Jen Pecoraro, Stockton University
Cancer. Who would have thought one word can affect people and their emotions in a way they never imagined. There are so many different types of cancer out there, and so many cancer causing agents that sometimes are hard to avoid. It is an unfortunate disease that changes the lives of millions every year. I have had many family members pass away from it and it is heartbreaking to watch them go through the process. Back in May, when I was choosing an organization to partner with, my uncle had just passed away from a long seven year battle with salivary cancer. Watching such a strong and independent person transform into someone who needed to be watched over 24/7 was extremely upsetting. I wanted to do something in memory of him by working with individuals who so passionately believed in helping people fight this terminal illness. David’s Dream and Believe Cancer Foundation (DDBCF) is filled with many of those dedicated people, whose goal is to make the lives of the people suffering from cancer a little bit better.
DDBCF is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to provide financial assistance, services and hope to families affected by a cancer diagnosis. Right now, they primarily help people who live in New Jersey. DDBCF first began when the founder and CEO David Caldarella found it difficult to swallow and soon after he noticed a bump forming. David underwent a right tonsillectomy, removing a tumor the size of an egg, and was later diagnosed with stage IV squamous cell carcinoma. In the second grade my grandpa passed away from this same type of cancer, and because of this I have found partnering with a survivor of the same such a rewarding experience.
David never smoke and rarely drank yet here he was receiving such horrible and frightening news. Dr. David Cognetti at Jefferson University Hospital devised a plan for an aggressive treatment, since the odds of survival were not great. The doctors first performed a procedure to remove 72 lymph nodes on the right side of his neck and his left tonsil. He later underwent robotic surgery to remove the additional cancer cells still located on the back of his tongue and throat. Next, he received 6.5 weeks of radiation and 7 weeks of chemotherapy. He suffered severe nausea, rashes and burns, causing him to be unable to eat so they put a feeding tube in for about 4 months. In the end it was all worth it – as of November 2010 David has been a stage IV cancer survivor.
Because of his personal experiences, David understands this deadly disease, as well as what it can do to the patient and their family. He and the volunteer Board of Directors have dedicated their lives to helping people and giving them hope during a time of extreme need. Their hard work has allowed the organization to receive the 2015 Hero of Hope award and be the 2014 New Jersey State Governor’s Jefferson award honoree. They hold various events throughout the year to help raise money for cancer patients. Every summer they are the recipient of the profits raised by the Jetty Coquina Jam all girl surf competition. Over the last few years this event has raised more than $47,000 to donate back to families in need.
DDBCF has many community partners that offer a variety of wellness services to cancer patients, helping them throughout their fight. The Learning Experience in Manahawkin is one such example. They are a family centered organization that believe in the importance of a strong community. These employees help take care of the children of parents who are battling cancer. The kids attend a school that focuses on a positive learning environment to help occupy them while their parents receive treatments.
Liquid Bliss Yoga Studio is another partner of DDBCF, helping patients seek peace through their recovery. They use mediation and physical techniques to help the body heal itself. This program helps patients regain their well-being back by restoring their physical functioning, coping with fatigue, relaxing their body and mind, and also reconnecting their spirit. In addition to their partnership, they help host yoga fundraisers for everyone to help donate even more back to DDBCF.
Ocean Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine Wellness Center and Living Acupuncture & Healing Arts Center are two places that restore a person’s physical, emotional and spiritual being while undergoing treatment. It is said that Chinese Medicine supports the body’s immune and circulatory systems, strengthening the digest tract, restoring sleep, and decreasing pain. While going through chemotherapy and radiation, acupuncture can help keep the mind and body string, lessening the horrible side effects. Through acupuncture, these facilities can reduce stress and promote healing. The all natural method allows cancer patients find some type of relief while they go through this difficult time.
Changing Waves Consulting, LLC is a counseling agency that helps empower people to rebuild and grow healthy relationships. When any family member receives a cancer diagnosis, it can cause tension and strain on the typical family dynamic. Changing Waves is able to help guide these delicate relationships, strengthening them to create an effective force that drives the community and change. Primarily using strength-based and solution-focused methods, they also incorporate other diverse strategies to help fit the needs of their clients, while keeping within the mission of DDBCF.
There are also two different massage therapy groups that work with DDBCF to make sure the patients are as relaxed and comfortable as possible. Body in Mind Massage Institute and Jessica DiNapoli of Coastal Massage Therapy both believe massage will help heal a person as their bodies fight off cancer. Massages can help provide relief and promote healing to cancer patients who may experience side effects during their rounds of treatment. In addition, these massages can change the overall quality of life for the better: by removing pain, boosting the immune system, and increasing blood flow. Body in Mind and Coastal Massage Therapy are two companies that believe in physical touch to help rejuvenation and reconnecting the body and mind throughout the cancer journey.
DDBCF also connects families to special therapists and counselors that come to the hospital to help encourage healthy, happy living. One counselor, Suzanne Seniscalchi, focuses on nutrition. She helps people who recently received a diagnosis change their eating habits and living styles. Seniscalchi develops nutrition and diet plans that give patients a quality life but also a healthy one. Justine LaBatch is another therapist that partnered with DDBCF to provide art therapy to allow families to gain a better trust within their relationships. It increases self-esteem, positive communication, and intimacy. By being a part of this program, individuals can treat ailments of the mind, spirit, and body. The goal of all the therapists is to fulfill the mission of DDBCF by creating a loving and positive environment for all the families affected.
Click Here to donate to David’s Dream & Believe Foundation. When donating to them, you are helping thousands of children and adults that have been effected by such an awful disease. Also, by following them on Facebook and/or Instagram, you will be updated about their events and giving throughout the year. They are a great organization with an amazing cause and any money they receive is given back to those that need it.