CLOSER LOOK: Cancer Patients Matched With Friendship and Encouragement

Posted on Thursday, April 11, 2024 by Billie Wright, Marya Morgan

(K-LOVE Closer Look) –A stark loneliness can settle in after a cancer diagnosis. “Our vision is a world where cancer is not a solitary experience,” says Stephanie Lieber, Exec. Dir of Imerman Angels. “That is why we are here -- so that you don't have to face this disease alone.” The international network offers free peer-to-peer friendship for any stage. “We match cancer fighters, survivors, pre-vivers and caregivers with someone who's been through something that they have been through.” 

Jonny Imerman founded the volunteer network after his own battle. “Doctors told him he had testicular cancer,” Lieber explains, saying his chemo infusions, “were filled to the brim with his friends and family,” yet Imerman still felt alone. His mother could not tell him what dating would be like after cancer. His best friend could not reassure him he could ever workout again. Who would help him tell his boss about the cancer? The longing to have someone he could relate to drove the idea. “Like many circumstances in life,” says Lieber, “talking to someone who has walked in your shoes, experienced what you have experienced -- it's really crucial --  the same is true in a cancer journey.” 

Angels connect with cancer patients via phone, video chat or in-person for sincere and meaningful dialogue. The organization also holds events where people can fly across the country to meet their mentor. With more than 38,000 matches since its founding in 2006, the organization also works in more than 110 countries worldwide.

The database of mentors is strong, with more than 14,000 registered volunteers, providing the ability to customize matches even for rare forms of cancer. 

“So it's not just ‘you have breast cancer and you have breast cancer,’ Liber explains. “It's you have triple negative breast cancer you're a young mom about to have a double mastectomy and you are a marathon runner and you want to know what it's going to be like to run -- we have that kind of detail -- that level of specificity.”

Still, the more Angels willing to mentor the better, she says, calling mentorship “immensely powerful.” Either as a survivor or as a caregiver, it healing “to throw the rope back and say ‘I want to do something with everything I learned -- I want to turn this awful journey into something powerful and meaningful.’”

And to cancer patients somewhat hesitant to reach out, she urges them to embrace the invitation to friendship. 

“You don't have to have all these unanswered questions, unanswered thoughts,” she assures. “There are people who have been there and experienced it -- who want to help you get through this -- who want to provide that support. That's why Imerman Angels is here.”

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