A cancer diagnosis can change how the world looks to anyone but it is especially difficult for a teenager or young adult who is still trying to figure out who they are. No matter how loving and supportive family members and friends are, that diagnosis can be a lonely place that no one else understands.
Chris and Karen Hines walked beside their daughter Cassie through every step of her diagnosis and treatment for a rare form of liver cancer. But like any teenager, Cassie wanted to talk to someone who was going through what she was going through, someone who was her own age. She found that peer support at a camp for teens and young adults with cancer called Camp Mak-A-Dream in Montana.
“That’s where she found the peer support she needed to help reenergize her in her battle and pretty much gave her at least another two years of life,” said Chris Hines. “And as a parent, there’s nothing I could have asked for more than that.”
Cassie died in 2012 and shortly afterward her family started the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation (CHSCF) to honor her desire to help other teens facing a cancer diagnosis. The foundation’s mission is to help young people, ages 16-30, find the social and peer supports they need to tackle their cancer journey head on and to help them take control of their lives.
“It is an advantage for young adults with cancer to seek support individually and with their peer group in the cancer community,” said Kathleen Hardy, oncology social worker at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. “It is fun, inspiring and a way for them to become leaders and mentors for others.”
Peer support, especially cancer camps, is a major focus of the foundation. The web site offers a list of camps for cancer patients, guidance on scholarships and other financial assistance, and a list of resources and organizations that support young adults with cancer, such as Karmanos’ Young Women’s Support Group led by Hardy. CHSCF recently held its second annual Sample Camp, a one-day adventure camp that offers a taste of what a full week at a cancer camp could be like.
To make camp scholarships and programs like Sample Camp possible, the foundation holds a variety of fundraising events. Just in time for the Woodward Dream Cruise, the foundation is holding a raffle to win a fully restored, candy apple red, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro convertible on August 16, 2014. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased on the CHSCF website.
To read Cassie’s story, connect with other young adults who are cancer survivors, or learn more about the foundation’s programs, visit the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation.