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Cancer Support Community swings into action to respond to surging need

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Christy Fleming
Christy Fleming
The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching effect on public health, well beyond the impact of the virus itself.

In fact, since the pandemic’s onset, the Cancer Support Community of Delaware has helped more people than ever before, with thousands of additional cancer patients, caregivers and families reaching out for support.

Cancer Support Community of Delaware (CSCDE) has served 3,600 people in the first seven months of the year. In a typical year, CSCDE would serve 1,100 to 1,200 people. If this trend continues, the organization would be on track to see six times the number of people they serve in a typical year.

 

“The additional stress of the pandemic coupled with the fact that our virtual programs are now accessible to more people really has helped drive up interest in so many of our offerings,” said CSCDE Executive Director Nicole Pickles. “Many of our clients are seeing greater levels of stress and anxiety over not being able to begin or proceed through treatment as planned because of the pandemic,” she said.

Pickles addressed long-time supporters, cancer survivors and their families at the organization’s signature fundraiser last month in Greenville.

While many local events have been postponed or moved online, CSCDE forged ahead with the 25th Annual Dickie DiSabatino Golf & Tennis Classic on July 20, bringing together more than 100 golfers and tennis enthusiasts for a day of fun and fellowship on a warm but sunny day. Pickles offered reminders of the importance of the nonprofit’s role in the three communities they serve across the state.

 

While CSCDE caregivers long to reconnect with their clients live in person, they say the pandemic has offered a silver lining.

“We are enormously pleased that so many more people touched by cancer are finding our programs rewarding and beneficial,” said Pickles. “This has been a banner year in terms of participation in our programs and support groups.”

Attendance in stress reduction classes, such as chair yoga, gentle yoga, and tai chi, has soared, as has participation in mind/body and educational workshops. But interest in CSCDE programming has grown across the board, which are now offered through Facebook Live, Zoom, and recorded content on their website. One-on-one support from trained individuals also

“Because all of our programming is free, people can participate in any class as much as they want or need to,” said Pickles. Some are taking advantage of multiple activities throughout the week.

 

The July 20 Dickie DiSabatino Golf & Tennis Outing, so named for the philanthropist who raised $30,000 with the first annual golf outing 25 years ago, featured moving remarks by Andy Phillips, the beloved husband of the late Audrey Rossi, who had been an ambassador for CSCDE. Audrey was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer following a colonoscopy in July of 2017, just one month after her 25th birthday. She died in March this year.

Phillips said he would have preferred to offer a “fairy tale ending” to Audrey’s cancer journey. But he is immensely grateful for the support of so many caregivers at CSCDE who supported Audrey every step of the way.

“For 31 months and change, Audrey fought, she smiled, she loved, and she laughed…

“Cancer was about the hardest thing I had to watch anyone go through – even with Audrey, whose smile could cut through the [toughest] news, who could look you in the eyes convince you everything was going to be okay. But I will say is that there’s plenty that can and is being done that really makes these situations less insurmountable.

“Cancer can also be alienating. At a time when having others around who know what it is you are going through is critical to keeping yourself together, keeping your head in the game. No matter how many family members, how many friends and loved ones you have beside you, it can truly feel lonely.

“But from the day that Audrey’s eyes met mine after her diagnosis to the final days when I would hear her last words she would ever say, we were grateful for so many things. And way up on that list was the Cancer Support Community. They were pivotal in her outlook and her determination and her path-finding mission through all of this.”

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