Three-Time Cancer Survivor Finds Solace and Hope in Canopy Survivorship Center

Many people go through numerous trials throughout their lives, but few have gone through as many as Cheryl Ward. The 61-year-old has survived homelessness, depression, Hurricane Harvey, ovarian cancer, stage IV breast cancer and now she is dealing with stage IV lung cancer. Through all of these difficulties, though, her faith has never wavered; rather, it is what continues to give her strength through each challenge she endures.

“You have to remember that God is in control and not you,” Ward said. “Stop trying to fix it and let God fix it.”

The process of letting God fix it started a few years ago. Ward had lost her apartment and was struggling to put food on the table. She was homeless, staying in a motel and going to a local food pantry for basic provisions. It was there where she heard about a free medical clinic for women. She decided to get checked out. At the clinic, she underwent the first mammogram of her life and found out she had stage IV breast cancer, which had already spread. She had surgery to remove the cancer and then underwent extensive chemotherapy. While she was recovering and thinking the worst was behind her, Hurricane Harvey hit Houston. 

“I was out trying to get supplies and as I was coming down the bridge I drove straight into floodwaters,” Ward said. “My wounds on my breasts hadn’t yet closed up, and I had to deal with fire ants in the water. It was flooded everywhere. The water was up to my neck.”

Rescue crews pulled her from the floodwaters and a Good Samaritan took her and her son home. Maybe this was the end. Maybe there would be no more trials, she thought. Then, her husband suffered a stroke and shortly thereafter, she was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. All of these medical issues and other problems were starting to wear her down, and she desperately needed someone to talk to who would understand what she was going through. That’s when she found the Canopy Survivorship Center at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center.

The goal of the program is to integrate a cancer survivorship center into the continuum of cancer care. Their strong community connection and compassionate support system make it possible for Canopy to provide programs geared toward improving the health and quality of life for cancer survivors post-diagnosis. The program is open to all cancer patients, not just Memorial Hermann patients, and offers a variety of programs for women during their recovery journey, including:

  • Counseling sessions
  • Exercise classes, including Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates
  • Book clubs
  • Art therapy
  • Cooking classes
  • Wig, breast prosthesis and bra fittings
  • Oncology nutrition
  • Massage therapy

“Whatever you need, Canopy is there for you. It is wonderful. If you need someone to listen, they listen. If you need someone to hug you just because you need a hug that day, they hug you. Or if just you need someone to sit and cry with you, they will sit and cry with you,” Ward said. “I feel safe. I feel comfortable. There is always another woman who has already experienced what you’re experiencing, and she’s able to help you walk through it. That’s what you get at Canopy. It’s such a dynamic place.”

Ward is currently undergoing chemotherapy to treat her lung cancer. She feels blessed and finds love, strength and support from her two sons, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and the other survivors and staff at Canopy.

“At Canopy, you can get the best love and support on your roughest day. When you feel like the world is crazy and on you, and there is no way out, I go to Canopy,” Ward said. “I would encourage other cancer patients to go there as well. I promise them that they will not leave there the same way they went in. That is a guarantee.”

For more information on how to get involved or to donate to Canopy Cancer Survivorship Center at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands, visit their website.

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Ali Vise