Easing the Cancer Journey: Why Karen Connected With a Cancer Coach

BMT Cancer Coaches
Pictured: Karen (left), and Dawn with their husbands.

In 2019, multiple myeloma patient Karen was feeling anxious about her upcoming bone marrow transplant (BMT). As an RN, she wonders if her anxiety was even worse than what other patients felt. “My nursing background gave me insight into what to expect from the procedure, but I didn’t know what it would feel like as a patient.”

During a trip to Roswell Park’s Resource Center for Patients and Families several months earlier to explore the services they offered, she met Martha Hickey, Patient Education Facilitator for the Resource Center, who offered Karen a lifeline for just this situation: the Cancer Coach Program.

The closer Karen’s transplant got, the more she knew she needed to make the call. The program set her up with Dawn, and in their first conversation, they talked for over two hours. It was definitely a good match. Dawn’s optimism and positive perspective were just what Karen needed. “It was so good to talk to somebody who actually went through it: the emotional side, and knowing firsthand how did you feel, how sick did you get, did you experience the side effects they told you about?”

If anyone knows what it’s like to go through a BMT, it’s Dawn.

Dawn is a survivor of three separate cancers: breast cancer, multiple myeloma and a form of leukemia called myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). She’s had two BMTs: first an autologous transplant of her own cells for multiple myeloma, and then for MDS, an allogeneic transplant: cells from a donor — her niece Samantha. Dawn didn’t have anything like a cancer coach to help her through, so it’s really important to her to provide that connection to others now.

“I can say, I know it’s scary, and you have a friend in me. You can ask me anything because I’ll be happy to share my experience with you. I just want to give somebody hope and say we’re stronger than we know.”

The Cancer Coach Program invites patients to connect with cancer survivors who will talk to them directly about their own cancer journey. It’s made possible thanks to donations to the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation, which also supports the Resource Center.

Roswell Park's Cancer Coach Program

You can connect with a cancer coach or become one yourself.

Learn More