We were honored to partner with North Shore LIJ – Health System this year, on our design of the purple scarf wrap. A conversation with Niki Dounis, whose sister – Eleni – passed away from cancer, sparked the idea to create these beautiful wraps in 2014.
We asked Niki to share a bit more of her sister’s incredible story, as well as give us some background information on Eleni’s Pop of Color:
Eleni’s Pop of Color (“EPOC”) is a non-profit outreach program providing scarves to patients undergoing active chemotherapy treatment. EPOC was born out of a desire to provide those enduring the difficulties of chemotherapy with a little bit of comfort in very uncomfortable times. The program was first conceived by Eleni Vavas, a physician, wife, mother, daughter, sister and most importantly a self-proclaimed “cancer fighter”.
At the age of 35, Eleni was diagnosed with stage 3 stomach cancer. As she persevered through chemo treatments, she struggled with the realities of the side effects that chemotherapy caused. Eleni started wearing scarves, mostly around her neck, to cover her mediport, draw peoples’ attention away from her short hair, provide a bit of extra warmth as she struggled to maintain her weight and most importantly, as she put it, “to add a little pop of color.” She always said that she was comforted by how the scarves made her feel.
In early 2014, while undergoing treatments, Eleni began working with hospital administrators at North Shore University Hospital to create EPOC. It was Eleni’s desire that others going through chemotherapy would be able to enjoy that same bit of comfort she felt when she wrapped herself in those scarves.
An EPOC scarf is much more than just an accessory. It serves as a badge of honor and as a reminder of the unbreakable human spirit and unwavering strength of the soul within. Almost equally as important is the hope that each EPOC scarf will inspire discussions and promote awareness.
As her sister, it has been my honor and privilege to pick up where Eleni left off and make her vision become a reality. EPOC will begin distributing scarves to cancer fighters at North Shore LIJ- Monter Cancer Center. EPOC’s first distribution of scarves is made possible by the Ming Wang Hope Campaign. We thank Ming Wang for their support in providing chemotherapy patients with a beautiful wrap along with a powerful message of hope and strength.
When my sister first received her diagnosis, we were all in shock and overcome with fear. We questioned everything. How did this happen? Why did this happen? Will the treatments work? And most importantly, will she be cured?
I have come to realize that some of the most beautiful and meaningful moments of my life happened during what was the hardest time of my life. You love like you’ve never loved before, you appreciate little things more than you ever have, and you learn that you are stronger than you ever thought possible.
A blessing in life is actually not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Each day is filled with endless possibilities, and the statistical outcomes do not matter. Each cancer fighter has his or her own unique story to unfold. So NEVER give up!
And the fight continues. Niki believes it’s important to share your story with as many people as possible in order to save lives and spread awareness.
For example, when Eleni’s persistent, mild heartburn wouldn’t go away, she asked her fellow co-worker and friend, a GI doctor, to scope her. That is how they discovered the tumor that had developed in her stomach. Mild heart burn is not a huge warning sign. Many people suffer from something so simple. By hearing my sister’s story, maybe the next time someone has persistent heart burn they will get scoped sooner and get diagnosed earlier, increasing chances of survival.
Read more about Eleni’s story here: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1202329