What doesn’t kill you… wears you down. Those who have battled cancer, as well as their loved ones, know that its toll is more than just physical pain. Cancer becomes an all-encompassing commitment, demanding a family’s money, attention, strength, passions, spirit and 24/7 concern. Even success in taking on cancer grinds down the survivor and loved ones, too often leaving them without resources or energy to think beyond their next doctor appointment.
Molly Chan, owner of Alliance Payment Solutions in Okemos, learned about the “cancer lifestyle” all too well several years ago. When her husband Edward was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, the everyday lives of Edward, herself, and their children abruptly changed. “We spent that entire summer [of 2013] in Ann Arbor, between chemotherapy and surgery,” she recalls. Aside from the pain and stress for Chan and his family, this was also the “summer without a summer” for their children.
“The kids were resilient, but my husband felt bad for them,” Molly remembers. Rather than just keep calm and carry on, though, Edward Chan, despite his illness, came up with an idea to help his family recover. “He surprised the kids with a weekend trip away.” One of their children went to Florida, another visited the Mall of America in Minnesota, and the third enjoyed some downtime in Chicago. The trips brought a huge renewal for a family living in the shadow of cancer for too long. “His whole goal was for us to take a break from cancer, to live, laugh, and let the kids be kids, rather than just kids whose dad has cancer,” says Molly.
Edward Chan lost his battle in April 2014. But his family remembers the brief furlough that his kindness offered during their personal cancer war, and decided to pay it forward. “We realized that, out of this sadness and pain, there has to be some good. The kids talked about it, and how it would be nice if we could help some other family dealing with cancer have a brief vacation.” The result is the Edward Chan Gimme a Break Fund. Supported by the McLaren Greater Lansing Healthcare Foundation, the fund’s goal is to help families with a parent battling cancer who could use a “break,” sending them on a getaway vacation.
The Chans worked with the Foundation and oncology team at McLaren Greater Lansing to seek a family needing a “break.” The McLaren team found a worthy first beneficiary in Cindy Cariano of Lansing, and her three daughters, Courtney, Laney and Jenna. Cindy is battling stage IV breast cancer, and is currently undergoing targeted therapy. Her McLaren oncologist, Dr. Cheryl Kovalski, recommended the family, and that started the wheels rolling in making the respite idea come true.
Though the destination for their family getaway is still in the works, Cindy can hardly wait. “We’re very excited, not having to worry or deal with issues for a few days… we usually haven’t had very good luck.”