|CANCER & TREATMENTS FOR CANCER CENTER PATIENTS PREVENTION & RISK ASSESSMENT CLINICAL TRIALS & RESEARCH LIVING WITH CANCER|
Sherron Tornow says she's a lucky woman. After her physician diagnosed the lump
on her neck as lymphoma, family, friends and neighbors rallied to offer support. She also shared her cancer experience with an
unexpected new friend who was key to her support system: a fellow patient she met while preparing for a stem cell transplant.
"Rani and I met when we were having our stem cells harvested," Tornow says of patient Achamma (Rani) Geevarghese. "She was in the bed right next to me. She had been there for several days trying to harvest enough stem cells of her own. She finally got them."
Tornow got through the process of harvesting her stem cells within a few days.
"When I got ready to leave, Rani said to me, 'I hope we're in the hospital at the same time for transplants.' I agreed it would be nice to know somebody going through the same thing."
The 68-year-old Tornow, a mother of two and grandmother of six from Adrian, was surprised when, lo and behold, Geevarghese arrived at the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) service the day after she was admitted. She went to say hello immediately and get reacquainted.
Barb Rose, L.M.S.W., a clinical social worker on the floor, says it's not uncommon for patients to meet during the harvest process and again for the transplant. And, though every patient must have an assigned healthy caregiver, it can be difficult for caregivers to understand issues facing patients during their three- to four- week inpatient stay. Patients can face depression, isolation and risk of infection from having no immune system.
"We never know how the body will react to transplant," Rose says. "Patients tell us nobody understands that fatigue or feeling as if you have to live in a bubble to prevent infection."
Unexpected illness, financial worries and emotional ups and downs can be difficult for any patient dealing with cancer, says Donna L. Murphy, L.M.S.W., C.C.L.S., co-director of the PsychOncology Program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. It is important for patients to ask and understand what support and services are available to reduce the burdens that cancer can bring.
"People are altruistic," Rose says. "They want to share their experience with someone else if it means helping them. Patients feel itís meaningful if they can inspire someone else."
"We compared notes," Tornow says of the three-day period she received high doses of chemotherapy before her transplant. The friends checked in with each other to see how sick the other felt, what symptoms were being experienced and whether they felt like eating.
After both women had their transplants, Tornow suggested Geevarghese accompany her on a walk around the floor, something bone marrow transplant patients are encouraged to do daily. The two began walking the halls together regularly.
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