With the help of local businesses, Salt Lake Community College’s Interior Design Club donated their time, talents and furniture on Saturday, June 9, 2012 to a bedroom and living room makeover for a young man who is recovering from cancer.
Tim Ellis was diagnosed in January with stage four testicular cancer and since his diagnosis, has been in and out of the hospital. The Interior Design Club’s President Beth Low is a neighbor and friend of Ellis’ family and has been advocating awareness and help for the family. In the spirit of television programs such as “Extreme Makeover” and “The Big Reveal,” the club created a healing space where Ellis could rest and recover.
“This has been incredibly humbling,” says Lauren Weaver, officer in the Interior Design Club. “Everyone that’s donated and everyone that’s pitched in want to help out with this family. It’s been a huge surprise for me. As we’ve gone out around asking for donations, I was expecting tons of ‘nos’, tons of people turning us away, and it’s just been really tons of generosity.”
The club has received donations from local businesses such as Design Furniture, Expressive Bungalow, Futons and Beds and Adib’s Rug Gallery.
Fundraising Officer Mario Varelo was pleased with the response from businesses and the community. He said that even though businesses are struggling in this economy they were still willing to donate.
The Interior Design Club has asked for donations, picked out fabric and paint samples and talked with vendors. All of which has prepared them for designing in the real world. On Saturday, they began the process of painting, gathering the furniture donations and decorating the space for Ellis. They hope to do a “big reveal” of his new space soon.
“Illuminating something that really needs attention”
“It’s not the couch, it’s not the pictures, it’s not the paint specifically,” says Tracy Grist, Ellis’ mother. “It’s that they’re taking time out of their lives to show love to Tim and my family and I can feel that. The makeover is what they’re doing but really what they’re doing is illuminating something that really needs attention.”
More than anything, Grist hopes that this makeover project will bring awareness to early detection of testicular cancer. Grist shared how women are accustomed to doing self-breast exams but that most men are unaware that they should be performing monthly testicular cancer self-checks as well. She hopes to make it a point of discussion and a more comfortable subject to talk about.
“When Tim is better I’ll be going to the school districts to make sure it’s part of some kind of health class, maturation program, anything, just so that these young men are informed enough to protect their good health,” says Grist. “It won’t prevent it, but if you have it and it’s detected early, it’s curable.”
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed among men ages 15 to 35. When it is found and detected early, the remediation procedure and recovery process is relatively easy. Grist says her son had cancer for two years before he came to her to tell her about the pain he had been having. By then the cancer had spread to other parts of his body, which made the treatment more difficult and the outlook grim.
Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France winner and founder of LIVESTRONG Foundation, experienced testicular cancer and brought it to the public’s attention. He helps raise awareness and gives hope to cancer patients and their families through his foundation.
Young cancer survivor Matt Ferstler founded the awareness group called Single Jingles, a Testicular Cancer Foundation. Ferstler was like many young men who had not heard of testicular cancer or that there was a way to self-check. He chose the name Single Jingles as a way to promote humor in educating young men about it; the message in the name is a clear motivator for checking and detecting early.
“Honestly, one of the first thoughts I had while sitting in a tiny ER room was ‘My boy has testicular cancer, what color ribbon is that,’” wrote Grist about her son’s story. “Then I thought, ‘No, not a ribbon, a piece of rope or twine should be a guy’s awareness symbol.’ Something masculine and strong!”
“Together Strong” has been her family’s mantra for her son’s recovery. According to Grist, Ellis’ doctors have pronounced him cancer free as of June 5. She hopes that she can spread awareness about how to check for testicular cancer early so that other families don’t have to go through what her family went through.
“[Testicular Cancer] can be detected and cured and be a speed bump not a mountain,” says Grist. “Because we had a mountain, I’d rather it be a speed bump for others.”