Photo source: Fox 19
The holidays are a special time of the year to be with family and to give back to the community. The winter season encompasses many holidays and traditions, and can therefore be a time of year where people from all backgrounds cherish loved ones and take time to reflect.
But the holiday season can also be extremely difficult. For some, this time of year can unfortunately remind them of what they do not have. For individuals and families facing hardships, holidays can be stressful and/or painful if they are facing the holidays without a loved one, or potentially spending their last holiday with someone.
An early Christmas gift
Debbie Walter of Bridgetown, Ohio has been battling ovarian cancer for 4 years after being diagnosed with stage III of the disease. Christmas is her favorite time of year, and this year her whole family and neighborhood has gathered early to help her celebrate. Debbie is currently receiving hospice care at home and while her goal is to make it until Christmas, she is not taking any chances. So, she told her sons that they would start celebrating early this year.
The family started decorating their home and yard early, and neighbors soon followed their lead. The community also organized a caroling at the Walters’ home to honor Debbie’s life and bring her and her family some additional holiday cheer. The Walters have received loads of Christmas cards as well. Neighbors say that they want to see the family enjoy the holiday season.
Andy, Debbie’s husband, has said that despite her strong spirit, her health has started to decline. Due to dangerous side effects, Debbie had to stop treatment, and that is when she started hospice at home. At least with home care she is surrounded by her sons, husband, and loved ones. Her one son, Austin, came home from college and does not hide the fact that his mom’s illness has been very tough on him, but he is happy to be home and helping with decorating the house.
Community support like what the Walters are experiencing can make all the difference in a difficult situation. While caroling and decorating houses may not change the end result of Debbie’s diagnosis, it can certainly make a grim situation a bit brighter. Community support and neighborly love like this will provide the Walter’s with fond memories to look back on during a time of darkness. For Debbie, hopefully this situation has given her a bit of reassurance that regardless of what the future holds, her family is being cared for by the people in the community.
Ovarian cancer is scary. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths and the most common cause of gynecologic deaths in the United States. Most of this is due to late detection. As in Debbie’s case, ovarian cancer is often silent at first which means that by the time that symptoms are developing, the cancer is already at stage III or IV. Recent advancements in research will hopefully impact screening methods and make early detection more of a reality, but for now the diagnosis remains extremely threatening. The Walter family is an example of strength, love, and perseverance. Rather than letting this uncertain and life-changing situation get them down, they are seeing this as an opportunity to celebrate the life of their loved mother. They are busy creating family memories and loving each other.
How you can get involved
The Walter family has also been active in raising awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. They are working hard to hopefully change the reality for women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the future. The have managed to raise $1 million for research and to help women in need of services.
If you think that you or your family may like to work on some more long-term projects, specifically targeting ovarian cancer, there are numerous ways to get involved. Don’t be afraid to break tradition and do something a little different this year. You never know how you may spread hope in your community and brighten your family.
The National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (NOCC) is one of many organizations that you can get involved with. The NOCC holds annual walks/runs in different places every year and they have 25 different chapters in the United States that you can join. Their walking event called “Walk for a Whisper,” has the goal of breaking the silence about ovarian cancer and raising awareness through providing accurate information. Additionally, they have their own marathon team and invite all marathon runners to join. Physicians, researchers, and other professionals in the area of cancer prevention can get involved by attending one of their many conferences.
The Ovarian Cancer Research Fund Alliance (OCRFA) is the largest global organization dedicated to fighting ovarian cancer and the largest non-government funder of ovarian cancer research in the United States. There are many ways that you can get involved with OCRFA. If you are able to, you can donate money or create your own fundraiser. You can also attend events or donate through your company. OCRFA also has a program called “Survivors Teaching Students” where ovarian cancer survivors can share their stories with medical professionals to help students learn about cancer and caring for patients. You can find other survivors through their “Woman to Woman” program if you are looking for some mutual support, or you can advocate in your hometown.
Look into how you can give back this holiday season. Whether it is someone you know personally who is in a little more need of holiday cheer, or local organizations that need your help, find a way to get involved. Communities can make huge differences in people’s lives when they come together, and there are so many ways to get involved. Soup kitchens across the nation operate throughout the year and especially during the holiday season. Local places of worship and healthcare organizations may need help with their own community projects during this time as well. If you are unable to volunteer in that way, think of other ways you could give back. Do you have clothes or items that you could donate to the needy? Is there someone in your life who you think would benefit a bit extra from receiving a card this year?
Love is not finite. It has no boundaries and should be offered up, especially during this time of year. Engaging in a community project this holiday season can also make your holiday a bit more meaningful too and bring your family together in a different way. It can be a way to share something new and beautiful together, and make memories that differ from years past. Maybe now is the time to start a new holiday tradition!