Hair Peace Charities is the recipient of a 2015 ministry grant from the United Methodist Foundation of Western PA. Bonny Diver, a member of Ingomar UMC, is the founder and director of the organization. In the Foundation's July Fund Your Faith column, she tells the story of how the ministry began. It's a story of fighting fear with faith and finding peace.
--By Bonny Diver (courtesy of UM Foundation of Western PA)--
I never dreamed I would hear the words, "I am sorry, you have cancer." I was 46 when that call came to me while I was at work. Everything changed. All I knew about cancer was that Linda McCartney died from breast cancer and I thought, "If they couldn't save her, then I will not survive either." I started planning my funeral.
My small group at Ingomar Church surrounded me and helped in many ways. One dear friend told me to make decisions based on faith and not fear. It was so hard to say "I am not afraid." I prayed for faith – walking to life instead of running from death and fear. Then one day in the doctor’s office, I felt it. A powerful blanket of peace came over me and I heard a voice in my head say, "You are going to be alright."
I am a radio announcer and talked to my listeners about my cancer battle. Then I got calls to speak to groups about "faith not fear" in the cancer diagnosis.
I got through treatment and my surgeon said to “take it up a notch” and raise money to help women pay for wigs, as most are not covered by insurance in Pennsylvania. It was a loud wake-up call. Leadership Council at Ingomar Church heard my idea and we put a plan together. They started out with Hair Peace Charities and within six months it was time to become our own 501(c)(3) organization.
Hair Peace is a resource for women and girls with any type of cancer when they lose their hair from treatment. The patient calls me and if they say they are struggling financially with all the doctor bills, we send $150 to their salon to go towards a wig. Women must live in the Pittsburgh region - 412 or 724 area codes; that includes 11 counties.
They call, ask for help, and the phone conversation goes from there. I can tell them what to expect with treatment, when their hair will come out, and I have tips on how to do better with side effects. The calls can be over one hour because it is easier to talk to another survivor who has been there than it is to talk to a family member. We talk about faith versus fear and if they have a relationship with God. I work to encourage them with the promise that God is with them and He loves them.
I send each patient two books. The Warriors Guide which we made with information about food, stress, and ways to fight disease. The other book is "Prayers to Sustain You Through Cancer: You Are Not Alone" – what I call “the 3:00 AM book” when you can't sleep. It has all the steps of cancer written as a letter/prayer to God. It is a blessing to these women filled with hope.
We also have monthly support circles with speakers to teach us how to cancer-proof our life along with sharing, prayers, and communion.
I have been doing Hair Peace since 2004, the year after I fell off my horse and found a lump on the side of my breast leading to a cancer battle. This is something I never dreamed I would be doing, but it gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing we are helping others and turning the tables so we don't fear cancer – cancer fears us! In the end, cancer will not win because in heaven there are no enemies.
This year, 15 churches, 11 agencies/organizations, and one district received ministry grants from the UM Foundation of Western PA. To learn more about the Foundation's grant program, visit umfoundation.org