Kelly Kline seldom gave any serious thought to percentages and odds. As an ICU nurse at a central Ohio burn trauma center, she’d witnessed many patients defy the odds and prove that percentages do not determine outcomes…people do. Kelly would soon realize just how important “the people factor” can be.
In 2007, Kelly’s own health began to concern her. For weeks she’d been having persistent symptoms, and eventually, an ultrasound revealed large fibroid masses. Her gynecologist recommended a hysterectomy and scheduled her for surgery. But, Kelly, a mother of two teenagers, had a busy summer planned, so she asked about delaying the surgery. Her doctor explained that, although there was no way to be certain without a biopsy, the odds were in her favor: among woman under age 40, like Kelly, who are biopsied after a hysterectomy, less than 4% receive a cancer diagnosis. Kelly decided to trust those odds and delayed her surgery for a few weeks. But, when her symptoms worsened, she returned to her doctor, and was scheduled for the next available surgery date at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital. Within hours of the surgery Kelly learned she had defied the odds. Her doctor quietly gave her the news, “It’s cancer”.
Just eight months earlier, Kelly’s mother had been diagnosed with melanoma and died very soon after. Now, following a series of tests, Kelly learned that she, herself, had advanced stages of endometrial cancer, and the odds were not in her favor.
Reeling from the diagnosis but needing to act quickly, Kelly had to make a choice. She considered local cancer care facilities, including the hospital where her mother received treatment. Family members throughout the U.S. also suggested the best cancer care physicians and centers in their areas. Kelly decided she would rely on an insight gained from her own nursing experience: “The people factor” is crucial.
When the physician from Riverside Methodist Gynecologic Oncology walked through her hospital room door to speak to her and her husband, Kelly knew within a few minutes that he was the doctor for her. “He sat down with us, took my hand, and patiently answered all of our questions,” she recalls. “Then, he gave us his cell phone number. He told us to call him any time, because he knew that it was too much to take in all at once and that we’d have lots of questions later. His knowledge and genuine compassion were extraordinary.”
Kelly began to feel reassured. Within 24 hours, Eileen, a Riverside Methodist patient navigator, called to introduce herself and to explain that she would be Kelly’s personal guide throughout her cancer care. Eileen’s warm personality and polite expertise reassured Kelly even more. The first thing Eileen did was give Kelly a Cancer Care Planner to help her keep track of her records, medication dosages, appointment dates and much more. Soon, Kelly came to view Eileen as more than a knowledgeable guide. She was a friend, a confidant…”a personal lifeline”.
“Each time I met a new person on the Riverside team, it was a confirmation that I’d made the right choice,” Kelly declares. From Gail, the perceptive assistant at the front desk, who “meets everybody where they are” to Lee, the encouraging massage therapist with soothing hands and a “healing spirit”. Kelly found people who knew her history, even her kids’ names, people who worked together as a team to not only provide expert medical care but also emotional healing, people who cared about her. “When you have a genuine relationship with someone, they’re more invested in you and your outcome.” Kelly says of the staff at Riverside. “The other cancer centers may also have the latest technology and research, but Riverside has especially compassionate people. They were all personally involved and focused on my survivorship.”
“When I look back on my cancer journey, I don’t remember the treatments or the surgeries. I remember the people.”
Today, Kelly feels as though she’s part of the Riverside Methodist family of caregivers. Enthusiastic and appreciative, she wants to make everyone else’s experience as good, or even better, than her own. That’s why she’s proud to be a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Riverside Methodist Hospital. These volunteer council members, many of whom are cancer survivors, are essential participants in the hospital’s cancer services. They help create “the people factor” by volunteering as tour guides, sharing their stories of survivorship with newly-diagnosed patients, coordinating or teaching informative classes, and providing valuable feedback to the cancer care team about how they might offer even better care. “It’s not just lip-service.” Kelly proclaims, “They are genuinely concerned. They listen and implement our ideas and thoughts.”
“No one ever really looks forward to cancer treatments,” admits Kelly, who continues to defy the odds. “I was sick with side effects, but there were times when I actually felt positive about coming to my cancer therapies, because I needed the healing, uplifting interaction with my cancer care team. I’m so grateful that the darkest moment of my life was enlightened by so many caring people.”