the start of Lending Hearts
It is difficult to put into words the thoughts and feelings when someone you love is diagnosed with cancer. You freeze in shock. Your mind stops. You can’t speak. You can’t hear. It feels like you are trapped in your worst nightmare. The only way I know how to relate the feeling is reference “9/11,” a date nearly everyone knows the significance. When people think of 9/11, their memories race back to where they were and what they were doing on that tragic date. The date and moment a person and family are informed of a cancer diagnosis, that particular date becomes engraved in their minds and hearts. For our family, that date was 2/5/2004. This is the date my sister, Constance, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s disease. It was also the day after she turned 17. She was a junior in high school. Her focus was on the upcoming senior year, SATs and college.
At this time, I was 18 weeks pregnant with my second baby. My oldest child was 16 months old. On February 5, 2004, I attended the routine ultrasound for the baby. The same day Constance received her diagnosis, I was told my baby would be born deformed, misshapen and should be terminated. The “towers” of our lives all seemed to crumble around us with all the news we received that day.
I was unable to comprehend what I was told about my baby. Constance is 10 ½ years younger than me, so in a sense, I feel like she is my baby too. I was mentally and emotionally ripped apart. Between tears and sleepless nights, I couldn’t stop thinking about the future of my baby and my baby sister. Our family began to forge a war against cancer. I vowed to stand by my unborn baby and absorb myself in my sister. Our war was fought with prayers, love and the wonderful medical staff she soon had.
With all of this news, everyone in the family tried to do what they could do best while battling the emotions and fatigue. Our parents tried to keep life as normal possible. Unfortunately, the bad news continued as our dad soon after was laid off from work. Another factor in the battle lines was added.
I attended each of Constance’s chemotherapy sessions and watched each vial get pumped into her. During these long hours, I had a lot of time to sit, think and look at others around us. I couldn’t help but think about the other patients, their thoughts, their lives and their feelings. I wondered what their lives were like when they went home. Who was there to care for them? What kind of support did they have? I thought of other children, their treatments and experiences at school and with friends. I felt the need to “lend my heart” to all of these individuals and their families.
2004 – Lending Hearts Founder’s sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. Her sister just turned 17 years old and was a junior in high school
June 2011 – Vasso shared the concept for Lending Hearts
June 2011 – A group of dedicated & compassionate individuals came together to form the first Lending Hearts Board of Directors, the organization became a 501c3 and was officially
December 2011 – Lending Hearts began its first month of family programming