Our Cancer Journeys

It’s personal. We’ve been there. We can help…

Every member of our staff and board has been personally affected by cancer. Our collective experience fuels our passion for serving families currently living with cancer. Here are just a few of our stories.

 

Lisa Garr

Family Services and Resource Manager

Cancer doesn’t necessarily sneak in and just steal elderly grandparents.  It also claims our youngest…those on the cusp of adulthood, excited to see what their future holds.

Brain cancer was the demon that stole my incredible 24-year-old nephew Alex from a loving family and a band of devoted friends.  Alex was an absolute joy ~ a loving son, a fiercely loyal brother, and the friend that most hope for, but few ever find.  During his 12-year battle, cancer slowly robbed him of abilities all young men take for granted ~ the ability to shoot hoops, play pickup football, or even walk without a cane.  However, cancer never touched Alex’s heart.  He made it his mission to not only put a positive spin on his experience, but to be a source of comfort for others.  His signature tagline on each of his Facebook posts was #legendsneverdie ~ and we were all betting on it.

Alex endured five brain surgeries and countless hours of chemo and radiation yet ultimately, his fragile body couldn’t take any more.  I held him the day he was born and, 24 painfully short years later, on September 1, 2014, I whispered my final goodbye to one of the sweetest souls I have ever known.  He was surrounded by an adoring family that still aches from his absence every single day.


 Jo Long

Director of Community Engagement

Back in 2015 I wrote about my cancer experience. I said that I’ve personally heard those awful words twice. Once for myself in 2002, and again for my young, beautiful daughter in 2015. We are both still here, productive and stronger than ever.

Forward three years to 2018, and it’s happened again – to two of the most important men in my life – my husband and father. Both diagnosed respectively in November/December of 2018 with prostate cancer. Again! This time we strongly suspected and knew the signs, but still felt numb when the diagnosis was confirmed. I had my shield on tight and was ready, again, for battle because unfortunately, I know the unplanned fork in the road we would be traveling.

Brace yourself, it’s a tough, messy road and a hard-fought battle. I was again numb and flying on automatic pilot. I can honestly tell you from personal experience that each diagnosis is different and carries its own unique burdens. When my daughter was diagnosed, my husband and I took care of her. This time I was the lone caretaker for my husband – my rock, my moral springboard, the major breadwinner, and the one who makes me laugh out loud with his intelligent sense of humor. At the same time (together with my siblings) I’m running back and forth helping my parents navigate this horrible disease. We are getting through this, one day at a time, and adjusting.

These personal experiences continue to help me understand what our families at New Day go through. I have walked that walk, and feel your pain, anger and immense fear. It’s an unexpected fork in the road and an ugly intrusion into our lives; but if you let it, this detour has taught me significant and special things about myself and family.

To those reading this, all the best for your health and understanding of the people you encounter on a cancer journey. Send a kind thought and help when you can. It makes all the difference in the world. And that’s what we personally understand and strive for at New Day.


Chrissie Jostock, MA, LPC, NCC

Counselor & Clinical Therapist

I was 17-years-old and had just gotten home from dance class, when my Dad said he needed to talk to me.  Recently my mother hadn’t been feeling well and had been having some tests done.  My father sat me down and told me that Mom was very sick, she had non-hodgins lymphoma.  I didn’t know what that was, but I knew it wasn’t good.  Next thing I know he’s talking about future chemotherapy treatments, possible hair loss, and how she’d probably be tired and sick for awhile… slowly my brain started putting pieces together and I realized… My Mom Had Cancer.

In the following months, my Mom received multiple Chemotherapy treatments, she was very sick and tired but didn’t lose her hair.  Family and friends rallied around our family and together we endured.  During my junior year in college, my mom had some complications and we came very close to losing her.  I was a two-hour drive away from my family, and though my friends meant well, I needed someone else to talk to.  This was my first experience in counseling.  I met with a very nice lady once a week and was able to talk about my fears, concerns, and sadness.  Ultimately, my Mom pulled through and so did I.

Its been over 15 years since my family unit was devastated with a cancer diagnosis.  I can’t help but wonder if my life would have turned out differently if we had never been touched by this darkness… but I live by the creed that difficult roads can lead to beautiful destinations.  As a result of my mother’s illness, I’ve gained empathy, understanding and compassion for those going through their own battles, I’ve found a place where I can use my own experience to help others, and everyday I remember my mother’s strength, determination and desire to win her own battle.  Love You Mom!


Nancy Lynn Benedettini

Director of Finance

My story begins before I was born and continues to influence our family’s life today. To me, this is a story of God’s greater purpose, not one that ends in grief.

In the 1960s, my mom and dad had three daughters before I came along. When it came time for Laura Lynn, the middle daughter, to start kindergarten, she just didn’t want to go. Laura complained of constant tummy aches, which my mother wrote off as normal start of school jitters. When she finally threatened to take her to the doctor if she wouldn’t go to school, my mom was surprised how easily Laura agreed to go the doctor.

The doctors soon discovered a football-sized tumor in my sister’s stomach. Laura died that February from a cancer that could not be treated. According to my oldest sister’s account, it was very traumatic and sad for our family as they went through their grieving process. My sisters were just age seven and two at the time Laura died..

After a few years had passed, my mother told her doctor she wanted another baby. Soon after, she was pregnant with me. During a routine check-up, she complained that “the baby’s foot is always RIGHT HERE,” pointing to the constant source of discomfort in her stomach. “That’s not the baby’s foot,” he told her, yet at the time, no tests were done on pregnant women to determine just what that pressing lump was.

As soon as I was born, my mom had a full hysterectomy and her ovarian cancer was confirmed. My mom has told me, it was as if God had given me to her so she would discover the cancer. She stayed in the hospital for treatment for a month while I went home to the care of dad, grandma, and neighbors. I was this miracle baby. Nobody knows God’s big picture, but my mom’s feeling was that God’s master plan was that he needed her to be a mom here on Earth. I was not a replacement for Laura, but it had been a time of such deep sadness and then I brought this joy – a new, happy baby!

Today I’m still the peacemaker, representative, and party & trip planner of the family, just trying to make everybody happy. I didn’t know that early on, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s become apparent that I’ve fulfilled the role that I was destined to play. My mom is now a three-time cancer survivor and is doing great.

As for me, I believe God always has a greater purpose, and He works all things for good. Sometimes, we will be blessed in our lifetime to know it.