Chris and Julie Mennel joined our monthly giving program in 2021 because they know the fight against cancer.
It was around 2010. We were in our house in Broad Ripple and had just heard about a 16-year-old diagnosed with cancer. Chris said, “Oh my gosh, can you imagine being 16 and having cancer.” And Julie responded, “Yes, that was you.” According to Chris, “That’s one of the first times I remember it hitting him that I had cancer. Sure, I knew that I had cancer. I was diagnosed in 2003 and had been seeing a dermatologist for various treatments since 1997. But we didn’t call it cancer. And so, I didn’t think about it in those terms.”
A big part of why Chris didn’t have to reflect more on the fact that he had cancer during those early years was because of his parents. They were there for everything and able to help shoulder the burden of living with T-Cell Lymphoma. Chris never once dealt with medical bills or scheduling appointments until he graduated from college. He also didn’t stop and think about all the what-ifs that cancer typically brings. And even the regular trips to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, were turned into mini vacations with various sites to see and restaurants to go to in between appointments. It was a weekend away in Minnesota, and oh yeah, blood draw, urine test, CAT scan, and three doctor appointments. It was like taking a timeshare trip and having the inconvenience of meeting with the timeshare company sometime during the trip.
Fast forward a few years, and now Julie is his caregiver (with his parents eagerly awaiting updates). We used to think of a caregiver as someone that stayed by a sick person’s side to take care of their basic needs. But there is so much more to it. Julie doesn’t pay the medical bills like Chris’s parents used to. She doesn’t schedule appointments either. But that’s not what Chris needs anymore. She takes notes at appointments, talks through it all whenever it’s on Chris’s mind, and travels to his new doctors at MD Anderson in Houston. She plans out each meal and activities in between appointments just like Chris’s parents used to do at his doctors in Minnesota). Chris’s parents provided exactly what he needed at the time. And now Julie provides something different, but it’s exactly what he needs. There is no definition of what a caregiver does because it depends on every situation.
Somewhere in all of this is why we showed up for Amanda’s first Cocktails & Caregivers fundraiser (called Cocktails & Chemo at the time) and why we continue to support Cocktails & Caregivers today. C&C helps ensure that caregivers have whatever they need to provide the best possible support to their loved ones. When a lot was going on, C&C invited Julie to be pampered at Evereve so she could refill her tank. And at another time, when things were calmer, Julie helped fill caregiver packages. And most special to us, when Chris needed to have treatment in Houston, Amanda was a friend and a resource who provided recommendations from her stay there with Joe.
“We are proud to support Cocktails & Caregivers and hope that it will continue to help caregivers so that they can support their loved ones.”Julie Mennel