Ovarian cancer survivor giving back by helping other patients

Thanksgiving is a time to count our blessings. An ovarian cancer survivor is expressing her gratitude by giving a little lift to others walking the same path.

Around this time 3 years ago, Sharon Civa was close to the end of successful treatment for her cancer. She's now using her creativity and warmth to ease the fear and uncertainty for others in their fight.

During most of the week, Sharon is an information technology officer at Penn Medicine. But every Wednesday, she's back in the infusion suite where she got treatment, meeting current patients.

The visits are through Chemo Companions, a group she created to give others in chemotherapy the first-person comfort, advice, and hope she couldn't find during her treatment.

"I could not find someone who had ovarian cancer. I desperately needed to talk to somebody to tell me there is another side," said Sharon.

Patients who are initially reluctant to chat, soon change and they talk like longtime friends.

"The minute I tell them that I have had cancer, especially if it was the same cancer, there is no barrier whatsoever," she said. "We talk about everything from hair loss, to what did you eat for the nausea? I see people in fear and I see people looking for hope."

Sharon delivers gift bundles from Hearts United Against Cancer, the volunteer group she initially joined.

All the gifts are home-made - including special cards from Sharon. She's done about 5,800 cards in 2 and a half years.

"They start my day - it's kind of like my meditation," she said.

Sharon says her mission is a small thank-you for the enormous gift she's been given.

"I feel very grateful, very grateful that I survived, and that I have time, more time, to live," she said.

Sharon says Chemo Companions is open to new volunteers who've had all types of cancer. Ideally, they should be 6 months out from finishing their treatment.

To contact Sharon for more information on supporting Hearts United Against Cancer, email: Sharon.Civa@pennmedicine.upenn.edu.

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