Cancer is a tough disease to battle, often ripping apart the strength of a family. But Al and Marjani Harris took on the project to create a space where people could get the best kind of support to deal with the disease.
Cancer is a tough disease to battle, often ripping apart the strength of a family. One thing that helps with the healing process is having a good support system. That's an attitude that Al and Marjani Harris took on to create the only Black-owned cancer support center in the United States.
For the past seven years, the couple and their families have been supporting people diagnosed with cancer and their families. The Harrises also realized that there was no established space for them to heal, so they opened The Cancer Who Cares Center.
Speaking to Because Of Them We Can, the couple explained why they felt the need to start an establishment such as this one. "Cancer really hit us hard and we were looking for extra support and couldn’t find it, so we decided to create our own," said Al.
"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. 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," he added.
The Harrises understood the need for this support because of their own experience with cancer. In 2009, the couple had three relatives who were diagnosed with cancer. Marjani's step-father battled colon cancer and passed away that year, and Al's young cousin was diagnosed with brain cancer and his older cousin was given the crushing news of being diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.
The Cancer Who Cares Center was a loving project that was ten years in the making. Primarily, the center's goal is to create a network of resources and support for any person who was affected by cancer.
"We don't just sit around and feel bad all day," Al said. "Actually, 90% 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."
Which is why the nonprofit also includes enrichment programs such as spa days, yoga nights and ring the bell celebrations. The Cancer Who Cares Center also gives their fold additional support by attending doctor's appointments with the patients.
Al and Marjani Harris hope to lead by examples for their own children with The Cancer Who Cares Center. "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," Al said. "We feel proud that we can show our children and the rest of our culture that you can always be the first at something even when you feel like you are in last place."