By Doug Silverstein, President, Champions Against Cancer

Yet another friend and neighbor in Howard County has passed away after a long battle with cancer.  I felt privileged to know him. As I reflect on the devastating loss, I realize that cancer is not about one person, but really about the community in which we live and where we share our hopes, dreams, and laughs.

Champions Against Cancer was formed in honor and memory of John Champion, who lost a 10-month battle with lymphoma. John inspired us to come together to help our community. Perhaps you have been motivated by someone else to help a friend, donate your time, or simply share a story. We in Howard County have watched many family members, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances face the scourge of cancer. We’ve watched as cancer ravaged their bodies, and at times, their souls. Moreover, cancer left a scar among those in our community who cared for and loved them. These battles can make cancer seem unrelenting and unbeatable. At other times, it can feel even worse. Cancer can leave one with the feeling of inevitable doom. Indeed, given the daunting statistics of cancer rates, one cannot escape the impression that down the next alley is the enemy against which we have a paucity of defense options.

Amidst those times of despondency, we can and must find solace. Cancer victims fight cancer with dynamism, elegance, and benevolence. They can inspire us to reach within ourselves and find our inner compassion. Indeed, while cancer shines a light on the patient, it often shines a brighter light on the caretaker. I watched my good friend nurse and support his wife through a yearlong battle with cancer, which revealed as much about his character as hers. Certainly, cancer motivates all of us to reach a higher level of purpose. We can achieve this by connecting with others in our community. When we do this, we see the magnificence of each other. We discover qualities in our friends and neighbors that we hadn’t known existed.

Through watching the struggle of cancer, I have observed the growth of our community. We in Howard County define what a community is: sacrifice, loyalty, comradery, dedication, sympathy, and empathy. By offering rides for the children, meals for the family, and company for those who are hospitalized, we are opening the families and patient to our community.. We are a progressive and competitive community, and for this purpose, this served our neighbors well. Each of us felt privileged for the opportunity to take our friend to and from the hospital each day for treatment since we were blessed with the time we could spend with our friend. We received much more than we gave.  By carrying out these small gestures of kindness, I hope that we have set an example for our children and neighbors of what we as a community can be: a support system.

I have been overwhelmed by those in our community who have provided support for our neighbors with cancer and other serious illnesses. It’s ingenuous to believe that we do this without personal gain. While unintentional, caring for others helps us become more sympathetic, tender, and less egotistical. Our circle expands, permitting us to find qualities in ourselves and others that are endearing.

Champions Against Cancer is a small part of our community effort to proffer ourselves to our friends and family in Howard County who require our assistance. It is essential to recognize that many others in our community are quietly helping others every day who contend with illness, loss, and grief.

The question is: How does a community survive? The answer is: It doesn’t survive. It thrives.