Meet The Team
Cancer Family Journeys
Twenty-one years as a Marine, having lived through the 9/11 attacks while stationed in New York and being deployed during Operation Enduring Freedom, Rebecca Mahanes is no stranger to finding strength from within to make it through difficult times. Little did she know though that five years after retiring from the Marines, and just settling into civilian life, that she would be battling breast cancer. There is no doubt that the Marines prepared Rebecca to endure the physical and mental fight ahead, instilling in her that “pain is weakness leaving the body”, but it has been her family, friends and faith that are carrying her through the emotional journey, for which ASCF is honored to be a part of. During her active duty with the Marines, Rebecca was stationed in seven different places, but having to leave her Virginia Beach home and her sons to travel to Houston for treatment was the hardest move she has ever had to make. To comfort her youngest son who was very concerned if she would die, she left him with, “Not today. Someday, but not today”. Rebecca has now undergone three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation. This week she started a new trial that she is hopeful will get her home in time for Christmas. Her eight-month cancer journey has certainly had its fair share of struggles, but she has remained poised and ready for the path ahead, never losing sight of living in the moment. As she says, “Bring it on”! The ASCF community salutes you, Rebecca, for your service and for your courage to take on your cancer journey with such strength and grace. God bless all those who have served our country and have had a cancer journey of their own at ASCF and beyond.
"A Shelter for Cancer Families has truly been our home away from home.” Lauren McAndrews gushes as she continues to be in awe of the mission of the organization who has provided her and her family with shelter, stability, and support since August 15th. The McAndrews family had not planned to relocate to Houston from their home in Liberty Hill, Texas, but like everyone whom A Shelter for Cancer Families (ASCF) has served over its more than 21 years, a cancer diagnosis changed all of that. Lauren McAndrews, her husband Robert, and their eighteen-year-old daughter Emma became part of ASCF’s family shortly after Lauren was diagnosed with undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma, a rare and difficult to treat cancer. While there is never a good time for a rare cancer diagnosis, for the McAndrews family, the timing felt particularly difficult. “I was diagnosed with sarcoma in April after heart surgery. Then my father died unexpectedly in May. That same week, Emma graduated from high school. Amid preparing for my dad’s funeral and Emma’s move to college in Oklahoma, we had to find a way for me to get treatment which is hours away from us.” With the highest concentration of sarcoma specialists in the world being in Houston (at MD Anderson Cancer Center), the McAndrews family knew traveling to the Texas Medical Center for cancer care, while not easy, would provide Lauren with the best possible clinical outcome. The challenge was that the cancer care Lauren needed was hours away from the family’s home and their support network – a challenge shared by all the families who take up residence on ASCF’s campus. Located just 4 miles from MD Anderson, ASCF offers convenient accessibility to area hospitals while providing a quiet, safe community setting with walkable access to local parks, shopping, restaurants, and other services. In addition, each of ASCF’s 15 private residences has its own kitchen, gathering space and washer and dryer. “You really feel like you are at home,” shared McAndrews. “I am just in awe. Not only has ASCF provided our family with a place to stay, but it is one that doesn’t remind me every moment that I am sick,” says Lauren. “In ASCF, we found a second home with a real community that loves and supports us but in ways that honor our family’s own choices.” Having worked for nonprofits for many years, McAndrews has committed her life to improving the lives of those around her. Perhaps for this reason, it seems a bit ironic that Lauren and her family find themselves the beneficiaries of the same kind of selfless compassion and kindness that Lauren has poured out for others throughout her career. Lauren and her family will forever be a part of our ASCF family whether she is at home, here on campus or visiting daughter Emma who is now thriving at the University of Oklahoma.