Many of us have felt the impact of cancer in our lives, whether first-hand, or through friends and loved ones.
One local non-profit helps turn what can be a challenging fight, into a more positive experience here in the community.
Victory in the Valley helps women from across the region find comfort during a battle that can be a mentally and physically difficult.
“I was diagnosed in December 2004 with breast cancer,” said Maratha Nash.
“I was diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2013,” said Lori Diane Campbell.
They are two of many cancer survivors, brought together by Diana Thomi and her late mother Lois.
“Back in 1982, my mom came to me and showed me a red spot on her breast,” said Thomi. “And, me being a nurse, asked me do you think this is anything I should be worried about.”
Little did Thomi know that day, her mother’s cancer diagnosis would turn into a legacy for others.
“While she was finishing her treatments, she met a lot of patients in the treatment room that wanted to get together and talk about cancer,” she said. “So, she took their name and address and contact information.”
A small group meeting eventually led to the start of Victory in the Valley in 1983, where Thomi serves as the executive director.
It’s a place for support and resources for those fighting cancer.
There are support groups.
“We get together and just ‘how’s your day? how’s your week been?'” said Nash.
There’s also a safe space to discuss treatments and side effects.
“The wigs, often they want the same color that they had before they lost their hair,” said Benita Baker, a volunteer at Victory in the Valley. “A lot of things change. But, at least this is one small thing that they don’t have to worry about.”
For some, that comfort has come from a volunteer’s visit, while a patient was in the waiting room before getting treatment at the Cancer Center of Kansas.
“Being there for conversation or help or answer questions if they need it,” said Ginni Skach, a Victory in the Valley volunteer.
“I needed to get out of that room,” said Campbell. “It was very emotional. And, so they directed me to the hospitality center. And, you know I – it was overwhelming how inviting they were.”
The volunteers in the hospitality room, that’s just down the hall from the cancer center, know the importance of that safe space all too well, all survivors themselves.
“Cancer doesn’t have to be scary,” said Linda Hamm, a survivor. “It doesn’t have to be awful. It can be a rewarding thing. You can find the blessings, if you just open your eyes and look.”
For these women, that blessing is strangers brought together during one of life’s greatest challenges.
“You live every day because you’re 100 percent alive today, and that’s one thing I’ve learned from Victory in the Valley,” said Ruth Ann Martin, a cancer survivor.
That hope is thanks to two women, who took a chance three decades ago.
Lois Thomi passed away in 2013. But, her legacy can be felt by all the women she’s impacted.
“Her middle name was Joy,” said Diana Thomi. “And, she was always full of joy, even in the hardest circumstances. And, I just hope to live up to that.”
Victory in the Valley doesn’t charge anything for its services.
The non-profit is funded through donations and an annual fundraiser.
You can find out how to donate here.