Imagine – you just got a diagnosis of cancer. You’re in shock, afraid, confused.
What did the doctor just say? What should you do now? What about your mom, your kids, your partner or husband or wife?
Help is close at hand. A Chicago-based nonprofit will find you a personalized, one-on-one “Mentor Angel” – a connection with a person uniquely equipped and personally chosen to help guide you, someone just like you with similar life and cancer experiences.
The organization, Imerman Angels, was founded by Jonny Imerman, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 26. The Imerman Angels mission is to provide comfort and understanding for all cancer fighters, survivors, previvors and caregivers through a personalized, one-on-one connection with someone who has been there.
When a person is diagnosed with cancer, they and their caregivers are overloaded with information – their diagnosis (often complicated by medical jargon), treatment options, financial aid, symptom management, appointment scheduling and more. It is an overwhelming and difficult situation which most people are not prepared to handle.
Not only that, they are scared. Who can they turn to?
Through a unique matching process, Imerman Angels partners a “Support Seeker” – anyone with any cancer type, any age, any gender, anywhere in the world – with someone just like them, a “Mentor Angel.” A Mentor Angel is a cancer confidante; a cancer survivor, previvor or caregiver who has faced the same type of cancer. This service is absolutely free and open to everyone.
34,000 matches and 14,000 angels
Since 2006, Imerman Angels has made more than 34,000 matches and registered and trained 14,000 Mentor Angels – letting cancer fighters, survivors, previvors and caregivers feel less alone, more hopeful, and more equipped to face their cancer experience.
“The magic of what Imerman Angels does shines when we are able to make specific matches tailored to individual needs,” said Stephanie Lieber, Executive Director. “We have found that ‘cancer support’ looks different for every individual who comes to us for help.
“For one person, it might be important that their Mentor Angel is a survivor of their exact cancer type. Another person may want to talk to a fellow single mom about how she broke the news to her children. Another person may want to talk specifically about the impact a cancer diagnosis had on their career and how to tell their boss about the diagnosis. We do everything in our power to meet the specific criteria of each individual that comes to us in their hour of need.”
The organization was born from Jonny Imerman’s experiences – while he was surrounded by loved ones after being diagnosed with cancer, he never felt more alone. According to the American Cancer Society, “having cancer is hard, and going through it can be a very involved and complicated process. It affects the person with cancer and each family member or loved one socially and emotionally. This is known as the psychosocial effect of having cancer.” Imerman Angels provides essential psychosocial support to ensure nobody has to face cancer alone.
Doctors can give the medical facts, and loved ones can give support, but few people are able to truly understand the shock, fear and uncertainty of what you are experiencing. This one-on-one support system fills that gap. Volunteers are trained to provide psychosocial support, empathy and understanding.
Diversity is one of the Angels’ strengths: They have learned that a range of backgrounds, incomes, races, ages, genders and experiences is essential to the organization and essential to providing a custom mentor match.
Corporate and nonprofit partners provide more support for the mission. Partners include AbbVie, Alkermes, Pfizer, Seagen, The Coleman Foundation, The Greer Foundation, TWS Foundation, @Properties, Core Industrial, Deloitte, Lemonhead, Trilogy and the Hughes Foundation.
If you are not a patient, there are other ways to get involved: Volunteer, make a donation, become an ambassador, become a partner, host or attend an event, spread awareness or share your story.
Mentor Angels volunteer and are recruited from around the world. For them, the opportunity to give back as mentors is rewarding – as many of them are able to give what they themselves wanted in their journey.
“My mentor was a blessing in disguise, a light in the darkness,” said Raquel, caregiver to a child with osteosarcoma. “Being a part of this program gave me a lot of hope. She made my days a little more manageable. When I lost hope, she was there to pick up the pieces. I am forever grateful for this program and to be able to meet my mentor.”