BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
The support of family and friends is always crucial to people’s success, knowing that you have somebody in your corner encouraging you can help you through the valleys. Experience tells us that life will be hard at points, there may come seasons that the valley seems darker and longer than the time spent on the mountain top. Thousands of people each year walk through the valley of cancer, a trek that is not easy. During this time, people don’t always need advice but, more often than not, really just need a hand to hold and an ear to listen. Carol Sickles, a beloved volunteer at Clarice’s Room of Hope, is helping people know they aren’t alone as they walk through the valleys.
Carol grew up and has lived in Polk County nearly all of her life, she is ‘homegrown’ as she says. After living in California for ten years, Carol returned to Mena to be near her parents. Both of her parents were working at the Dallas Valley Fire department, her dad the dispatcher, and her mom the secretary. “It was a lot of fun being back with them. The fire station was their joy and I’m glad I got to spend that time with them,” says Carol with a smile. After living in Mena for a year, Carol met her husband, Clay. The two had grown up riding the school bus together and had known each other all their lives. One of their mutual friends connected them, Carol wasn’t interested in anyone, “I didn’t want to date anybody from Mena, but we got together and got married. We have been married since 1985, it’s been great,” responds Carol.
Showing empathy during people’s suffering can be difficult if you have never walked the path they are walking. For Carol, she has walked the path of suffering through cancer several times. If anyone knows what it is like to have more questions than answers, fears about the possibilities, it is Carol. “I have walked a path that not many people have, but it has given me a ministry that I never could have had. I had melanoma in 1989, kidney cancer in 2001, and then breast cancer in 2012. During the time of my breast cancer it had metastasized to my lung.” Right before her kidney cancer, Carol came to know the Lord, a choice that would forever change her life and the way that she would view her cancer. “My cancer, as hard as it was, gave me a ministry with people. I am so blessed and honored to be able to walk with people through their cancer.”
Carol volunteers a lot of her time at Clarice’s Room of Hope helping founder, Teena Brown, with the organization that supports cancer patients and their families. The two women have been working together for five years and during that time Clarice’s has been able to offer more support and encouragement for those with cancer. “I can remember when Teena basically just had a booth that she was operating out of and it has grown so much. As a result, our ministry has grown,” says Carol with a smile. At any given time, she can be seen in town wearing her Clarice’s shirt with a big smile. “Anywhere I go, I am being an ambassador on behalf of Teena and her mom. I want to always make sure I represent them well.” Carol gives her time and energy towards Clarice’s in so many ways … she will help women try on wigs or scarves, she attends the monthly meetings, and does much, much more.
While Carol spends a lot of time helping Teena with things at the office, most of her time is spent out in the community with those who have cancer. On Tuesdays, Carol goes out to Healthy Connections, Inc. to visit with patients who are there seeing Dr. Divers. “I go to sit with them, visit, and pray if they ask me to. It is a high honor for me to know the Lord has given me a ministry like this. Each week I sit with people … I feel like this is why I have experienced cancer, all so that I can walk with people in theirs,” Carol explains humbly. What drives Carol is understanding how important it was to have someone there to help and support her during her battles with cancer. During her cancer and treatments, she was thankful to know that God was still in control and this truth gave her hope. “There is such a need here. So many people have cancer and are fighting and I want them to fight knowing somebody is by their side and there is hope. My life is proof that there is hope. I want to bring hope to situations that seem hopeless.”
The hurts of life can harden us, make people callous. An encouraging word from a friend and being surrounded by supporters gives hope that there is still reason to fight. Carol reminds each of us the power of words spoken and time spent with those hurting. “I just want people to know that they can do it, they can beat cancer. There is hope and as long as there is hope, there is a reason to fight.”