Friday, September 21, 2012

The furniture isn't free, but the support and advice are

The Discovery Shop, which turns 9 Saturday, has become a cancer information and support center.

"I'm a 10-year survivor!'" some will call out as they enter the shop.

Others are more hesitant.

"One of us would just walk over and say, 'Can we help you?' And all of a sudden, they're crying," said volunteer Julie Travis. "We just hug them and let them cry."

Travis counts herself among those who found more than furniture at the American Cancer Society's Discovery Shop at Smith Mountain Lake on Scruggs Road, which will celebrate its ninth anniversary Saturday.

A transplant from Binghamton, N.Y., Travis entered the shop in 2008 for "a hug and information." Her sister, Susan Jenkins, had received a diagnosis of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, Jenkins' second brush with cancer, and ultimately, her last. In 2010, Jenkins, 66, died from the disease.

"We were very close; she was like my best friend and my shadow," said Travis.

At the shop, Travis found a network of people committed to lending a helping hand.

"They were wonderful," she said. "A great support. I don't think I could have gone through it without them."

Most of the shop's 60 volunteers have been affected in some way by the disease.

Before becoming a manager at the Discovery Shop, Lori Hurt was a pediatric nurse who dealt with cancer-striken children. She received a diagnosis of uterine cancer after having suffered persistent fatigue, a poison ivy infection that persisted for nine months and a cut that failed to heal.

A non-smoker, Hurt said she now avoids processed foods, and is less likely to delay seeking medical advice.

Advice is one commodity in apt supply at the shop.

In addition to selling "gently used" furniture, books, jewelry and housewares, the store is a local repository of cancer information.

In the spring, one corner of the store was designated as a reading area. An armchair is surrounded by brochures and books with titles such as "Living Beyond Breast Cancer," and a nearby basket is filled with tie-dyed knit caps, free to chemotherapy patients.

"Sometimes they'll call us on the floor and say, 'I've been diagnosed or I have a friend who's been diagnosed, can we come in for some information or have somebody to talk to us?'" said Travis.

"And we'll say, 'sure, we'd love to see you.'"

The shop aims to place an equal focus on all strains of cancer, and as part of its research goal, is helping to recruit volunteers for a longitudinal study administered by the American Cancer Society to identify a link between genetics and cancer, said Hurt.

In addition to its Road to Recovery Program, in which volunteers provide transporation services to cancer patients, the store hosts a breast cancer support group once a month.

"If you want to share your experience, wonderful, and if you don't want to share, that's wonderful," said Travis, who, after the loss of her sister, was stricken with breast cancer in 2011.

The store, the only one in the nation manned completely by volunteers, is staffed by a cadre of 60.

"None of us gets paid - only in candy bars," said Travis.

"And hugs," interjected Hurt.

721-0050, http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-Discovery-Shop-at-Smith-Mountain-Lake/113339045346756