Cancer. That word is powerful, emotional, and despised. No matter the reason, cancer is one word you never want to hear. The unfortunate truth is that many people’s lives will be dramatically changed this year from this disease. According to cancer.gov, ” In 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease.” This is in the U.S. alone. I’m not trying to share these numbers to depress anyone or to make any matters worse, it just makes me realize how real this disease is for so many people. If you’re someone who isn’t walking this journey personally or alongside someone, please count your blessings.
A lot of times I hear that patients and their loved ones feel helpless while navigating treatment and the diagnoses of this disease. But, today’s guest blogger from Blessing Bags, Kari Lindsay, was not going to accept feeling like she couldn’t do something. Kari and her family are on a mission to help patients during some of their most painful times of treatment. Blessing Bags collects practical supplies, packages them nicely, and delivers them to patients here in Minnesota. It’s an amazing mission and one that helps on so many levels. Please take the time to read Kari’s story and if you can help support her mission, please do so. Together we are stronger. Thank you Kari for being a guest blogger and for all you do to support patients through Blessing Bags.
“You have cancer.” It’s amazing how those three little words can send your life spiraling out of control. You face a very uncertain road ahead.
Nearly three years ago, we faced the beginning of a very tumultuous nine months. It started just before Thanksgiving 2015. My husband Anthony mentioned to his dentist that he had a couple of odd bumps on the roof of his mouth. He had them biopsied. And at the age of only 31, he found out he had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So many questions followed. How far has it spread? What kind of treatment will he face? Will he be around to see our then 10-month-old son grow up? Thankfully, after countless tests, we found out that we had caught it early before it had a chance to spread too far. 12 radiation treatments later, the cancer was gone! But, boy oh boy, we discovered the kind of nasty side effects radiation can cause. Thankfully, we had an amazing support system to help get us through it all. And I am happy to say Anthony is still cancer free!
But, Anthony wasn’t our only bout with cancer during those nine months. Soon after Anthony was told it appeared the treatments had worked, my father was diagnosed with kidney cancer. He ended up having surgery to remove the cancer-stricken kidney. Shortly thereafter, my husband’s step-mother was diagnosed with brain cancer, glioblastoma to be exact. She fought so hard and was so brave, but we lost her after a short battle against the cancer in the summer of 2016.
We needed and wanted to help others
Three big cancer diagnoses, and ultimately a death, left us numb. By the fall, I realized we needed to do something to help others going through life-changing events like this and that’s how Blessing Bags was born. We wanted to make sure others knew they weren’t alone during the tough battle ahead of them. I worked with my husband’s oncology nurse at Mayo Clinic to figure out what items to include in the bags. We include mints and lemon drops to combat the metallic taste caused by treatments, lotion and lip balm to soothe dry skin at treatment areas, hand sanitizer, tissues, activity books and pens to keep minds busy, snacks, a cloth bag to hold it all, and a $10 gift card to a local convenience store to get other items a recipient may need.
We donated our first batch of Blessing Bags to Mayo Clinic, the same place Anthony received his treatments, just before Thanksgiving 2016 to mark one year since his diagnosis. You can read about that first donation HERE. Last year, we continued donating bags to Mayo Clinic in Rochester and expanded to Owatonna, Minn. In just the first two years, we raised enough money to fill 225 bags!
Together we can do more
But, our mission isn’t over. We are currently in our third year of raising money, and we need your help! It takes about $25 to fill each bag. If you would like to donate money toward our project, head to our GoFundMe page. Every single penny we raise stays local and goes directly back into the Blessing Bags. I also invite you to follow our fundraising journey on our Facebook Page @BlessingBagsOwatonna. If you’d like to donate supplies, please contact us via Facebook.
It’s important to remember that no matter what sort of battle you face in life, you are not alone. These bags are more than just practical and helpful supplies, they serve as a reminder to patients that they are not alone and that they are supported. Please consider donating! And thank you for being a blessing!