemo and immunotherapy at the end of August.)
I found the experience of receiving a lymphoma diagnosis, being presented with very different opinions regarding my prognosis and how best to treat my disease, being barraged with unsolicited advice, coping with others’ reactions to my diagnosis, experiencing many side effects from treatment and unexpected prolonged complications to be a series of very stressful and at times traumatic experiences. The center where I received treatment provided me with the chemo and immunotherapy treatment that I needed to achieve complete remission. Unfortunately, they were not proactive about helping me to access support services during this very difficult time of my life.
I wish I had reached out to CLL for additional support during this time. I had no idea that CLL offered a therapy referral service. Nor did I appreciate the breadth of educational or support group offerings. During the 3-4 months in early 2018 when I was dealing with a fungal lung infection, I would have benefited from receiving emotional support from the lifeline and it would have been a Godsend to have had someone assist me in finding a therapist with expertise in working with people living with cancer. Instead, I sought out emotional support services on my own. It was an onerous process. Fortunately, I managed to find an amazing therapist.
When I was at my sickest in the winter of 2018, I felt increasingly isolated despite having a loving network of family and friends. I was exhausted, anxious, and extremely debilitated. My husband and I had to doggedly pursue appropriate medical interventions for what was to be eventually diagnosed as a fungal lung infection. During this time of intense illness and challenging treatments, I promised myself that if I lived through the experience, I would find a way to become involved in supporting others as they navigate the very challenging experience of living with cancer.
As I began to recover, I started to research organizations in Seattle that supported people living with cancer. I was so impressed by the breadth and depth of the services/classes/support groups that Cancer Lifeline offered. When I read the description of the responsibilities of CLL volunteers, I knew that I wanted to be one of those people. I reached out to Blair (the volunteer coordinator) for information about the application and training process. She was a wonderful contact person—so warm and welcoming. I was able to attend the fall training in 2018 and began to volunteer on October 31, 2018–an easy date to remember!
I enjoy just about every aspect of being a volunteer. I particularly love being able to offer support to those who call the Lifeline for emotional support, assistance with class registration, and/or information about financial support. It is such a privilege to be able to compassionately receive another’s story and to offer non-judgmental, supportive listening. I love being able to help callers discover the resources that will best meet their needs. I love being able to say that we (CLL) are here to support them in any way that we can as they navigate the challenges of living with cancer.
I find the atmosphere at CLL to be positive and supportive. No matter how I am feeling when I arrive, I leave feeling that I am appreciated and that I have been of help in at least some small way. I am truly grateful that I am part of the CLL mission and team.
Volunteering at CLL and becoming more familiar with CLL programs has inspired me to participate in more CLL classes and support groups. I am so impressed by the quality of the programs we offer. I have enjoyed and learned a great deal from attending artistic expression classes, a class on nutrition, and a class on coping with cancer-related fatigue. I love participating in the Healthy Steps class at Northwest Hospital. I am finding the Thursday afternoon writing group to be a very healing and supportive endeavor. I have also attended several support groups and have found a Living with Cancer support group at NWH that I plan to attend on a regular basis. Participating in these CLL programs is a wonderfully supportive part of my ongoing healing process.
I have a form of lymphoma that is currently considered incurable but manageable. It is very comforting for me to know that I will be able to draw upon CLL resources during future recurrences and treatment cycles.
Learn more about volunteering opportunities with Cancer Lifeline.