‘Lean On Me:’ Cancer Survivor Turned Volunteer Offers Comfort, Encouragement

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January 7, 2020

‘Lean On Me:’ Cancer Survivor Turned Volunteer Offers Comfort, Encouragement

Marianne Crawford remembers the precise moment she learned she had breast cancer: Friday, December 15, 2017, at 6 p.m.

The retired office manager had just returned from a wedding anniversary cruise to Norway that included a vow renewal ceremony. After the devastating call, she and her husband Bill cried together, then braced themselves for the ordeal ahead: months of chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries at Holy Redeemer Hospital’s Bott Cancer Center.The treatments robbed Marianne of her strength (and her hair), but not her spirit. Thanks to the Bott Cancer Center team and her family—including sons Christopher and Shawn, and daughter Patti Anne, a registered nurse who took a leave of absence to help out—Marianne never lost the conviction that she would survive.

Sure enough, in August 2018, she rang the bell that signaled the end of her treatments. Then she happily walked out of the hospital, cancer-free.

Giving Back

Marianne could have left those memories behind forever. But in 2019, she felt compelled to return.

I wanted to work in the infusion room,” where radiation and chemotherapy are administered, she says. “They didn’t have volunteers there, but I told them, ‘I’m a breast cancer survivor. I’m a year out, and I think I can help other patients.’”

That’s how she became the cancer center’s first volunteer navigator, a title created just for her.

I’d been in that chair, in a bathrobe, waiting to go in for radiation,” she says. “I had walked those hallways, and navigated those treatments. I knew I could help others navigate them too.

Most weekdays, you can find Marianne in the 12-chair unit, sometimes talking, sometimes listening, and always sharing comfort and encouragement. She’s known among patients in the unit for her signature blue onyx dragonfly pin, a symbol of strength in the face of adversity.Marianne’s presence is a true gift for patients in treatment, says Anna Cicalese, RN, BSN, a medical surgical nurse at the Bott Cancer Center who was part of Marianne’s healthcare team. “She’ll keep an eye out if someone doesn’t feel good, then bring it to our attention,” Cicalese says. “She’s another set of eyes if someone needs a drink or a blanket. Sometimes patients will share with her what they can’t share with the staff—all those fears and anxieties. She knows what they’re going through, and they’re able to lean on her.

Dedicated to Helping Out

For Marianne, the volunteer role has practically become a second career. She says she gets as much as she gives—and more. She’s especially gratified to use her own experience as a cancer patient in the service of others on the same path.

“I’m surprised how many people come in here and don’t have someone to sit beside them,” she observes. “If they need someone to lean on, I want to be there. I think this is what God wanted me to do.”

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Tuesday, January 7, 2020 by Anonymous
Wonderful lady. Last July I finished radiation therapy. I had a lumpectomy and did not need chemotherapy. I was very lucky. I also felt lucky to be treated so well at Holy Redeemer. Lois

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