Up Close & Personal
Kindness & Wisdom …
It takes a very special person to work in a field where you’ll meet people in various stages of cancer – the emotional highs and lows must be exhausting. But when you stop by Nicole Farber’s office at The Center for Cancer Wellness, Candy’s Place, in Forty Fort, her face lights up when she starts talking about two important roles she fulfills: as the mother of her 9-year-old son, Nick, and as the center coordinator for Candy’s Place. Candy’s Place was founded 15 years ago by Penny Cunningham. Penny’s sister, Candy, was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer despite a healthy lifestyle and lost her battle in just seven short months. Her courage and insight was the inspiration for the creation of Candy’s Place. The center serves as a resource for people suffering from any type of cancer and their families, and there is no charge for any of the services they offer. Farber and a host of volunteers are planning the 15th Annual Rainbow Walk, the center’s largest fund raiser of the year, on May 12. We caught up with Farber to talk about the walk and life at the center. What she offered was more inspiration than we could possibly fit on one page. Meet Dallas’s Nicole Farber …
Why is the upcoming walk that you’re planning called the Rainbow Walk?
Candy (for whom Candy’s Place is named) loved rainbows. And this year is our 15th Annual Rainbow Walk. The walk started everything. With the proceeds from the first walk, Penny Cunningham was able to start this non-profit organization. The walk is our biggest fund raiser of the year. It’s a 2.5 mile fun walk. People go to Kirby Park and they register at 9 a.m. There are free Tee-shirts, free food and refreshments, massage therapists, all kinds of different things that relate to our organization and the wellness aspect of what we do. We’ll be there and people develop teams to come out and walk with them. Sometimes they get Tee-shirts made up that they’re walking in honor of someone who is battling cancer right now, or they’re doing it in memory of someone. Everybody knows somebody who’s had cancer.
Working in this field must be difficult at times, but you’re smiling.
One thing that I try to do here is – no matter how down and out someone is – my one goal any time anybody comes in here is to make them laugh or smile before they leave. Every morning I say, “Please help me give one kind word, one kind smile … something” because you never know what it’s going to do for someone.
Going back to the walk, it’s going to be difficult because you’ll see all types of people there. Some will be (upbeat) and some will be very emotional, but they’re all doing it. It’s a good way to remember people and honor people because there are so many people going through it right now. The walk helps us help other people. We rely completely on the community and local businesses for funding. We’re not a United Way member and we don’t get federal grants. The fund raisers that we do and sponsorships and donations – and Mike Duffy – he made over $10,000 for us – and all the volunteers who come out and put the hard work in and support us.
Fundraising is an important part of your position.
I wake up every day and I’m so thankful that I get to come a place like this. It’s very rare to have that in your life, where you love what you’re doing and you get to help people and see the difference that you’re making. Yes, sometimes it’s hard, but to see the amount of people who come through here and get better is worth it. Even if only one person came through here and got better it would be worth it. Sometimes that voice inside you is just screaming “I wish I could do something more,” but I have tools here that I know will work and that’s what I can present to people. That’s why people hate to see me coming sometimes (laughs) because I’m always looking for donations, but if you could see what I see, I wouldn’t even need to ask.
What are some of the things you see?
There was a husband who came in with his wife. Her name was Anna* and she did pass away. And they always came in together and she loved it here. And even though there is a high amount of people who live on and they go into remission, there are some people who, unfortunately, don’t win the fight. And Anna was one of them. But she loved being here and she came in more and more all the time. At the end, this is where she wanted to be all the time. (After she passed away) her husband came in crying. He had memorial contributions to give us. He was shaking and crying and I said, “Why don’t you tell me a happy story about Anna?” He was missing her so badly.
How do you keep it together at a time like that?
It’s hard. I usually just say “please, God, help me. Give me something to say.” And at that moment, the front door opened and I excused myself for a minute and poked my head out and there was a really young couple standing there. So I asked Anna’s husband to come over, and from a distance, he could see them and he could see the young man was bald (his hair loss was due to cancer) and he was holding hands with his fiancée. They’re only in their early 20s. He has stage three testicular cancer. It’s hard to see young people like that. And they just love each other so much, and she was holding his hands and shaking and I said to Anna’s husband, “watch this.”
So the couple was at the front counter and our volunteer asked what we could do for them. The young woman crocheted hats while sitting with her fiancée while he got chemotherapy every day, and he was just told that day that they wouldn’t have children. She said even though they got news like this, they still wanted to come and give something to us. “We want to give back because you’ve given us so much,” she said. They were here for date night because we give caregiver massages, so they would come in and get massages together. And the young man was thanking us that he could bring his fiancée because he can’t afford to take her anywhere because of his treatments. And it was just so overwhelming at that moment. And then Anna’s husband came over and he hung his head down, and he put a couple hundred dollars down and he told us to make sure they continue to get their date nights. And it took him right back out of it. “I remember when Anna and I used to …” and he started telling stories. And these things happen here all the time.
What have you learned from being here?
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you can’t expect tomorrow to come. You can’t. And that’s why I always tell my son, who is such a worrier, “stop worrying about tomorrow. Enjoy today.” I’ve learned not to take anyone for granted, and you just never know what just one smile can do. It doesn’t cost anything. I’ve also learned the difference between me having a bad day (which is really very few and far between) but maybe I’m getting overwhelmed a little bit, and the days that I smile. Sometimes you just have to push through it. I just recognize that I do know the difference. Someone once sent me an email from an unknown author and it said “kindness is the greatest wisdom.” And that’s so true. I ask for wisdom every day – I need to!
— julie imel
The 15th Annual Candy’s Place Rainbow Walk will be held on Saturday, May 12 at Kirby Park in Wilkes-Barre. Pre-registration is $25 and registration on the day of the walk is $30. The 2.5 mile walk is non-competitive. Proceeds from the event benefit Candy’s Place located at 190 Welles St., Suite 120, Forty Fort. For more information, or to register, visit www.cancerwellnessnepa.org.
* Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality.