Imagine, for a moment, that helping cancer fighters and their caregivers was the main focus of your job. For Megan Alexander, a Cancer Support Specialist with Imerman Angels, this scenario is very real. And it is what she enjoys most about her role.
“My favorite part of my job is helping people and witnessing how positive our support seekers feel after the connection is made and they have spoken to their Mentor Angel,” she says.
Megan knows firsthand what is like to battle cancer. She was diagnosed with stage IV childhood rhabdomyosarcoma at 10 days old. The cancer started in her neck, then metastasized to her right eye and her brain. Megan finished treatment when she was three years old, but was left with permanent physical side effects. She cannot see out of her right eye, she has an eye prosthesis and she has significant muscle weakness on her right side.
“I am fortunate, because I do not have any memory of being able to see out of both eyes or having the use of my right hand, so adjusting to it was easy. Plus, I grew up with a very supportive and loving family and group of friends, and I was never teased because of my disability,” she says.
Megan started attending cancer camps when she was four years old and was introduced to Imerman Angels when she heard founder Jonny Imerman speak at one shortly before she graduated from high school. Megan appreciated the organization’s mission to provide free one-on-one support to those affected by cancer. She was going to be a freshman at DePaul University, located not far from the Imerman Angels office in Chicago, that fall, so she kept the organization in mind.
And when she graduated from DePaul in 2013, Megan put those thoughts into action by seeking out Imerman Angels. She volunteered with the organization for 10 months, transitioned to a contractor role and was hired full time in April of 2015.
“I love the culture here. It is very fun, positive and uplifting. Everyone is really nice,” she says.
As a Cancer Support Specialist, Megan spends the majority of her time matching cancer fighters and caregivers with Mentor Angels – volunteers who have survived cancer or served as a caregiver to a cancer fighter. Megan and her fellow Cancer Support Specialists gather a great deal of information and assess every detail to match criteria like type of cancer, stage, age and lifestyle as closely as possible. Their efforts result in pairings that bring support seekers great comfort, because they have someone to talk to who truly understands what they are facing.
Megan’s secondary role involves handling email requests from Imerman Angels’ Cancer Partner Organizations. In situations where the Cancer Support Specialists are unable to match a support seeker, they reach out to their Cancer Partner Organizations to see if any are able to make the match. And it is reciprocal, with the Cancer Partner Organizations contacting Imerman Angels for matches they are unable to make, as well.
“I focus a lot on the Cancer Partner Organizations right now, so I can see myself doing more of that in the future,” Megan says.
In addition to the vital work she does for support seekers, Megan has also been responsible for giving Imerman Angels its official mascot – her dog, Blue. Megan adopted Blue a number of years ago after deciding she would like a companion.
“I wanted to meet Blue after seeing her beautiful face on Petfinder, but the first time I met her, she was timid and scared of everything, so I was hesitant. Then I met Blue again when she was a bit older and more confident, and I knew she was the dog for me,” Megan says.
Megan brought Blue into the office upon the suggestion of the Programs Manager and the cuddly canine was such a hit, she become a fixture. She has even been featured on the Imerman Angels’ website and promotional materials. Blue represents one of the many ways Megan feels connected to the organization.
“My overall experience working for Imerman Angels and becoming a part of the family here has been very positive, rewarding and fulfilling,” she says.
If you are a cancer fighter or caregiver seeking emotional support, or know someone who is, please REGISTER HERE and a Cancer Support Specialist will get in touch with you to start the matching process.