My name is Melissa Garner, and I am the Patient Advocate Manager with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).
A grant from Baylor University Medical Center funds my unique position. I work with patients and families, providing them with information about LLS and patient services, in addition to providing education and support groups. I am on-site at Baylor to assist with any issues a blood cancer patient, or family member, may have.
What amazes me the most about this job, and what I feel is the most rewarding aspect of it, is being able to listen to people’s stories. I am always amazed at the strength, resilience, faith, and hope that I see each week.
While confronting what is often the scariest event in their lives (a blood cancer diagnosis usually followed by chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant), people more often than not show just how strong they truly are.
Of course, this doesn’t mean there isn’t a great deal of pain and vulnerability that goes along with it. It just means that people find a place within themselves to connect to faith and hope too.
This is also very true for the caregivers as well. Just today I talked to a caregiver who said, “My husband (the patient) has always been the strong one, not me. I never was, until now. “
She is balancing a home life, young children, and being there for her husband at the hospital. She has been here with him since April, and this is his second go at a stem cell transplant. She shared with me how scared she felt, but at the same time, she knew she was surrounded by a strong faith and a support system of friends. All of this gave her strength.
I get the honor and privilege of listening to people share stories like this all the time. I feel their stories are such gifts to anyone who hears them. I am better for hearing them.
I also really want people to know that we at LLS are there for them throughout their blood cancer journey. I typically will end my visit with them saying something like this:
"Please know that LLS is in your corner and that we are here for you. Even if it’s a year from now or sometime down the road, please know that you can always call me and we will be there for you. Even if it’s something we can’t answer for you directly, please know we will help you find out who you can talk to. Just know we are here for you."
When I say this, I see their faces brighten and a real sense of relief comes over them. I am proud to be affiliated with LLS Patient Services because being there is so important to our patients and families.