Just a week or so ago, Oak Park lost a fierce advocate for anyone and everyone battling cancer. Actually, Yvonne Cisco wasn’t just an advocate for cancer care, she was a loving soul who dedicated her existence to making a difference, any and every way she could.
It’s quite possible that she might’ve only been known in certain circles locally — our Oak Park neighborhood, or within the West Suburban Hospital system — however, she fought to make inroads in not just humanizing the experience of cancer care, but in dedicating her own work to supporting those undergoing treatment and reaching out in communities that are underserved in terms of cancer education and awareness resources.
Yvonne was an educator, a longtime volunteer and advocate of the American Cancer Society, and the head of Cisco and Cisco Productions (CCP) — a local grassroots nonprofit created to advocate for health education and awareness focused specifically on cancer care.
She was no stranger to cancer care, as she was a survivor of several bouts of cancer over the last 30 years. She quietly and consistently collaborated with hospitals from the South Side to the north suburbs to Oak Park, spearheading efforts to care for patients undergoing treatment and providing education outreach opportunities for families.
Yvonne had endless energy with which to reach out and make a difference, whether it was making homemade dinners at her house to distribute to her church community, preparing a Thanksgiving dinner at a West Side senior community, or organizing the CCP main fundraiser every October, during which funds were raised for these events and survivors, and their families were highlighted and celebrated.
She’s the person who, even undergoing a recent health challenge and being helped into her transport on the way to a doctor’s appointment, turned to me and said, “Oh, honey, I have the graduation gift for Dylan; I need to give that to you.” She’s not able to use all her limbs, is enroute to an urgent doctor visit, and, of course, in typical Yvonne Cisco fashion, is focused on giving back to and remembering others.
There just are not enough souls like her. She is that rare and lovely combination of strength, compassion and dedication that is not often found but is much more likely in souls like hers that are driven to make a difference through activism or nonprofit work in their own communities.
Let’s remember to celebrate these special souls while they’re still with us physically, so that they know how much they meant to so many of us. She knew, thankfully. Your difference was made, your love and compassion were tangible, and you have inspired so many of us, Mrs. Cisco.
Zerrin Bulut is an Oak Park resident.