Category: Voice of the CEO

A Tribute and Goodbye to a Dear Friend


Jeanne (R) with Bill Kunkel, board member, and Dianne May at the 2011 Tribute Dinner

by Dianne May, President & CEO

Cancer Services lost a stalwart friend this week with the passing of Jeanne Schouweiler. She was the CSNI Champion of Hope award winner last fall at our annual Tribute Dinner and a long-time supporter of Cancer Services. Here is an excerpt of that evening:

“It is such an honor to recognize Jeanne and her long-standing commitment to the organization this evening.

Like many volunteers, Jeanne became aware of Cancer Services, then the Allen County Cancer Society, when cancer personally touched her life. She began volunteering in the early 1970’s by delivering bandages and bed pads made by volunteers to cancer patients in the community. Her daughter Lisa remembers as a child accompanying her mother on these trips to help others.

Jeanne is a woman of strong faith who deeply values friendships, possesses a sincere desire to serve others and is a blessed with a remarkable energy level. She is the kind of friend we all need and hope for in our lives and Jeanne’s gift of friendship crosses multiple generations.

When I first met Jeanne she was clear and passionate when telling me how important she believed it was for our community to understand that Cancer Services is an entirely local organization. For many years she has made it a priority to spread the word about our mission to help local people here in our community.

In all the things she has done and continues to do, she never seeks personal recognition. She volunteers and serves because she values people.

At Cancer Services we have staff members who serve as personal advocates for families. Jeanne is an advocate for the mission of providing encouragement and practical help. Another volunteer at the organization has coined the phrase, “having a heart for cancer.” Jeanne truly has a heart for cancer and coupled with her remarkable energy and desire to serve others has become a champion of hope for many. It is fitting that as she celebrates a milestone birthday this fall we celebrate her gifts of compassion and service to others.


by Dianne May, president & CEO

We’ve been talking a lot about being grateful here at Cancer Services. And as you might expect, the objects of our gratitude vary from person to person. But the most common response is the naming of a loved one. Someone who brightens our day, makes us laugh and offers just what we need when we need it.

Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. I’m grateful for the gifts of donors who share their bounty to brighten another’s day. I’m grateful for the cancer patient who comes with a twinkle in his eye to share the latest joke and make me laugh. And I’m grateful for the wise and generous volunteers who know how to help when it is needed most.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Rediscovering the value of “Undivided Attention”

by Dianne May, president & CEO

Well, this weekend I became one of them. You know, the people who spend all of their time paying more attention to their electronic device than the people they are with. I’m not proud of it, in fact, now that I have a Monday morning perspective, I’m embarrassed by the number of times and ways I let myself be interrupted.

The number of competing voices that want or need our attention can be overwhelming. Work, social relationships, family time—the commitments are all important. In fact, they are so important that each is frequently deserving of our undivided attention.

Undivided attention. My third grade teacher used to require our “undivided attention.” Surely, if I could learn that skill at the age of 8, I can figure out how to do it now. I’m pretty sure that my friends and family will tell me I’m not nearly as good at multi-tasking as I think I am. They deserve more and I resolve to do better.

Regina’s Life Lesson #18: Be Who You Want to be and do What You Want to do

Dianne May, President and CEO

Between now and our Annual Tribute Dinner on October 13, our employees, volunteers and clients will share some thoughts and reflections on Regina Brett’s life lessons. Don’t forget, Regina will be our speaker at this year’s dinner.

Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana President and CEO, Dianne May shares her thoughts on why people should be who they want to be and do what they want to do.

“I’ve noticed recently that there seems to be a shift in how people identify themselves. Just a decade ago, people were more inclined to describe themselves in terms of their employment, ‘I’m a teacher… I work for the power company… I’m a police officer… I’m a waitress…’

Now, I hear people say, ‘I’m a photographer and an attorney… I’m an artist and a sales rep…’ I admit the old-school part of me keys first on the employment element, but I like knowing the other piece too. The passion identity. Most of us have one and some of us understand it more clearly than others.

Embrace your passion identity. Not sure you have one? Then set about finding it. Want to be a writer? Then write. Do you love music? Then immerse yourself in music. Do you love parenting? Then share your experience and skills with others.

I’m Dianne, I’m a writer and I run a not for profit organization.”

~ Dianne May, President and CEO

Regina’s Life Lesson #1: Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good

Our annual Tribute Dinner is just around the corner on October 13. This year’s speaker is Regina Brett, a columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland,Ohio; author of “God Never Blinks: 50 Lessons for Life’s Little Detours;” and a breast cancer survivor. Our theme for this year is “Navigating Life’s Detours” and was inspired by Regina’s book, which is a collection of essays and stories about the lessons life taught her along the detours of life.

In the weeks leading up to our big event, staff members, volunteers and clients will share some of their thoughts and reflections in regards to Regina’s life lessons and we will share them on the blog.

To kick off the blog series, president and CEO Dianne May shares her thoughts on why “life is not fair, but it’s still good.”

“Most of us have heard the first part of this axiom from a parent, or teacher or maybe even a boss. We associate the phrase, ‘life isn’t fair’ with not winning, or not getting our own way, maybe even with a tragic loss. The implication is that we need to learn how to deal with whatever has occurred.

But, when the second part of the axiom is added to the first, the essence of its meaning changes. We are encouraged to turn our attention to the good things in our life. Sometimes that is pretty hard advice to swallow, especially when something unfair or bad has happened. It is tempting to feel sorry for ourselves, to complain, even sometimes to whine.

Still it is encouraging to be reminded that we have the power to choose how we respond in tough situations. It is possible to believe that life is still good when bad things happen. And more times than not, believing that really does make it true.”

~Dianne May, president and CEO

The Importance of Communication

by Dianne May, president & CEO

There are many reasons to communicate with another person. Most fall into one of three categories. We need someone to help us accomplish something; maybe do a favor for us or help us get something we need. Sometimes we need another person to know something about us or understand us in a particular way. And sometimes our communication is about maintaining a connection or changing our relationship with another person. All of these goals are valid.

Human relationships can be complicated and facing a life-threatening disease like cancer can simultaneously help us focus: “I can’t think about anything other than getting well again” and overwhelm us: “there is so much to take in, I don’t know what to do next.” Whichever position you find yourself in, don’t stop communicating. Your family and friends need to know what you need from them and they want to understand how you are feeling. Your medical team wants to maintain clear channels of communication and sometimes you will need to find the words to tell someone that right now you need to focus on your own situation.

The client advocates at Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana can be good sounding boards, letting you test out the words and ways you want to communicate with someone important. That’s why we’re here—so no one has to walk the cancer journey alone.

Choose Hope

by Dianne May, president & CEO

Peter, one of our client advocates, shared this quote at a recent staff meeting: “In facing the unknown, hope is as reasonable as despair.”

It seems to me this is a great response to those people who put a lot of effort into interpreting cancer statistics and trying to figure out how it applies to them or their loved one. I can’t count the number of times I have heard oncologists say they wish their patients wouldn’t pay so much attention to mortality rates and survivorship statistics. They are quick to point out, each patient is different and likewise, cancers can vary a great deal. There is little to be gained by an individual patient trying to fit the statistics to his or her own situation.

Instead, imagine making hope your choice.

I’m not advocating wearing blinders during the cancer journey. It is important to see and understand what is going on around you and what is happening to your body. Patients need to be active participants in their healthcare and recovery. And that active participation can also mean deciding for yourself that you will have hope. Hope for recovery. Hope for better days. Hope for joy and laughter.

Hope for deeper and stronger relationships. Hope for tomorrow. Go ahead, choose hope.


Lessons in Life Truly Learned

by Dianne May, president and CEO

I came across this story recently…

In the 1950s and 1960s, Charles Laughton was one of the great and best known actors in Hollywood. The story goes that Laughton was attending a Christmas Party with a family in London. During the evening, the folks asked everyone attending to recite a favorite passage that best represented the spirit of Christmas.

When it was Laughton’s turn, he skillfully recited the 23rd Psalm. Everyone applauded his participation.

The last to participate was an adored, elderly aunt who was dozing off in the corner. Someone gently woke her, explained what was going on, and asked her to take part. She thought for a moment. And in a shaky voice, she began: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want . . .” When she finished, everyone was in tears.

At the end of the evening, when it was time to leave, a member of the family thanked Laughton for coming and remarked about the difference in the response by the family to the two presentations of the Psalm. When they asked him his opinion, Laughton responded, “I know the psalm. She knows the shepherd.”

It seems to me there are lessons in life that we only truly learn when we have lived them.



A story from the Native American tradition…

by Dianne May, president & CEO

An elder Cherokee chief took his grandchildren into the forest, sat them down and said to them, “A fight is going on inside me. This is a terrible fight and it is a fight between two wolves. One wolf is the wolf of fear, anger, arrogance and greed. The other wolf is the wolf of courage, kindness, humility and love.”

The children were very quiet and listened to their grandfather with both of their ears. He then said to them, “This same fight between the two wolves that is going on inside of me is going on inside of you, and inside every person.” They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked the chief, “Grandfather, which wolf will win the fight?” He replied quietly, “The one you feed.”

Elizabeth Edwards…She Won

by Dianne May, President & CEO

We’ve all heard by now that Elizabeth Edwards has died. She made it clear to friends and family that she didn’t want it said that “she lost her battle with cancer.” In her words, the battle is about living a good life and she won.

As overwhelming and all-consuming as a cancer diagnosis can be, most people come to the conclusion that they don’t want to be defined by their cancer experience. That’s true of many of the difficult challenges that life brings.

Elizabeth lost her first child in an auto accident when he was a teenager. I heard her in an interview once talking about grief and loss. She was firm in her belief that friends and family should never shy away from talking about someone who has died. Rather she believed that such conversations were not so much a reminder that the loved one had died but rather a reminder that the individual had lived and such memories brought joy.

By all accounts, Elizabeth was a strong and nurturing soul, a force to be reckoned with, and a woman who won her battle by living a good life.