Families in southeast Michigan who are dealing with cancer – whether it's a parent caretaker of a child with cancer, or mom/dad with cancer – have an ally in Imerman Angels. This free one-to-one support group created a local outpost here in early 2014.
The nonprofit has strong local roots. Jonny Imerman, a Bloomfield Hills native diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 26, originally created it in Chicago back in 2006. He had support from his family and friends. But what about those in his same situation who didn't?
The thought lead to Imerman Angels, established for patients and caregivers, explains Duffy Wineman. She's regional director of Michigan's Imerman Angels program in metro Detroit.
Those with cancer of any type and of any age – as well as those who care for them – can find support from somebody who has the same story – a survivor of the same cancer, or a caregiver who understands what it's like to care for a sick loved one. "Someone who just gets you," Wineman says.
Once registered online or via phone, she explains, the registrant is called within 24 hours by somebody at the organization. They're interviewed about their needs, cancer, stage and the treatments they're going through. They're then matched to a "Mentor Angel" – a volunteer who survived the same situation.
Imerman Angels Metro Detroit
"Some people become best friends. Some people talk once; that's all they needed. Some people talk on a regular basis three times a week," Wineman explains. Connections can be made over phone, email or even in person. "That Mentor Angel can then give you the emotional support you need, because they've walked your same walk."
As of early 2014, Imerman Angels had more than 6,000 volunteer Mentor Angels and has made over 10,000 matches since the start of the program. Even those who work for Imerman Angels have been affected in some way by cancer, Wineman says. She herself was a caregiver for her first husband, who died of bone cancer. "Everyone is touched by cancer."
The service is free. The organization is always looking for Mentor Angels, too. Call the Chicago offices or visit Imerman Angles online to get started.