Founded in 2006, Billy’s Buddies exists to help melanoma patients and their caregivers who are faced with uphill challenges and unmarked paths. Some common reasons patients request a buddy who has already been through treatment include:
How does someone cope emotionally and physically with a melanoma diagnosis?
What should I expect from surgery and treatment side effects?
Are people able to work while in treatment?
How have others achieved a sense of normalcy throughout their melanoma journey?
What will my energy level be like while in treatment?
How has a melanoma diagnosis affected children?
What kind of lifestyle changes have people made to feel comfortable in the sun?
I’m concerned about my family worrying about me and I don’t want to talk to them about my fears.
How have other patients navigated their way through a medical system?
Coping with melanoma can be overwhelming. With the guidance and support of Billy’s Buddies, there is no need to go it alone.
Throughout his short but vibrant life, Bill Walls was everybody’s buddy — with a love for the outdoors, an infectious smile, and brilliant eyes, Bill’s kindness was remarkable. Despite a fierce struggle with melanoma, Bill kept his spirits high, his faith deep, and his buddies close. His trust in and compassion for others created a network of buddies that was there for Bill in his darkest days. Bill’s family, friends, co-workers, and the strangers he had touched scheduled appointments, tracked down medical records, researched clinical trials, and provided care for his 18-month old twins.
Such incredible support left Bill and his wife Amy feeling empowered to face each day with courage and confidence. This young and loving couple with so much support and so many resources often wondered how others without buddies would find the strength to fight. On a wintry night just weeks before he died, a normally passive Bill clearly and passionately expressed his wish for others affected by melanoma to always have a buddy.
How Billy’s Buddies Works
IMPACT Melanoma trains volunteer buddies who are patients who have completed treatment and caregivers with loved ones who have completed treatment to provide peer support to patients newly diagnosed with melanoma or with recurrent disease. Most connections are by phone, while some use email as well. The program works with the patient to determine what feels most important in a connection. For some it can be the stage of a melanoma diagnosis, the age of the patient, similar treatment, young kids, etc. We do our best to match patients based on their requests provided that we have trained volunteer buddies who may have similar experiences. The amount of time a patient and buddy spend together via phone or email is up to the patient. Some connections are ongoing and relatively frequent, while others may be less depending on the patient’s needs.
*Please note that volunteer buddies are not clinicians and are not equipped to provide counseling support. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental health challenges, we recommend that you see a licensed mental health clinician in the community or in the medical center where you receive your medical care.
Volunteers Are Needed
Interested applicants must be willing to commit to serving as a Volunteer Buddy for at least two hours per month for one year.
If you are a melanoma survivor yourself and wish to participate as a Volunteer Buddy, we ask that you apply at least 6 months after completing your own treatment.
Volunteer Buddies will receive comprehensive training in order to provide a variety of levels of support to the patient with whom they are matched. A Buddies primary role is to provide active listening and support through telephone contact to a patient currently in treatment or a caregiver engaged in a caretaking role of a patient.