Diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2010, Suzanne received induction chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant in 2011 followed by ongoing medical therapy as part of a clinical trial. Like many patients, she was overwhelmed by her diagnosis and the flood of information that accompanied it. “A volunteer came to sit with me in the hospital and brought me books,” she recalls. “I was too nervous to read them. After my diagnosis, I had ‘flipped out’ and going online was definitely not helping either. I was too sick, in too much pain.” Today, she channels the memory of those dark moments into a passion for helping others by serving as a Support Volunteer with Cancer Hope Network, talking one-on-one with multiple myeloma patients.
“I became a volunteer because it would have really helped me [to talk with someone] when I was diagnosed. I want to give the patients I am matched with encouragement to get through ‘the now’ until they have grown accustomed to their new reality.”
She is well-informed without being a know-it-all, practical and realistic without being discouraging. In short, Suzanne balances the reality of her cancer diagnosis with the hopeful energy of a seasoned survivor. It is her care for others – exemplified in her devotion as a caregiver to her late father during his fight with lung cancer and the over 40 support calls made to myeloma patients – that makes her the epitome of a hero.
Suzanne has served as a Support Volunteer since 2013, speaking one-on-one by phone to fellow multiple myeloma patients. A fierce champion of patients’ rights, she encourages fellow patients and their caregivers to advocate for themselves, to expect the best care possible, and discuss treatment options with their medical team.
A Michigan native, she was brought up to be independent and self-sufficient and learning to accept help from others required a tremendous psychological shift. Today, she helps the patients she’s matched with to understand that “sometimes the best gift you can give someone is to accept help. People love you and they don’t know what to do. “I tell my matches to write a list of all the things they need help with – from dropping off books at the library to picking up prescriptions” she says “then, when someone asks what they can do, they know what will be most helpful.”
To speak with a Support Volunteer like Suzanne, please call our Patient Services Team at 877-HOPENET.