“It is not simply the structure that shelters you, but the arms that wrap you when you need it most,” says Sylvette, the wife of a cancer patient, speaking about A Shelter for Cancer Families. When hurricane Maria hit their beloved home of Puerto Rico one day after her husband’s cancer diagnosis they were left with no choice but to leave the island and seek treatment elsewhere. Sylvette packed up her young son, her sick husband, and herself to head to the world-renowned Houston Medical Center. The only question was, where would her family find shelter?
Sylvette’s prayers were answered when she discovered A Shelter for Cancer Families. ASCF provided an apartment big enough to house the family of three and allow them to have friends and family visit from Puerto Rico and stay in the apartment with them. The apartment and all of its amenities were complimentary which allowed the family to put their funds toward fighting her husband’s rare cancer.
Inside the apartment were toys and books for their son, a full kitchen for them to enjoy home cooked meals, a washer and dryer, and a study for Sylvette to continue working while they were away from home.
When cancer strikes life doesn’t stop. There are still work deadlines, bills to be paid, doctor’s visits to attend, children to raise, and the emotional battle against a deadly disease. While a complimentary place to stay took care of an enormous burden, this family like so many others needed help traversing the cancer landscape.
A Shelter for Cancer Families provides complimentary navigation services whereby a trained, personal navigator attends doctor appointments with families and takes notes. The notes are checked with the doctor, typed up, and emailed to the family for their records. This allows families to stay emotionally focused on their loved one. Families who take advantage of this service never have to become frustrated trying to recall what a doctor said. They never have to feel they forgot to ask a question. The ASCF personal navigator takes care of the details, helps direct the family through the medical center, and is even there to lend an ear or simply hold your hand.
Tom Amschwand created the vision for ASCF shortly before his death at age 30. Following his eighteen-month battle with sarcoma and after the loss of his mother, Kathryn, who also had this rare disease, Tom shared his dream to be able to provide free housing for cancer patients (including those with sarcoma) and their families. Tom’s wife and ASCF co-founder, Missy Bellinger, followed through on her promise to make Tom’s dream a reality.
ASCF was the first-ever non-profit to focus equal attention on sarcoma research, sarcoma awareness and tangible support for sarcoma patients and their families. More than seventeen years after our inception in 2001, over fifty organizations have been created with the sole purpose of supporting sarcoma research and increasing awareness, but none offer housing nor navigation services for cancer families as a part of their stated mission.
As a result, ASCF evolved to meet the growing demands of housing, navigation services, and celebrations for those with all types of cancer. In 2017, ASCF’s Board of Directors unanimously voted to focus their efforts where they could continue to make the greatest impact. ASCF (formerly Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation) became A Shelter for Cancer Families.
Today, Sylvette’s husband is doing well back home in Puerto Rico. The family comes back every few months for scans and each time they choose to stay with their family at A Shelter for Cancer Families. Sylvette says, “We have never felt alone, helpless or burdened. The people of ASCF celebrate with you every special occasion and every important date. And not only do they provide care to the patient, but also to their entire family. God bless these special people for us and for all the families that they have helped for so long.”
Contact a Shelter for Cancer Families: Website – https://www.cancerfamilies.org/