LIVERMORE (KPIX 5) They call themselves “the bag ladies” or “the two little old ladies from Livermore.” But the nicknames don’t begin to describe the powerful way this week’s Jefferson Award winners touch the lives of cancer patients.

It’s perfect partnership for Susi Folks and Vicki Goss.

“I wanted it to be personal,” Folks explained. ‘I wanted it to be a gift.”

She and best friend Folks have packed ChemoCare Bags from their Livermore homes since 2009 after, Goss had chemotherapy for breast cancer.  She is now cancer free, but knows how much patients need hope.

“When you go through chemotherapy, it’s really easy to get sucked down into maelstorm of depression,” she remembered. “Your hope kind of gets dissipated. You lose your hair, your eyebrows, everything. Your femininity is stripped away.”

Folks sews each bag. Goss collects the donations to fill them. Each item fills a purpose: a blanket keeps patients warm; journal and puzzles keep them busy; a teddy bear is fun and comforting.

They take the bags to the Hers Breast Cancer Foundation and ValleyCare Medical Center, where Nurse Navigator Sherry LaSalle helps distribute them to cancer patients.

“Their eyes light up,” said LaSalle of the patients. “They go through their bag. It’s like Christmas and they really enjoy them.”

Folks and Goss say in five years, they’ve given out more than 300 bags in 18 states and two countries.

Marci Whittier receved one when she went through chemo earlier this year.

“I was lonely and feeling, I guess, sorry for myself,” she reported. “I just felt the love in it.”

Then Whittier gave her bag to another chemo patient: “She broke down and cried and so did I. I just wanted someone else to feel the love in the chemo bag.”

“Coming alongside other women who are going through it, it’s been very eye opening and very humbling,” said Folks.

“As long as people have cancer and as long as we’re able, we’ll keep doing it,” added Goss.

So for giving chemotherapy patients comfort and hope, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Vicki Goss and Susi Folks.

Vicki Goss and Susi Folks take requests for their ChemoCare Bags through their Facebook page here.

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