F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva assists through cancer treatments
“It’s not what happens, but what happens next that counts,” Tom Thompson, an island resident and employee for over two decades, said. “I have had brain cancer for nearly three years, and here’s my story.”
“I moved to the island (Sanibel) over twenty years ago from Miami when my only family member passed away. After a few weeks, I was able to secure employment and a small apartment and began making friends. I was enjoying the island life, working many hours and, on days off, spending time fishing. Rarely did I leave to go into town, or ‘over the bridge’ as we islanders say, so I gave away my car to a deserving individual. Life was good,” he said.
“About five years ago, I started having balance issues. I started throwing up once a week. A friend took me to the doctor’s office where they thought it was an inner ear thing. My symptoms didn’t go away, and later the doctor ran a CT scan. They found a huge mass and rushed me to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. My life was forever changed, and I wanted to scream; I was devastated,” Thompson said.
“Treatments began immediately. I had to stop working and needed a lot of help getting to and from the doctor’s office. I had heard of the F.I.S.H. organization through some friends that did a food drive for their food pantry, and they suggested I call. I met with the case manager, Nitza, and she told me of the programs that might be able to help me through this nightmare – food pantry, meals, visitation, transportation and even financial assistance should my medical bills become unmanageable, which they did. I never knew this organization did so much for so many people,” he said.
“F.I.S.H. organized a team of volunteers to drive me to my appointments, and there were a lot of appointments. Some nice folks came to visit me at my house just to talk and see how I was doing, giving me the emotional support that I so desperately craved. I was on the meals program for a while, and F.I.S.H. even ordered me a nutritional drink to help keep me strong when I couldn’t or didn’t want to eat. They helped me pay for some of the medical expenses and helped with rent too. They were my guardian angels,” Thompson said.
He recovered and returned to work about three months after his first treatment. F.I.S.H. continues to help Thompson with transportation to appointments for follow up. Through generous donations and grant funding, it is able to help neighbors like him. Through its vast array of programs, Thompson and others like him receive assistance, food, support and a “hand up,” and his story is just one of many.
For more information, contact the F.I.S.H. Social Services Department at 239-472-4775.