ABC-7 Chicago News
November 4, 2001
They do exist, and they're making a difference every day in the lives of people who have never even met them before.
With the uncertainty in our world today, it's good to be reminded that there are a lot of good people doing good things -- which leads to our story about a group called "Chemo Angels."
Strangers in Chicago and across the country are reaching out to people they have never met and helping them through chemotherapy.
Five-year-old Brian Felix loves playing football with his dad and riding his new bike. He is not so fond of all the check-ups that are necessary because Brian has leukemia. The kindergartener has been getting chemotherapy treatment at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center for the last two years. And Brian is doing very well, thanks to dedicated doctors and nurses, Brian's parents, and someone he has never met -- his "Chemo Angel."
"They send the kids things just to get their minds off the cancer and everything," said Bruce Felix, Brian's father. "And it's nice to see their faces when they go to the mailbox."
At least twice a week Brian gets something in the mail from his Chemo Angel Kimberly -- a note, some stickers, a book -- things that make a five-year-old feel special.
This all started when Brian's mom read on the Internet about "Chemo Angels," a group where hundreds of volunteers do special things for adults and kids going through chemotherapy.
"It amazes me how many people are out there willing to help," said Jennifer Felix, Brian's mother. "It really does."
"This idea just started in my mind and it's blossomed," said Chemo Angels founder Laura Armstrong. Armstrong's father died of pancreatic cancer. In his memory she started the Chemo Angels network last year from her home computer in Julian, California.
"I just went on line and started doing some research, started recruiting volunteers, and today I have over a thousand volunteers. Each volunteer has a cancer patient," said Armstrong.
An angel in New York may be assigned to a chemo patient in Dallas. Geography isn't important. As long as an angel sends a card or letter or small trinket once or twice a week, they're doing their job.
Chris Nicoski is a Chemo Angel who lives in west suburban Aurora and is a breast cancer survivor herself. "People are so appreciative and so amazed that this goes on and it really benefits them," said Chris Nicoski. "I think it really does make a difference."
Chris has never met, face to face, the woman she supported through eight months of chemotherapy, but there is a connection that distance cannot deny.
Mary Robb lives 2,000 miles away from Chris in Seattle, Washington. Last year, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer, and with family living far away, Chris became an integral part of Mary's support system.
"I kept most of what I was feeling disguised at work," said Mary, "But I could bounce things off Chris and be myself with her. She's been there. She understood."
Mary has completed chemotherapy and just signed up to be a Chemo Angel herself. The same thought has occurred to Brian's mother, who thinks being a Chemo Angel is a heavenly calling.
"If we had to go through it, this is the way to do it. If you have to go through something negative, find a positive in it and go with it... hopefully we'll hit a point where we can start giving back to those who've given to us."
Chemo Angels has grown so fast, they can't keep up with the demand for angels, giving preference to the most serious cancer cases.
To learn more about Chemo Angels, you can go to www.chemoangels.com