CancerCare Cards Harvest Blessings from Disease
Marilyn Shoemaker designed a line of greeting cards specifically for those stricken with cancer
Marilyn opening a birthday gift in one of her 'hairless' periods during a round of radiation. 'I like birthdays,' says Marilyn. 'Another birthday is another year of life.'
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CancerCare Cards Harvest Blessings from Devastating Disease
Words of Comfort When Words Fail You
If a friend is down with the flu or has a stay in the hospital, you stop by the card shop or the grocery and pick up a card that says “Thinking of you” or makes cute little jokes about doctors and hospital gowns that open in the back. But suppose your best girlfriend or your sister or your mother receives the news: Breast cancer. Mastectomy. Chemotherapy. Radiation. “Get well soon” suddenly seems woefully inadequate.
This was Marilyn Shoemaker’s experience. Having never had a mammogram at the age of 43, she discovered a lump in her breast getting ready for bed on a Friday night. After spending a tense weekend telling herself it was probably nothing, Marilyn went quickly the following week from mammogram to sonogram to lumpectomy to dual mastectomy and directly into a regimen of chemotherapy and radiation, because the cancer had already spread into her lymph system.
If Marilyn was herself reeling from her sudden plunge into the odyssey of the cancer patient, those around her were little better at responding to her pain and fear. What does one say, after all, to a woman who has just lost both breasts? Who has lost all of her hair to her cancer treatment? What do you say to someone who may, in fact, be dying? Many, in their discomfort, simply avoid contact at all, depriving the patient of comfort when it is needed most. Marilyn’s friends, family, and fellow church members reached out to her in love and concern, but often needed as much comfort as she did in their grief over her condition.
One special group of Marilyn’s friends, “The Birthday Girlfriends,” was able to offer solace without fear or hesitation. Over the next five years, through three remissions and three recurrences (Marilyn is currently receiving treatment for the fourth time), this beloved group of friends has consistently given her support and encouragement with personally written cards and notes. To this day, Marilyn receives several cards a week from these caring women.
Throughout her ordeal, Marilyn’s faith in God remained strong. “I knew that no matter what was happening to me, God was in control,” she says through misty eyes. “And I knew that He could make something good come from even this.”
Something good is CancerCare Cards, a line of greeting cards designed specifically for cancer patients. Intended to help friends and relatives of those with cancer to find words of support at a time when it is often most awkward and painful to do so, CancerCare Cards bring messages of comfort, hope and survival; they are celebrations of life and friendship.
“It’s only when it happens to you, and you start looking, that you realize there is really nothing out there like this,” Marilyn explains. “That’s when I got the inspiration to start designing cards for cancer patients—cards that I would like to have received! Cards like the Birthday Girlfriends made for me,” she adds with a smile.
CancerCare Cards got off to a moderately slow start, but caught on quickly. Marilyn has CancerCare Cards in card shops, hospital gift shops and book stores all over Texas and in several surrounding states. She also has sales representatives providing her cards to stores in California and Nevada. Her cards can also be purchased at her website, www.cancercarecards.com.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Marilyn will be working especially hard during that month to get the message of her cards out.
“If there is one thing I could tell women everywhere,” Marilyn says, “it would be, ‘Have a mammogram! Have it soon!’ I wish I hadn’t put mine off for so long. It was just pure procrastination, and I am paying dearly for it.”