Volunteer Spotlight: Angela Elpers Barnes Bids Farewell
“Life is worth living. Enjoy every day as if there is no tomorrow, but keep looking forward.” Those are the words of Sandra Elpers, Angela Elpers’ mother. Sandra has battled cancer off and on for nearly 30 years, and Angela has been living her mother’s sentiments about life since childhood. That upbeat approach to life has been put to the test, as loved ones in her life have faced cancer on numerous occasions.
“My many experiences with cancer have taught me to show compassion to others, and that is what ultimately motivated me to support Albie Aware,” Angela says.
Unfortunately, Angela, an attorney and public affairs consultant, recently left our board of directors, but it’s for a great cause. She and her husband, Ken Barnes, have relocated to San Diego where he is the new president and CEO at Options for All, a nonprofit serving intellectually and developmentally disabled adults.
Grandmother inspires volunteering
Angela’s first encounter with cancer occurred at age 14 when her maternal grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia. “We were very close and did everything together,” Angela remembers. “My grandmother was frequently hospitalized in Evansville, Indiana, so I decided to volunteer there and often worked in the cancer unit. When my grandmother’s treatment was no longer effective, she experimented with a new intensive therapy at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. That experience taught me that it’s vital to educate yourself about available treatments. I later learned that there are many people who don’t have the knowledge or resources to access life-extending treatments.”
Cancer strikes her mother
About five years later, Angela’s mother, Sandra, was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 46. After medical mishaps delayed the diagnosis for a year, Angela encouraged her mother to seek expert care at a comprehensive cancer center. The cancer had already spread to Sandra’s lymph nodes, so she underwent a double mastectomy at the Mayo Clinic, followed by a rough
regimen of chemotherapy, and then five years of adjuvant therapy. After being cancer-free for nearly 20 years, the disease recurred about 10 years ago. Thankfully, she has kept the cancer under control by taking an aromatase inhibitor.
Angela tells Albie Aware clients, “Never give up hope. Look at my mom, she’s now 75 and has been dealing with cancer for many years. She was initially misdiagnosed, leading to multiple surgeries and chemotherapy. She suffers from neuropathy and lymphedema as a result of her treatments, but still maintains her optimism about life. Her faith and unwavering hope helped her to keep fighting, as well as supporting others. As my mom would say, if she can do so can you!”
Widowed by cancer
Cancer struck Angela’s world again when her first husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011. Angela quickly became his fiercest advocate, tackling the challenges of emergency rooms, hospitals, intensive care units, diagnostic testing, doctor visits, and the like. She researched, organized and found a way to help bridge the gap between patient and provider. After David succumbed to the disease in 2013, Angela knew that she could help make an impact in the lives of cancer patients.
Around that same time, several of Angela’s close girlfriends, including her best friend, were diagnosed with breast cancer. Angela observed how the disease took its toll on them, both emotionally and physically – but all in different ways. These experiences were transformative for Angela, helping her to comprehend the breadth and depth of support cancer patients need while battling the disease.
Finding Albie Aware
When Angela moved to Sacramento in 2016, she was invited to a few Albie Aware events by Ann Grottveit, the former Board Chair. “I was impressed at how easily those in need can get help,” Angela says. “If you call Albie Aware, you can speak to someone almost immediately.
The team will listen, provide encouragement, and help navigate the scary world of cancer. Albie Aware will help arrange critical testing and even provide monetary assistance when needed. There are a host of other services, and if we can’t help you, we’ll do our best to put you in touch with someone who can.”
Financial resources and support make a huge difference
During Angela’s many visits to hospitals, doctor’s offices, and treatment waiting rooms, she encountered many persons who lacked insurance, financial resources, or family support. Some just didn’t know where to turn. “It’s overwhelming if you don’t have an advocate in your life. I wanted to help provide a resource to people and ease their burdens — to get them on the right track. Albie Aware provides this invaluable service to the Sacramento community.”
Angela’s Parting Words
“My small contribution was to help Albie Aware make someone else’s life better. My love for the organization has not gone away and I will be available to aid in smaller ways from afar moving forward,” Angela says. “I encourage those in the community to spread the word about Albie Aware, so we can touch the lives of more people — and please, help out when you can. A little bit of compassion goes a long way for someone battling cancer.”