Cancer Survivor Offering Tools to Help Others Beat Disease

By Andy Jones
Marinscope Newspapers

Just as is a good resource for finding a couch or a car, an apartment or a job, cancer patients or survivors looking for resources now have

The site, which is the face for the nonprofit organization Nancy’s List, was launched earlier this year by Mill Valley resident and cancer survivor Nancy Novack. Nancy’s List is also meant to be a community for those battling cancer and those who’ve already overcome great odds and beaten the disease.

“Our intention is to give people an opportunity to make meaningful relationships and find a way for the community to support people struggling with the disease,” Novack said. “It’s also important for people to strengthen their bodies and work one on one with trainers and coaches, so they can have the most courage and strength they can get. It’s a grueling process, so the center will be open for anyone who’s ever had cancer. One of the issues that are misunderstood is that once people are done with treatment, they still need to develop strength in any way they can. Often times, the support system misses people, but once you have it, you feel like you always have it.”

Novack had that kind of support and is one of the lucky ones who’ve reached survivor status. It’s been a little more than four years since she was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer, the highest level of the disease. Today, she’s cancer-free.

Even through 21 grueling chemotherapy treatments, surgery and infections, Novack said it was her attitude that carried her through. “I’m one of the luckiest people out there,” Novack said.

“I had a pretty bleak diagnosis. But once I realized I could make it, I felt so fortunate. And I learned so much, so I felt like I had something to offer.”

As a psychologist, it’s Novack’s job to help people in distress, so when it came to creating a resource for cancer patients and survivors, she wanted to reach as many people as possible. This led her to the Internet. “I think to have any credibility any more, you have to have a website,” Novack said. “I hope to make the site more interactive with bulletin boards, helping to create a real community and a grassroots level of people coming together.”

She said she wanted there to be a place for people to gather resources to help them through their struggles with cancer. “When I was diagnosed, no one ever mentioned financial assistance,” Novack said. “There’s a high rate of bankruptcies among families with a cancer patient and I wanted to find out where to get help.”

The site has indeed collected volumes of information and links to information about cancer itself, financial assistance, integrative medicine and hospice care, just to name a few of the options offered. “That particular section has gotten a lot of positive response,” Novack said. “For instance, we have information about scholarships for teens who’ve had cancer. These are things we try to let people know about.”

While Nancy’s List hopes to help people worldwide, a lot of the connections made so far have helped to create a cancer patient-and-survivor network locally here in Marin. The majority of businesses and service organizations listed under the site’s “community partners” section are Marin-based.

“Marin is the perfect community to do this in,” Novack said. “I think it’s a culture that will and is responding to Nancy’s List. A woman in Novato who’s a cancer survivor is opening up her store [Solarium] for a fundraiser, and I had a makeup artist call to offer help. There are people who are figuring out ways to help by using what they know how to do.”