Dodge City mother shares her recommendations to help someone with cancer

Shannon Benish didn’t plan to write a book, but after experiencing cancer firsthand with her daughter Erin, Shannon felt compelled to share the many kindnesses which she and her daughter received during the treatment. Thus, “How To Help Someone With Cancer” came about.

Erin was only 11 years old and in the fifth grade when she was diagnosed with bone cancer. What started as a routine check-up quickly turned into x-rays, scans and talk of sarcoma. Shannon says that she had never heard of the word, but from that point on they were thrust into a world in which nobody wants to belong.

Her family was completely blindsided and didn’t know what to do. Their friends and family offered to help, but they didn’t even know what they needed. Treatment was done in Denver which meant a 6-hour drive. She says that slowly, they gained their footing and began the journey that became their new “normal.”

They were put in contact with Dr. Wilkins of Colorado Limb Consultants, the physician who would conduct the biopsy. Shannon remembers that Erin was strong and courageous during the biopsy, choosing only to play a video game as a distraction during the procedure. Their greatest fears were confirmed and the mass was identified as cancerous. Oncologist, Dr. Clark then came into the picture. The surgery was scheduled and the family began the hardest 10 months of their lives. The tumor was removed and a prosthesis was inserted in Erin’s leg. Shannon remembers, “We put our faith in God and prayed for the surgeons to take care of their daughter.”

Erin became violently ill during the rounds of chemo and she was not always able to eat. She lost quite a bit of weight also. Treatments lasted from 2 days to a week and lasted for 10 months. She struggled to keep up with school, but Skype helped her keep up with school while in Denver. After returning to school, Erin was on crutches for an extended time. Shannon said that Erin loves camouflage, so she decorated the crutches with cammo duct tape.  

Maintaining jobs also became difficult as treatments progressed. Fortunately, a makeshift office was set up in Denver so that Shannon could continue with her employment.

Erin’s younger brother, Erin became a huge support to Erin and his only mission was to make life better for her. Erin and Evan became known as “The Dynamic Duo.” Her step-sister Sydney was also at her side throughout the treatment.

A facebook page for “Team Erin” was also set up enabled the family to update loved ones.

Living in a motel during treatments soon became “old” for the family, but a generous Denver family opened their home and this made a wonderful difference for Erin’s family. Shannon says, “I truly believe there are angels among us.”

During the treatment, one of Erin’s classmates came up with the idea of a fun run as a fundraiser to help with expenses. Shannon says, “Words cannot express our thanks to the Foster family and everyone that came together to make that day such a success.”

They met amazing people who have dedicated their lives to healthcare and making a difference in other peoples lives. Volunteers came and offered activities to get their minds off of the cancer and sickness. People prayed with and for the family. Complete strangers wished them well. Shannon says that it was a challenging time, but the support carried them when it was too difficult to do alone.

Shannon cites that it is oftentimes the little things that make the biggest difference. She states that monetary contributions are not all that is needed. There are a myriad of ways to lend a hand that do not cost a penny but can help the patient tremendously.

Shannon states that the book is intended to be a guide for how to help someone who is fighting cancer or any other disease that may prevent them from maintaining a normal lifestyle. She offers no medical advice as she feels that should be left to the medical professionals.

As these examples show, you don’t have to be rich to change a person’s life. Small gestures can have an enormous impact. Shannon adds, “You have the power to make a huge difference to someone right now. You can make what they are fighting just a little bit smaller. You are going to make a positive impact on someone’s life.

Some of the ways that you can help which Shannon covers in the book include:

Finances, school, fun, around the house, away from home, gifts, technology, social, in the hospital, religion, make a meal, lodging help, computer assistance, prayer list, pet care, gift cards, gofundme page, hotel reward points, healthy snacks, pick up the phone, help with school activities, plant and garden maintenance, mail retrieval, gift baskets, housekeeping chores, bone marrow donor, wigs and clothes, send a card, donate blood, shave your head in support, find support groups, decorate for the holidays, donate your hair, support cancer research and continue support after treatment.

Cancer is a thief and it steals so much. Shannon’s hope for the future is that the book will no longer be needed and we will have found a cure for this dreadful disease. She reminds everyone to celebrate life and keep a positive outlook. She also reminds everyone not to make decisions for the patient unless asked and don’t talk around them as if they weren’t in the room. She also says to refrain from recommending alternative treatments; leave that up to the professionals. Perhaps most importantly, show compassion and understanding.

Shannon is more than happy to report that Erin has been in remission for three years and is living a happy teenager (15) lifestyle. She loves animals, art, planning for college and anything sports related. Shannon feels so blessed to have such wonderful friends, family and community support.  She adds, “Never underestimate the power you have to affect someone’s life for the better with a small act of kindness. No one fights alone.” Although Erin can’t participate in sports, she is able to spend time with the teams and make her contribution as a sports trainer for Dodge City High School. She plans to take this one step further and become a surgeon or surgical veterinarian.

As “payback”, Erin has started a “Lego Drive” for the children  still in the hospital. She takes them to Denver once a year and estimates that so far, close to 500 sets have been donated. If you want to donate, call Shannon at 620-682-5070. But, remember that they must be new and sealed since many of the children must be protected from unknown possible infections.

In addition to the book, they have a Facebook page: “How To Help Someone With Cancer” which we update with additional tips and relevant articles as well.

Shannon’s book is available for check out at the Dodge City library. Or you can get your own copy at the Christian Book House in downtown Dodge City or order it from Amazon at http:/ Kindle Unlimited members can also download it for free on Amazon. You can also order your copy directly from Shannon by calling her at 620-682-5070.