Are you a friend or family member of a parent with cancer who isn’t sure how you can help? Or maybe you’re a patient or spouse who could use a gift card for groceries, for the kids or just for fun (of which there is a terrible deficit during chemo, right?). The Cancer Card Xchange is a brand spankin’ new web site that makes it easy for you to give gift cards. Here’s our interview with The Cancer Card Xchange’s creator and cancer survivor, Emily Tickle Thomas:
PWC: Why did you decide to start The Cancer Card Xchange and when did it launch?
ETT: The inspiration for The Cancer Card Xchange began in 2007 while on a trip with my husband to my very first appointment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas, hundreds of miles from my home in Collierville, Tennessee.
I was referred to MD Anderson by my ENT in Memphis after a biopsy revealed squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue. I was pregnant with my fourth son at the time. I had successful surgery at MD Anderson and returned for checkups there every few months for two years.
On that first trip to Houston, friends of ours arranged for a gift card to be waiting for us at a popular Mexican restaurant, Pappasitos, in Houston. For good luck, we ate there on every subsequent visit. To this day, that simple gesture of kindness and generosity stands out in my mind more than any of the two years’ worth of CT scans and doctor’s appointments.
“Within days, neighbors who have never met my friends, dropped off gift cards. Within the week, I got more gift cards in the mail. Gift cards were brought instead of gifts to a Christmas party. And so on and so on. I lost count of the amount that was collected.”
What got it started as a nonprofit to help others was our friend, Jeff Hawkins, who had terminal cancer. He had been fighting metastatic bladder cancer for several years. Around Thanksgiving last year, looking for something I could do to help, I asked if collecting gift cards for them would be beneficial. Since he was not able to work and she had taken a leave of absence from her job as a teacher, she agreed quickly that it would make a huge difference.
I sent an email to maybe 50 people, posted something on my Facebook, Tweeted about it. The rest is nothing short of amazing: Within days, neighbors who have never met my friends, dropped off gift cards. Within the week, I got more gift cards in the mail. Gift cards were brought instead of gifts to a Christmas party. And so on and so on. I lost count of the amount that was collected. I know that groceries, school supplies and Christmas gifts for their kids were bought without worry.
So, we officially launched The Cancer Card Xchange June 1, and have sent 33 gifts to cancer patients all over the country. We are chartered in the State of TN and we are in the process of applying for 501(c)3 nonprofit status.
PWC: How does it work?
ETT: People dealing with cancer are referred to us through the website, word of mouth, or directly. If we do not know the person giving the referral or the person they are referring, we ask for additional verification that the person is a cancer patient. Financial status does not factor in to making gifts. Our hope is that through this gesture someone’s day will be brightened.
The Cancer Card Xchange accepts re-gifted or newly purchased gift cards in any denomination from $5 to $100 from any national retailer or major credit card. There are links on our website to order gift cards directly as well. Gift recipients are mailed a card with a combination of up to $100 in various gift cards. Restaurants, drug stores, department stores, movie theater, gas cards-all are great options.
PWC: How is your health since your surgery?
We went back for scans and checkups every few months for a few years. Now I am able to see my local doctor for checkups every six months. So far, there has been no recurrence. Today, I am a healthy wife and mother to four sons. My hope is simply that through expanding The Cancer Card Xchange, other cancer patients will remember a bright spot along their journey.
PWC: What have patients and givers said about the program?
ETT: The best part has been the cards and notes I get from the recipients and the donors. Everyone knows someone affected by cancer. I think the direct-ness of this is what inspires people to give. I recently added a section on the site for In Memory of and In Honor of gifts. I will send a card to whoever the giver designates. I think that will be a great way for people to “do something,” which is what most people’s first instinct is. Most people just don’t know what to do. (Here is a recipient’s story, in her own words: http://www.cancercardxchange.org/2011/07/why-this-matters.html)
The stories of people so sick and dealing with the side effects of treatment can be overwhelming. I try to focus on the picture of them opening the mail and finding something to cheer them up, even for a short time.
For a list of recipients, click here: http://www.cancercardxchange.org/p/list-of-ccx-gift-recipients.html
For information about oral cancer, read Emily’s story: http://www.cancercardxchange.org/2011/08/oral-cancer-facts.html