A Story of Friendship

A Pair of Cancer Patients Help Each Other Heal

Sherron Tornow shared her cancer experience with an unexpected new friend: a fellow patient she met during the process of having a stem cell transplant who was key to her support system.

Patients Sherron Tornow and Achamma (Rani) Geevarghese took walks together, became friends and compared notes on how the other was feeling.

“Rani and I met when we were having our stem cells harvested,” Tornow says of patient Achamma (Rani) Geevarghese.

The 68 year-old Tornow was surprised when Geevarghese arrived at the Adult Blood and Marrow Transplant service the day after she was admitted for her transplant.

Barb Rose, LMSW, a clinical social worker on the floor, says it can be difficult for healthy caregivers to understand issues facing patients during their three- to four-week inpatient stay. Patients can be faced with depression, isolation and risk of infection from having no immune system.

“Patients tell us nobody understands that fatigue or that feeling like you have to live in the bubble to prevent infection,” Rose says.

After both women had their transplants, Tornow suggested Geevarghese accompany her on a walk around the floor, something bone marrow transplant patients are encouraged to do daily. The two began walking together regularly.

“She was a former school teacher, I was a deli manager,” Tornow says.  “We talked about food a lot because she couldn’t eat much.”

Rose and other social workers work with patients individually on practical and mental health issues, as well as bringing patients together in groups, to share stories and experiences.

“We have a weekly support group for patients and caregivers that is open to everybody including post-transplant patients,” Rose says.

Visit WhatNext, an online resource developed in partnership with the American Cancer Society that provides a way for individuals to share their cancer journeys and insights so others can get a better idea of what to expect during their own journeys.