AKRON, Ohio — Meet Angela Whorton — or as everyone knows her, Angel.
She’s the kind of person you fall in love with immediately after meeting her. She’s also a mom, a wife, a special needs teacher at Akron’s I Promise school — and a cancer survivor.
“I’m just like, I have two children, I have to be OK,” Angel said.
Angel was diagnosed with the most aggressive form of breast cancer in October 2019 — and rang the bell to signify ending treatment in March 2020 after intense chemotherapy.
She said along with God, her family and her medical team, she credits her survival to Stewart’s Caring Place, a nonprofit cancer wellness center in Fairlawn in Summit County.
“When Stewart’s Caring Place was sent to me from God, they showed me how to survive,” Angel said. “Not only survive, but a lot of people don’t understand how you live after cancer. I’m still picking up the pieces of who I was before treatment. But they’re still with me through the ups and downs, the goods and bads and making sure I’m gonna be OK. Not just OK, but thrive.”
Stewart’s was started in 1994 by Dr. Stewart Sirloff. His cancer diagnosis and passing took a huge toll not just on him - but his wife and two young daughters. We actually caught his wife Mimi volunteering at the center on the day our crews were there.
Stewart’s isn’t just for the person with the cancer diagnosis. It’s for their loved ones, family, friends and anyone who is impacted in any way.
In nearly 20 years of operation, Stewart’s has helped countless people.
In 2022 alone, they welcomed 2,500 individuals and families — 1,300 of them coming for the very first time.
Most importantly — it is all completely free.
“It does sound too good to be true, but we never bill insurance, we never ask anybody for money when they come through our doors,” said Sarah Vojtek, Vice President at Stewart’s and a cancer survivor herself.
“To be able to walk through our doors, we get it, we understand what you’re going through and we’re going to help as much as we can,” she said.
They started with five programs; now up to 150 are offered, including massages, grief counseling, support groups for patients and families, a heavy emphasis on music and art therapy, a kids room, a library, and reiki and yoga classes.
Plus, there's a fully-stocked food pantry to grab groceries whenever they're needed.
“It’s not always the financial ability to pay for groceries, but also often the emotional burden of thinking of one more thing, having to feed your family, feed yourself, having the energy to go to the grocery store,” Vojtek said.
There's even a beautiful wig room to pick and choose from — again, all completely free.
For so many cancer patients, the hair loss can be so traumatic.
Whorton remembers how difficult it was for her kids to see her without hair.
“You look sick, you look like you have cancer, so that was a hard moment for them,” she said.
Whorton used Stewart’s wig room to feel more like herself and have fun with it, trying blue wigs one day, pink the next.
As a surprise, LeBron James’s mom Gloria actually gifted her with a custom-made wig.
“She really thought about who I was and what I needed to feel like me and build my power and strength up,” Whorton said.
Because power, strength and support can be the most crucial pieces to the cancer puzzle.
Stewart’s is run completely from the generosity of the community, through grants and donations.
If you need help or you want to help, please click here.