Through the WINGS Supportive Care Division within the University of Tennessee/West Institute for Cancer Research, we have an ever-expanding Volunteer Program to serve the needs of our patients, their families and friends. The Red Apron volunteers provide hope, courage, support and a smiling face to those who are facing their journey with cancer – and many having been faced with a cancer diagnosis themselves. It’s a challenging yet rewarding and inspirational role that is critical to West Cancer Center and our caring teams of physicians, nurses and clinical staff.
Jo Stafford is a cancer survivor and volunteer at West Cancer Center’s East Campus location. Jo’s personal fight with cancer has allowed her to connect with patients on a deeper level, from the heart-dropping feeling of being told you have cancer to the exhausting feeling of treatments – she’s been there. Shortly following an annual mammogram in 2013, Jo received a call from her primary care physician with the news no one wants to hear – she had breast cancer. The first course of action involved undergoing a lumpectomy to remove the tumor. For the next step in Jo’s treatment plan, her physician referred her to Lee Schwartzberg, MD, FACP, Medical Oncologist at West Cancer Center. Since Jo was 78 years old with no family history of cancer, Dr. Schwartzberg decided the best treatment would be oral chemotherapy medication. The pill has worked well for Jo and she has been on the same medication for three years. Last month, she celebrated receiving a clear mammogram by ringing the Survivor Bell.
Jo first noticed a red apron WING volunteer at her first visit with Dr. Schwartzberg. “I saw how that volunteer was touching the lives of those patients in the waiting room and I wanted to do that,” said Jo. “I submitted an application and now I volunteer every single Thursday. It’s a part of my life that I truly enjoy and I’m thankful that I am able to be a WINGS volunteer. Whether you’re with a patient in infusion, serving coffee or guiding them where they need to go, they are always so appreciative and that makes it worthwhile to feel like I’m making a difference in someone’s journey.”