Couple Opens One of the First Black-Owned Cancer Center in the United States
Al and Marjani Harris, a married couple from Philadelphia, have been working with and supporting cancer patients for the past few years. They saw the need for a place where people with cancer can heal emotionally as well. So, they decided to establish The Cancer Who Cares Center where they offer support programs completely for free!
"Cancer really hit us hard and we were looking for extra support and couldn’t find it, so we decided to create our own," Al told Because of Them We Can. "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."
The couple knows such hardships because of their own experience with cancer. In 2009, they had three relatives diagnosed with cancer. Al's older cousin had stage 4 breast cancer, his younger cousin had brain cancer, and Marjani's step-father, who battled with colon cancer, had passed away that year.
Ten years later in February 2019, they launched The Cancer Who Cares Center which primarily aims to create a network of resources and support for people affected by cancer by bringing them together.
"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."
In line with that, the nonprofit offers enrichment programs such as spa days, yoga nights, and ring-the-bell celebrations. They also provide support outside the center by accompanying patients in their doctor's appointments.
Care centers in the United States are often owned by hospitals or organizations. Very few are known to be Black-owned, but they are quite a few including Modern Cancer Care in Baltimore Maryland owned by bio-pharmaceutical expert and consultant Mark Hali, and his wife, oncologist Alicia Price.
Al and Marjani Harris hope to lead by example for their three young children with their own remarkable care center.
They comment, "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."
Follow The Cancer Who Cares Center on Instagram @cancer_who