When I first learned I had cancer, I was overwhelmed. I felt thrust in a foreign world of tests, treatments, procedures and their effects. I received a lot of support and advice from many caring souls who tried their best to help in any way they could. They helped a lot. But one of the greatest sources of support was from a casual friend who had a similar diagnosis to my own – late-term lung cancer with metastases.

I am lucky to have had her in my life. Having her there to show me the way of cancer, to cry together and to laugh together, was invaluable. Only she could fully understand what I was going through. Talking to her about her experience reassured me that I could get through this cancer and still have a good quality life. She gave me energy and inspiration to persevere.

And I have persevered. I am a lung cancer survivor. It has been three and a half years since my diagnosis. I was in remission about eight months later. I feel very lucky to be living a normal life today.

With about a 15 percent survival rate, there are not a lot of people out there who can provide hope and inspiration to stage IV lung cancer survivors. But I am one of them. I feel an obligation to be there for anyone else with this same condition to let them know it can be overcome. It isn’t easy to remain strong when the odds are against you. But knowing someone else who has beat those odds gives you strength and courage to keep fighting. So in my Second Act, I’ve become a “Mentor Angel” at Imerman Angels, an organization that believes that no one should have to fight cancer alone and without the necessary support.

Imerman Angels provides personalized connections for one-on-one support among cancer fighters and survivors. .A Mentor Angel is a cancer survivor or survivor’s caregiver who is the same age, same gender, and most importantly who has experienced the same type of cancer. A Mentor Angel is walking, talking, living inspiration.

I now play the role for “Imerman Fighters” that my friend played for me: I share my story, listen to theirs, answer questions, discuss treatments and their side effects, provide tips on managing the cancer, listen to them cry, laugh with them and provide them hope and inspiration that they can overcome cancer.

I feel that by being a “Mentor Angel” I am celebrating my own health and good fortune. It feels so gratifying to hear the relief in the voice at the other end of the phone at the end of our conversation. Sometimes, an Imerman Fighter and I will only have one conversation and that is all the inspiration they need. Others turn into long-term relationships and even friendships. I gain as much from these connections as they do and I have learned a lot from sharing experiences with these fighters.

Imerman Angels supports anyone who is facing cancer, as well as their caregivers. Their service is free of charge. I believe this charity is such a tremendous service to people desperately seeking help navigating a cancer diagnosis for themselves or a close loved one.

If you would like to learn more about Imerman Angels, visit their website at imermanangels.org or call (877) 274-5529.

Photo by Carli Jean

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DonnaLee Caringella is an Instructional Design and Delivery Consultant living in the northern suburbs of Chicago with her beloved husband and two rescue dogs. Her pamphlet on managing cancer is available at no charge at www.quicktipsformanagingcancer.com. Read her cancer blog at www.donnaleecaringella.blogspot.com.