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SVH: I Care Volunteers

“I Care” prevents isolation that’s common for those with cancer

All too often, cancer leaves people feeling hopeless, confused and alone. Even the best treatments rob the body of strength — leaving patients and families ill-equipped to repair their broken spirits.

Now there’s somewhere to turn, thanks to six volunteers at Simi Valley Hospital who have faced cancer head-on and are ready to offer support and comfort to others. “I Care” is the name of this special program, inspired by the efforts of brain-tumor survivor and volunteer Michael O’Connor.

“At the time I had cancer, I had nobody to talk to,” he says. “People you considered your best friends will stay away until it’s over. They don’t know what to say.”

Organized by the hospital’s Cancer Services, “I Care” exists as a way to prevent that type of isolation. Some patients who have felt uncomfortable talking to anyone else have learned to open up, sharing their deepest fears and concerns with the volunteers.

“It’s so great to be able to touch someone and help them get through,” says 18-year-old “I Care” volunteer Jessica Szegedi, who had a cancerous thyroid removed when she was four. “A lot of people think this is the end of life…but they can still be a normal human being. They have to be warriors.”

Volunteer Dee Talley, who fought her own battle with breast cancer, agrees. “Even if you have terminal cancer, you have so much to live for, until the very end,” she says. “You see things so much differently. Every single second counts.”