Patients stepping up to help patients
Melissa Allen and Rudy Betancourt each met the challenge of cancer with grace and dignity, according to those who cared for them at Cape Cod Hospital’s Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center. Now Allen and Betancourt have agreed to help raise funds so that other patients can receive the best care available.
Allen was diagnosed with rectosigmoid colon cancer in the spring of 2018. Later that year, a PET scan revealed a breast tumor. She has undergone surgery, hormone therapy and radiation therapy over the last year.
“Melissa walked this complicated path with calm courage and grace,” said radiation oncology specialist Dr. Molly Sullivan. “She had a smile on her face throughout her ordeal and never questioned why she had been dealt a double cancer diagnosis.
“In the midst of her treatments, she volunteered to share in the planning sessions for a new cancer center at the hospital, offering a unique and valuable patient’s view of services.”
Betancourt, a nurse at CCH for 28 years, was diagnosed with lymphoma. He was treated with two different chemotherapy regimens and, when his disease did not respond, he underwent successful CAR-T therapy, a form of immunotherapy.
“During the time of his treatment, Rudy’s brother, to whom he is very close, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma,” said oncology nurse Emily Gomes. “This added to Rudy’s challenge, but he approached his fight with a positive, courageous attitude that was inspirational for the staff and his fellow patients.
“When he recovered from lymphoma, Rudy wanted to give back to the hospital because of the support he had received during treatment. He now volunteers at Cape Cod Hospital for the transport team and the pediatric unit – the last unit in which he worked prior to his retirement.”
Soiree on the Bay
Betancourt and Allen are the honorees of an autumn fundraiser for local cancer services formerly known as the Compass of Hope Gala run by the American Cancer Society. This year the event has a new name: Soiree on the Bay, and is being organized by a team of local volunteers. The event will benefit Cape Cod Healthcare Cancer Services, with the proceeds funding nutrition, transportation and lodging needs for cancer patients.
“The event has evolved over the years, and we’re delighted that all of the proceeds will stay local and help our Cape Cod neighbors,” said Sharon Kennedy, a member of the Soiree’s organizing committee.
This year’s Soiree on the Bay will be held Saturday, Oct. 5 at the Oyster Harbors Club in Osterville. Entertainment will be provided by local rockabilly/soul band Sarah Swain & the Oh Boys.
The Soiree on the Bay committee picked up where the American Cancer Society left off. They recognized the value of keeping the fundraiser going and elected to organize and run the event on their own. They renamed the event Soiree on the Bay.
Committee members include: Alice O’Neill, Phyllis Connelly, Barbara Dunn, Susan Ellis, Carmen Luga-Del, Sharon Kennedy, Melissa Marchand, Kathryn Norton and Diane Salomone.
“The committee members’ generosity, dedication and service to see that cancer patients on the Cape have much-needed services is commendable and deeply touching,” said Cape Cod Healthcare President and CEO Michael Lauf. “We know they will do an outstanding job to ensure that this year’s Soiree on the Bay is the best yet.”
Soiree Reception and Survivors Day
Allen and Betancourt were announced as this year’s Soiree honorees at a recent reception at Alberto’s restaurant in Hyannis. Allen was nominated by Dr. Sullivan and oncology nurse Chris Davenport. Betancourt was nominated by Gomes.
Past honorees attending the gathering included medical honorees David Lovett, MD; Molly Sullivan, MD, and Chris Davenport, RN, and community honorees Patricia Golemme, James McEvoy, Alice O’Neill and the Pendergast family.
Both Allen and Betancourt had advice for future cancer patients.
“Know that you’re not alone,” said Allen. “When you walk into any part of the cancer center, there are people ready to support you.”
Betancourt said it all comes down to three words: “Trust. Faith. Positivity.”
For more information about Soiree on the Bay, contact the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation at 508-862-5653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Betancourt and Allen were also recognized on June 9 at the ninth annual Cancer Survivors Day Celebration. The luncheon event included performances by two 2017 Dancing with the Docs competitors, Cape Cod Healthcare radiation oncologist, Jeffrey Martin, MD, and Cape Cod Hospital medical oncologist/hematologist, Jennifer Crook, MD.
Representing survivors for the first time in the dancing showcase was Soiree on the Bay Committee member and community activist Alice O’Neill.
Dr. Crook said competing in Dancing With the Docs, a fundraiser for Cape Wellness Collaborative, had taken her far outside her comfort zone. “Our patients are very brave every day,” she said. “I told myself, if they can do that, I can do this.”
Sarah Brassard, author of “Inside: A Guide to The Resources Within,” spoke to the roomful of survivors and their guests about self-care. “Meeting the challenge [of cancer] will demand that you turn to your pain and face it head on,” she said. “Miracles, or what seem like miracles, happen every day.”
Photos by Melissa Marchand