Patients Find Support And Community

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – This Saturday morning WCBS 880 and CBS2 will be part of the Valerie Fund Walk and JAG Physical Therapy Run in Verona, New Jersey. The annual event is a fundraiser for the organization which supports the comprehensive health care needs of children with cancer and blood disorders.

All this week, WCBS 880 reporter John Metaxas is looking at the people who work with the Valerie Fund and the families it supports.

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Among the Valerie Fund’s programs is Camp Happy Times, a summer camp for current and former patients to get away and spend time with other survivors.

23-year-old cancer survivor Lashikeerah Walker spoke with Metaxas about the camp.

“It’s a week where you could forget about chemo, forget about being sick, forget about being different from other kids. You just be around people that’s like you and you have fun,” she said. “We did ziplining, canoeing, fishing. I had never been fishing before that and I love fishing.”

“I just felt a sense of hope and relief that, one, I wasn’t going through it by myself. There’s people who did it and they were fine it just felt good to be able to talk to them about that I felt I couldn’t talk to other people about,” she said. “Because when I talk about it with people who didn’t experience it… it’s like they automatically felt sympathy and that wasn’t what I was looking for.”

“You know, people go through things, even stuff like cancer, and it’s not end of the world. You never know what a person’s been through just by looking at them. When I tell people I have cancer, they look at me like ‘Really?’ They don’t believe it ’cause they’re like ‘You don’t look like you have cancer’ and I ask them ‘What does cancer look like?'” she said.

“It was a great experience. I met a lot of good friends,” she said. “It made me stronger, a stronger person.”

LINK: Sign Up For The Walk/Run

Metaxas also spoke with another young cancer survivor and her mother who will be taking part in this Saturday’s walk.

A decade is a long time when you’re only 14-years-old, but that’s how long the Valerie Fund has been a part of of Sara Stoma’s life. In, 2003 she was diagnosed with leukemia.

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“Can just remember, like, in the waiting room with the crayons and watching TV,” she told Metaxas.

She and her mother are grateful for the help she got from the Valerie Fund.

“All the doctors were really nice,” Sara said.

“Sara was in and out of the hospital for a couple of years and it was nice to have the hospital close by and a very caring nurturing center,” her mother said.

And every year Sara fields a team in the Valerie Fund Walk.

“A lot of my friends come out and support me. All my family’s there,” Sara said.

In fact, Team Stoma has raised tens of thousands of dollars for her fellow cancer patients, but last year there was an unexpected twist.

“Last year, my best friend, Suzanne Midlige, her daughter was also diagnosed with leukemia so it was a very hard year,” Sara’s mother said.

But now the two families have joined to form Team Stoma Midlige, walking together to help give back.

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