Mentoring program for individuals who need someone who’s "been there"
When Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997, he identified 3 "angels" who helped him survive. He describes his oncology physician as his first angel; his oncology nurse as his second angel; and his family and friends as his third angel. What he found missing, however, was a fourth angel – someone who had experienced and understood what he was feeling. Someone, he says, who had "been there."
After defeating his illness, Mr. Hamilton dedicated his life to promoting cancer research and awareness and to enlisting the help of "angels" to support and inspire patients facing their own battle with cancer. In 2001 the Cancer Alliance for Research Education and Survivorship (CARES), which includes the 4th Angel Mentoring Program, was founded.
4th Angel Program
The 4th Angel Mentoring Program is the first survivorship program at the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute designated to ease the cancer experience and reduce distress during diagnosis and treatment by matching patients with a trained volunteer cancer survivor. The original mentoring class consisted of 6 individuals and has grown to more than 270 volunteers ranging in age from 21 to 92. In 2007, 4th Angels mentored patients across the United States and Canada.
According to Peter McDermott, 4th Angel Program Director, mentors and individuals receiving cancer treatments are matched based on cancer type, age or lifestyle, such as being newly married or a single parent. The match is primarily based on the mentored individual’s request.
"Newly diagnosed patients often want to talk with a cancer survivor and this program pairs them up with a peer to support them through their journey," Mr. McDermott says. "It is a free program open to any cancer patient."
4th Angel Mentor, Victoria Reynolds says the program is a perfect opportunity for people to hear from others who’ve experienced their situation. She’s grateful for the opportunity to be a 4th Angel Mentor because she has an outlet to give back and help others.
"The fact that you’ve gone through it gives you instant credibility," says Ms. Reynolds, a breast cancer survivor. "We’re here to listen and help them with their fears and support them through their treatment."
Ms. Reynolds also says sharing both the serious and comical aspects of her care with patients is effective.
"It’s a judgment call, of course, but sometimes joking with patients helps them forget about the doom and gloom others sometimes bring to these types of situations. I’ve found that describing funny situations that happened during my own treatment makes them feel more comfortable and at ease," Ms. Reynolds says.
For Deb Jewell who was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2006, and in September 2007 with a brain tumor, she credits Scott Hamilton and the 4th Angel program for making her cancer journey bearable.
"Having the opportunity to speak with someone who has been through a similar experience, who can answer my questions, no matter how big or small, and is willing to listen to and empathize with, my fears and concerns is invaluable," Ms. Jewell says.
Ms. Jewell has 3 Angels by her side, all of which helped her through different aspects of her cancer journey. She credits Ms. Reynolds for helping her through the original breast cancer diagnosis, surgery and chemotherapy, and also inspiring her to become a 4th Angel mentor.
"My second 4th Angel, Mary, has helped me deal with my brain tumor and my third 4th Angel, Nancy, helped me with my concerns about radiation therapy. I can't imagine going through this experience without them," Ms. Jewell says.
To make a gift supporting the CARES 4th Angel program at the Taussig Cancer Institute or any area of Cleveland Clinic, visit our secure online giving site, or call Institutional Relations and Development at 216.444.1245 or toll-free at 800.223.2273, ext. 41245.