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A cancer diagnosis and its treatment can be an overwhelming experience for any person. Hugh Hedley shares how team members kept showing up with kindness, care, positive attitudes and encouragement, helping him feel supported and empowered.

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Podcast Transcript

LOREEN: Welcome to Pep Talks, a patient experience podcast where we share stories of promise, our culture of connection in care.

HUGH: I'm Hugh Hedley, and I was first diagnosed with stage four Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 2018. Here at Moffitt, and what brought me here was just how tough my case was and being able to diagnose. And in two thousand nine, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and I had been on two different medications during that time. And as I come to find out, it's possible I had the Hodgkin's lymphoma growing for maybe six to nine years before I even found it, because the anti-inflammatory medication I had for me was slowing the growth of the Hodgkin's lymphoma so much that it was just a crawl for years. It came up just by chance on a routine annual brain scan with my neurologist that they found my third cervical to show up black on an MRI. You know, I eventually ended up here at Moffitt so they could do some more biopsies. And you know, I was finally diagnosed October of 2018 with Hodgkin lymphoma stage four. It was actually a relief to find that out because it had taken so many months to to actually get me diagnosed that it was more of a thank God moment that I actually knew what I had and then I could start my chemotherapy. Up until that point, I had been just drifting for, you know, months wondering what I had, you know, I just thank God that they caught it that year. Otherwise maybe then the next year or I would have symptoms and it would be, you know, maybe too far gone at that point. So it was…it was just a miracle.

LOREEN: A cancer diagnosis and its treatment can be an overwhelming experience for any person whose experience is no exception. As team members, every day we have the opportunity to make a positive impact on people like Hugh and his family. There are kindness, care, positive attitude and encouragement. This is the essence of delivering on the promise -our culture of connection and care. You just never know how a smile or a kindness can greatly impact someone's life. You're about to hear Hugh share with us how at many places along his cancer journey, people kept showing up in this way, helping him feel supported and empowered. You'll also hear from Stuart Richards, one of our team members with whom Hugh had an especially strong connection.

HUGH: When I first came to Moffitt, it was on August 21st, 2018, and I can tell you I was more like a deer in the headlights, just not knowing where to go and feeling more than just a bit overwhelmed.

I first went to the information desk inside the gold valet and I met a tall, kind gentleman named Stuart, and he had a big, warm smile on me and he took the patience and the time to help me find all the locations that I would go to that day. And, you know, as I think back now, he didn't know much about me or all the anxiety and the stress that he was able to relieve from me that day and make me feel like someone like family all along on my journey. And especially during the outpatient bone marrow transplant process where I would see Stuart nearly every day. He always gave me a big smile and he was one of my biggest cheerleaders and encouragers.

STUART: I mean, each day I approach every interaction with an understanding that it is stressful to be here at Moffitt, but just being able to be there and kind of being a solid force and a kind force to help people in any way that they need, even if I can't be the person that ultimately helps them being helpful to that person.

HUGH: He had no idea that he has been like an anchor in my life to keep me calm, even in the stormy weather. I mean, what a difference Stuart has made in my life, being a helpful, smiling person. And when I think of Moffitt, I first think of Stuart and his big, warm smile.

My doctor, who's Dr Khimani, and right from the start, you know, he had a very positive attitude and he was always encouraging and optimistic and reassuring me that within my own strength I was going to be a success and receiving the bone marrow transplant. And you know, I could feel the doctor patient relationship is a caring collaboration between him and I. And, you know, just his uplifting and positive attitude is just so contagious that you cannot hope for anything other than the same positive attitude and approach and in winning this battle against cancer, both in the mind and the body. What I'm saying is true for the entire BMT clinic because they're all like my extended family and caring about me and I know it and I love them for it every step along the way. Handing me from one person to the next. It was more like people that recognize me as part of their own family. I felt treated like I was family and not just the number. It was just something I was very encouraging to me to see how encouraging they were for me.

So back in, I'd say September and October of 2019, before I actually went into the BMT program, I'd be able to go down to the cafeteria and a lot of the times I would check out and the cashier was named Tracy and who. We struck up a conversation and just found out she had such a positive and happy attitude for working at Moffitt, and she came to tell me she was already working there for 20 years. It just shows the dedication people have that work here that just love this environment and they know they make a difference. And I do.

I live in Naples, and once I got approved for my bone marrow transplant on October 25th, 2018, I knew at that point it was going to be like a whirlwind of things to do, and one of the most important and nerve wracking things was securing housing during that transplant process since I would be an outpatient and I would only have 20 days to figure it out before it started. So I was put in touch with Trish Scott. She's the housing coordinator for Moffitt. And I can tell you, she went above and beyond anything I could have ever expected and provided me so many options and then helping me secure a specially clean room for BMT patients at a local hotel. She was like an angel sent from above. Trish Scott is one of those hidden heroes of Moffitt in taking complete ownership of my housing problem and helping me just take so many burdens and worries off of me on this journey. I feel that she put me and my caregiver first.

Every morning during my outpatient bone marrow transplant, I would have to be at the BMT clinic at seven a.m. and every morning they would be John working their early shift for the Gold Valley lining up cars as they came in. And John was just like an air traffic controller because as you came in, he was just excellent and directing traffic, giving us our valet ticket. And my sister Tammy, who was my caregiver, would always enthusiastically thank John for how courteous he was in making such a positive start of our day, and he really made a big difference in both her and my attitude every morning.

In June of 2020, amid the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, I really started feeling lonely and depressed, and I live alone and was going through maintenance chemotherapy at that point for the bone marrow transplant and, you know, felt very much cut off from the world as I was, depending on my family and neighbors for for everything. I found out about Moffitt offering the Tuesday's general patient support group through Zoom that was facilitated by oncology social worker Christine Healy. The center of it all was how Christine would always talk about building one's own toolbox of coping tools for mental and physical health. I wouldn't be here today speaking without Christine's dedication and impact in my life.

Hugh has a message for you about the small things you can do that create a big impact on patients.

The specific ways to make a difference in patients lives is just to recognize them as, you know, individuals that are needing some hope, some love, some guidance and you know, that may be just from a smile or just answering a simple question, but you just never know how endearing that can be to the person you're talking to that, you know, that may change their life direction, just that simple smile. You know, I found that in Stuart that one first positive experience just became the stronghold of my entire life.

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