A Philadelphia couple hit hard by cancer was seeking extra support during their time of need but couldn’t find it. So they created a space of their own.
Al and Marjani Harris now offer support to cancer patients and their families via their new Cancer Who Cares Center, one of just a few Black-owned cancer support center’s in the U.S. The first, Modern Cancer Care, LLC in Baltimore, Maryland, was launched by bio-pharmaceutical expert and consultant Mark Hali, and his wife, oncologist Alicia Price.
The Harris’ center opened its doors in February, and hopes to create a haven for those affected by cancer while also providing them a reliable network of resources and support.
“We noticed that there was no center where people with cancer could go to decompress, [and] let their emotions out, but also be treated with a sense of normalcy,” Al told Because of Them We Can in a recent interview. “All of our programs are free because we want to support the person, and their family without them having to worry about paying for anything.”
Unlike what is typical for treatment centers, the Philadelphia nonprofit provides emotional, mental and financial support to members during their cancer journey, before and after treatment. There are also plenty of enrichment activities, including yoga nights, pamper parties and “ring the bell” celebrations for those who’ve completed treatment.
The center doesn’t mind going above and beyond for its members either, as staffers often accompany them to their appointments. For Al, it’s all about creating an environment where patients can relax, relate and release.
Earlier this month, the center hosted a free webinar event discussing how one may have to “shift” things in life while battling cancer.
“We don’t just sit around and feel bad all day,” he told the outlet. “Actually, 90 percent of the time that we are at a chemo appointment or at the center, we barely even talk about cancer. We believe in living your life and not letting cancer stop anything that you want to do.”
The Harrises know the struggle of dealing with cancer firsthand. In 2009, Al’s older cousin was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer while his younger cousin was battling brain cancer. Marjani’s stepfather would lose his battle with colon cancer that same year.
Al said he’s proud to be the first Black-owned cancer support center in the nation, noting that most centers are owned by hospitals or big name organizations.
“It’s a dream to be the first of any kind to do anything but to be the first from our culture is amazing just because of the people that came before us and the things that they created,” he added.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Modern Cancer Care, LLC in Baltimore, Maryland is the first Black-owned and female-owned cancer care facility in the nation.