East Stroudsburg, Monroe County - June is Cancer Survivors Month. One survivor owes part of her recovery to a complete stranger, who just wanted to throw a lifeline during a trying time."You have cancer." The doctors' words shot like a lightning bolt through Jenifer Chan's body. "I went numb, this isn't supposed to happen."
Chan, from East Stroudsburg, had just watched her youngest daughter beat leukemia, now it was her turn to fight. "I cried all that day. I cried so much I felt bruised like someone beat me up. Then after that, I got myself together," said Chan. That included getting her finances in order, Chan did not have health insurance. "It [was] like which one am I going to do this week. 'Which bill?' How am I going to cut something so that the mortgage will be there?"
She met with social worker Lynn Steel from the Hughes Cancer Center at Pocono Medical Center. Steele introduced her to the "Hope for Strength" program. It was started by Carole Ann Bowyer, her husband and their daughter Staci Ann, a cancer survivor. It helps pay for cancer patients' life expenses.
The fund paid a month of Jenifer's mortgage. "Grateful" is an understatement when it comes to how she feels. "I don't think the word thanks is enough," she said.
Carole Ann and Staci Ann created the fund while Staci Ann was undergoing her own breast cancer treatment in Washington D.C.
"We just saw other people coming in that maybe weren't as lucky as she was to have the same type of experience. We looked at each other and she said, 'Mother we've got to do something,'" said Carole Ann. They wanted to help people in the Poconos, where Staci Ann grew up.
It's been two years and counting and 14 people just like Jenifer received help in some way from the "Hope for Strength Fund" Carole Ann says it would never be possible without donations from complete strangers.
"I am so thankful and humbled that the community has embraced our mission," she said.
It's saving lives.
"There s famous quote that says, 'I didn't beat breast cancer with pink ribbons; I did it with a team.' I look back and that's what I did, I did it with a team."
This is your reminder to call your buddy and remind him or her to perform a breast self exam. It's a call that can save a life.