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Joyce’s Story of Help and Hope

alt textJoyce (front center) at CancerCare's New Jersey Walk for Hope
When Joyce Heller’s husband, Ron, began his first round of chemotherapy, she suspected that cancer had begun to take an emotional toll on him. She sought advice for what she could do to help, but came up empty-handed.

“You get all this medical advice, but rarely hear anything about emotional support,” says Joyce, a high school math teacher living in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. “And you rarely hear anything about taking care of yourself, as a caregiver.”

It was only after her husband’s passing that Joyce learned about CancerCare, a national nonprofit offering free emotional support services to people with cancer, their caregivers and their loved ones. There, she joined a support group for people who had experienced the loss of a spouse to cancer, and met with a social worker for individual counseling.

“The support group validated that it was ok to be as miserable as you were,” Joyce says, with candor. “We discussed our fears as widows, as single women, and we were able to help each other.”

Joyce also says that she benefited immensely from individual counseling. “CancerCare’s social workers are so caring and available,” she says. “The support they provided saved my life, and I hope to be able to spread awareness so that others may be impacted in the same way that I have.”

alt textJoyce at CancerCare's 2014 Festival of Hope Gala

Putting her gratitude into action, Joyce has become a passionate advocate for CancerCare, serving as a crucial member of the New Jersey Board of Managers and establishing The Ronald Heller Memorial Foundation in memory of her late husband. In the years since she was helped, Joyce has paid that kindness forward by raising thousands of dollars to ensure that others will have access to CancerCare’s free programs and services. In honor of her tireless efforts, Joyce will be presented with the prestigious 2016 Individual Achievement Award at CancerCare’s 2016 Festival of Hope Gala.

“Joyce is a shining example of resilience and hope” shares Kathy Nugent, LCSW, Director of Regional Programs at CancerCare. “She fully understands the cancer journey and is proactive as a Board member, always seeking ways to do more. Her compassion toward people touched by cancer and her commitment to CancerCare is truly moving, and all of us in the New Jersey office are thrilled she is this year’s Festival of Hope Honoree.”

CancerCare’s 2016 Festival of Hope Gala, honoring Helsinn Therapeutics and Joyce Heller, will take place Wednesday, May 18 at The Park Savoy in Florham Park, N.J. The annual celebration recognizes the individuals and corporate partners who share CancerCare’s commitment to supporting people affected by cancer.

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