Cancer patients find comfort from nonprofit started by GV sisters

Courtesy Photo

Courtesy Photo

Molly Waite

When a friend or family member is undergoing cancer treatments, it is a comfort knowing loved ones are there for support. But unfortunately, for many cancer patients, chemotherapy treatments must be endured alone.

To prevent anyone from going through cancer treatments alone, Grand Valley State University senior Christina DiMichele and her sister, junior Alissa DiMichele, founded a nonprofit volunteer organization called Side-By-Side.

“We have volunteers that sit with cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy whose families were not available to sit with them,” said Christina DiMichele. “Their families and friends can contact us and we will go to various hospitals where the patients are receiving their therapy to keep the patients company. We feel that it is vitally important that someone who is undergoing chemotherapy has some kind of support with them while receiving their treatment.”

The organization, which was officially registered with the state of Michigan at the end of April, will primarily function through hospitals on the east side of the state in the Detroit area. Christina said she hopes to eventually expand to the west side of the state as well.

Both sisters became involved in the cancer community when their grandparents underwent chemotherapy treatments at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit.

“Throughout their treatment, they never had to go to therapy by themselves,” Christina said. “When I went to with my grandparents, I saw how, in the different chemotherapy rooms, there were so many patients that were sitting by themselves. When I had the opportunity to give back to Karmanos last summer by volunteering, I saw the same thing. Patients would be sitting by themselves and I told myself that I had to do something about it. That’s how we started Side-By-Side.”

Mary Eilleen Lyon, assistant vice president for the GVSU News & Information Services, said she knows how absolutely priceless these types of volunteers are for patients and the families of those who are going through chemotherapy and other intense medical issues.

“We are very pleased when our students are enterprising and compassionate enough to work in the community and who try to do real good in this world,” Lyon said.

While Side-By-Side is not currently associated with the American Cancer Society, Christina hopes to become an affiliate in the future.

“Anything we can do to help support the cancer community, we are devoted to do,” Christina said. “The little things make a big difference, especially with the cancer patients. Anything we can do to help the community, we will do.”

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