Volunteers Show Love & Support Placing Beads of Survivorship onto Survivors and Thrivers at the MORE THAN PINK Walk

Meet a Returning Volunteer Who Experiences the Joy in Hope Village

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The volunteers placing beads on the survivors and metastatic thrivers in Hope Village; Joan Hogan pictured at right.

One of the most meaningful, magical moments at the MORE THAN PINK Walk happens for those that visit the Hope Village tent. Here, nurses volunteering their time and love place pink or gold beads on breast cancer survivors and metastatic thrivers. It’s a moment of hope, of celebration, of emotion, of fearlessness for everyone involved. Although we will gather virtually this year, we look forward to meeting in person once more at the Hope Village in 2021!

Joan Hogan, Program Director of the Cancer Support Community at Monmouth Medical Center, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, has been attending this event for years as a volunteer in Hope Village. Without fail every year, she said, she is filled with gratitude from this experience, and for the support of RWJBarnabas in sponsoring the Hope Village in honor of survivors and those living with metastatic breast cancer.

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Hope Village Sponsor

“I do this kind of work every day,” said Hogan. “But nothing moves me like being in the Hope Village tent.”

The placing of the beads can bring tears to the eyes of both the survivors and the volunteers. These tears can mean many things — including, in Hogan’s view, tears of joy.

“With a diagnosis, life changes forever, but in that moment of getting the beads, they are so connected,” said Hogan. “They’re joyful to be here, in the tent another year, or for the first time. They are another year in survival.”

The pink and gold beads are an important piece of the day for many survivors and metastatic thrivers. One strand of beads symbolizes one year that the individual has survived breast cancer. This is a personal experience for many of the women and men taking part with the beads; it allows them to proudly walk as a fighter and a warrior after facing the hardships cancer brings: doctor appointments, surgeries, stress, anxieties, radiation, chemotherapy, and so much more.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to even be invited into Hope Village,” said Hogan. “I am so grateful to take part in this ‘beading’ ceremony.”

Hope Village is the result of the labor of love from a community of survivors, chaired by Janet Marzocca, hoping to provide those affected by breast cancer and their co-survivors with a morning filled with hope, celebration and support.

“The feeling one gets when they walk into Hope Village: they’re welcomed, they’re greeted, they know that they belong to this supportive community,” said Hogan. “They’re connected with everyone else.”

Hope Village is a place and space for survivors, those going through treatment and women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to come together and lose themselves in the little moments that happen in the tent. There’s a knowing in the air — these women and men have been through the pain that breast cancer brings, but they are determined and strong. Together, this community continues to thrive.

“The survivors and thrivers are such a support to each other. When they recognize and greet each other in the tent — wow,” said Hogan. “I would imagine they form friendships with one another like I do every year.”

Hogan added how incredible it is to see — and give beads to — many of the same women and men she has known for years through the Hope Village experience.

“I see many of the same faces every year,” said Hogan. “And the women and men that are new in the tent — they learn what resources are out there.”

RWJBarnabas Health is one of our partners in the fight against breast cancer as our official Hope Village sponsor, and works with the Cancer Support Community to provide free support, education and hope to those affected by cancer. The program offers many support groups, facilitating the kind of friendships, community and assistance that Hope Village aspires to capture each year.

As its program director, Hogan knows the importance of emotional and mental support following cancer treatment.

“When treatment is over, that’s when anxiety can really set in, and that’s why we do the work that we do,” said Hogan.

Hogan added, “They will never be alone — Komen New Jersey, Cancer Support Community, we are here. There’s always somebody.”

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