And just like that, the last day of 2018 was celebrated and 2019 arrived…For those of us whose lives have been touched by cancer, it is recognized that a new day, and certainly a new year, is a gift, not a given. I imagine the new year will bring with it a mixture of emotions for many, depending on what 2018 held and what emerges during the next twelve months. Over this past year I have had the privilege of talking with many young adults through my work with Sy’s Fun:D who have been handed the enormous challenge a cancer diagnosis brings with it. Some need help with the application process, and others call with questions about if or how we can help and what exactly it is that we do. Some wonder if we help with financial assistance (we do not), and because of how unique Sy’s Fun:D is, they are usually pleasantly surprised when I explain what we do provide. Quite often, that leads to a longer conversation about their interests and gets them thinking and dreaming about what would be most helpful or fun. Hearing the excitement in the voices of the young adults I talk with when they find out what we do and how we can help is such a good feeling; it reminds me of how critically important it was for my son Sy to have things to take his mind away from the world of cancer, if only for a moment in time, amidst the physical pain, uncertainty, and anxiety. When Tyrome, age 32, got in touch with us, he and I discussed his love of technology and gaming, as well as his wanting to stay in touch with friends. Because of this, he decided on a high capacity Wi-Fi router and new laptop as his gifts from Sy’s Fun:D. Tyrome is one of those people who just naturally touches your heart with his friendly demeanor and quick humor. Diagnosed with a brain tumor at 25, Tyrome has had several surgeries as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatments since then. In his application letter Tyrome wrote about his journey over the past several years; from continuing to work for as long as possible while undergoing treatments for cancer, to the important role his fiancée Ashley and one-year old daughter Isabella play in his life. Tyrome shared that Ashley is his rock who has been with him every step of the way, “in not my fight, but our fight against cancer.” During the time of his funding, which fell close to Christmas, Tyrome and his family moved to another state. Tyrome shared with me the ups and downs of the move as he continued his cancer treatments, which included falling and chipping a tooth as he was carrying things into their new home and then needing to locate a new dentist, as well as the lighthearted debate with his fiancée over whether the extra room they now have would become a guest room or man cave (guest room won out). When his gifts from Sy’s Fun:D arrived Tyrome reported with humor that he was on his way home from his oncologist’s office to stare at the boxes since he was not allowed to open them until Christmas. Shortly after, I asked Tyrome if he would share a bit for our blog. Below is Tyrome’s letter, in part, and photos of Tyrome and his family. “Hello, my name is Tyrome Woodward, a proud and gracious recipient of the Sy’s foundation. When things were looking their darkest, I had just been put on disability leave from work battling with a glioblastoma brain tumor; I tried to work as long as I could for my family’s sake so that everything wouldn’t fall on my fiancée’s shoulders. I mean she’s already a terrific mother to our one year old daughter, so when all of this hardship began to pile up on me, the darkest clouds parted and SY’S Fun:D offered a gracious hand to help me receive something I wanted for Christmas (Adopt A Family ensured that Ashley and Isabella were taken care of as well). Besides the greatest gift of them all – waking up on Christmas morning to open everything as a family with cocoa and waffles and a vast variety of noise makers for the little one, lol, with help from Sy’s Fun:D I was able to not only get something that I longed for but could also actually use. Don’t get me wrong, I love sweaters and socks, but I’m a tech geek (that also appreciated every gift from my loved ones). I pray that anyone else who falls into days of hardships are lucky enough to come across someone like Lorraine and Sy’s Fund who’s here to help them not give up on life and stay connected because the true test starts with you fighting every day and remaining positive no matter how hard it gets, never give up.” We wish Tyrome good news only during the year ahead and ask you all to keep Tyrome and his family in your thoughts; those of us here at Sy’s Fun:D surely will as well. I would like to wish everyone a year ahead in which you laugh often, feel loved and valued, experience inner peace and the magic in little things. Also, please be sure to trust your instincts when it comes to your health; if something doesn’t feel right, keep pushing until you get the answers you deserve. In wrapping up, I would like to thank our donors and volunteers; because of your generosity we are able to continue helping young adults with cancer. You are appreciated beyond measure. Lorraine Kerz, Executive Director of Sy’s Fun:D & Sy’s mama
by Lorraine Kerz
“It is reasonable to expect the doctor to recognize that science may not have all the answers to problems of health and healing.”
“I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep; when the pain-killing effect of the laughter wore off, we would switch on the motion picture projector again and not infrequently, it would lead to another pain-free interval.”
– Norman CousinsHealing comes in many forms and sometimes in the most unexpected of ways, as political journalist and world peace activist Norman Cousins found out when confronted with a painful connective tissue disease. He was told that he had a one in five hundred chance of recovery, so he created his own recovery program, which included massive doses of intravenous vitamin C and self-induced bouts of laughter. We do not know for sure what cured Cousins of his illness; but I suspect that whatever the reason for his cure, the quality of his life was improved through the choices he made. For most young adults with cancer, challenging and often painful treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and/or surgeries are frequently part of the course of healing. Along with the physical pain of cancer, there is also the anxiety, fear, and constant worry that can be as difficult to maneuver around. Doctors work hard to find cures and alleviate pain, and I believe that most in the field of oncology have a deep commitment to the work they are doing and put not only their intellect, but often their heart and soul into their work as well. And still, it takes a village as the saying goes. During the time Sy was battling cancer, healing did not happen in the way we had hoped or expected; his cancer treatments stopped working early on. And yet, through the way in which Silas handled his situation, I believe that he was able to maintain as much independence as possible throughout his illness, which gave him a better quality of life. The entire oncology staff at Mass General, including his doctors, nurses, surgeon, and social worker, respected him as an independent, intelligent, funny and compassionate young man who wanted to be in control of his own medical treatments. They understood that he had no choice over what was happening in his life, and recognized the importance of him taking charge over decisions that needed to be made around his care. Sometimes Sy would want to go home from the hospital sooner than his medical team deemed in his best interest, and they worked with him around this; at times compromises would be made, at times they wouldn’t; but ultimately it was Sy’s decision. Sy also took charge of cleaning the IV pick line that administered medication through his veins throughout the day during the final months of his life, and gave EMT’s clear, respectful instructions around care in transporting him to the hospital during emergencies around pain management, when necessary. But there were other forms of healing that was deemed equally important during that time; some found through trial and error, and some inherent to the strong willed, fun loving person he was. Laughter was up there at the top of the list, and so we watched hours of comedy, and delighted in his quirky, fast, and often dry sense of humor. Photography was an incredibly healing modality, and he spent as much time as possible photographing the world around him. Whether it was from his wheelchair or even his bed, he captured many powerful images through the camera lens. Along the way, reiki, foot reflexology, massage, and medical cannabis found their way into the mix, and all of these proved to be as helpful as traditional medicine in what they had to offer for management of anxiety, nausea, appetite, and quality of life. So it is with Sy’s Fund that we understand the importance of an individual’s expression of healing, and the ways in which their choice of gifts can mean so much. Whether it is a camera, an online class, a laptop, reiki or massage sessions, or art supplies; they all have the power to heal.