Sometimes simple gestures make you feel a little joy. At least, that’s the way Jennifer Howe sees it, and after her own cancer journey, she wanted to help other cancer patients feel a little extra joy.
In 2015, Jennifer learned she had ovarian cancer. She had surgery with Cynthia Angel, M.D., as well as chemotherapy. It was a very difficult time, but she felt fortunate to have support from her family and friends.
Among the gestures they offered was a bag filled with items such as lotion, lip balm and gum to help during Jennifer’s chemotherapy. Her cousin in Georgia had arranged for a group called the Lydia Project to send it to her.
“I just thought that was the most amazing thing to get something like that,” she says. “I got to thinking, what can I do? And I decided that I wanted to do something similar to that.”
Jennifer named her organization the Cancer Comfort Bag Project and starting thinking about items she used frequently during chemotherapy for her own side effects. She also researched other items that might be helpful: hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial wipes, pens and puzzles.
Once she had a good supply, she reached out to Wilmot Cancer Institute’s Ann and Carl Myers Cancer Center at Noyes Health in Dansville, her hometown, and donated 150 bags for patients.
Since that first donation in March 2016, she’s continued collecting supplies and estimates she’s given close to 1,000 bags.
Jennifer had a setback during that period, though. In April 2017, she learned her cancer had returned. She had another surgery as well as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Today, she’s finished treatment and is doing well. She goes to Noyes regularly for bloodwork to check on her biomarker numbers, and continues to share her Cancer Comfort Bags.
Recently, employees at UR Medicine’s Noyes Health raised nearly $6,000 to give to local charities and chose Jennifer’s organization to receive a portion of those funds.
For Jennifer, it just feels good to help others who might be in need.
“I just wanted to make them feel like someone cares,” Jennifer says. “If they’re having a bad day, hopefully it puts a smile on their face and that they know that behind it, that there’s a lot of people involved.”