As president of The Rob Branham Foundation, I’ve worked with a lot of families fighting blood cancer, and one thing that really has struck me is their reluctance to ask for help. They don’t want to be a burden to anyone. I get it… we all like to be independent and handle the challenges life throws at us. But friends and colleagues like to help, so we’d like to share some simple things you can do to support a patient in little ways that can make a big difference. Take a look at our suggestions for patient support…. and let us know other ways to help!
Many of us probably know one of the estimated 1.4 million people in the US who is living with, or in remission from a blood cancer, or one of the approximately 176,000 people who will be diagnosed with a blood cancer this year. Those of us who have lived this story already know how difficult it can be, and how important support from family, friends, and co-workers is. But where can you turn to for support, or how can you support someone battling a blood cancer?
Some of the answers to those questions are what has led us at The Rob Branham Foundation to begin our new feature - Blood Cancer Connections. Through posts, we aim to help people connect to support through a variety of different avenues, whether you’re a patient, family member, or friend needing support, or you’re looking to give support to someone.
He was like a bolt of lightning surrounded by a ray of sunlight. His infectious grin, twinkling eyes and warm personality were magnetic. Filled with endless energy, his friends lovingly called him “Mr. Positive.” Once you met him...you could never forget him.
Rob was raised in Stamford, and lived the last 17 years of his life in Simsbury. He was an avid runner and water skier, loved music, and collected antique radios and televisions. He began his broadcasting career in high school, and worked at leading radio and television stations throughout Connecticut. Rob’s honesty and integrity built him a reputation as a hard-working, well-respected salesman.
He proudly worked for 10 years as a volunteer reader for the blind on the Connecticut Radio Information System (CRIS). He also participated in various fundraisers sponsored by Fidelco, the Advertising Club of CT, and the Leukemia Society.
Rob’s international search for a non-related marrow donor sparked great interest in and compassion for other people stricken with leukemia who were not as fortunate to find donors. He made a pledge to himself that, after his recovery, he would actively work to recruit potential bone marrow donors, especially for minority populations.
Rob was diagnosed with leukemia in January 1992. After a year and a half search for a non-related donor, Rob underwent a bone marrow transplant at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. The transplant was successful, and on September 3, 1993, Rob went home to begin his recovery. During this time, unexpected complications arose, which eventually claimed Rob’s life on October 12, 1993, at the young age of 43.
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RAISE A PAW AGAINST LEUKEMIA
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September is Blood Cancer Awareness month…. How much do you know about these cancers and their impact? Learn some basics, and then join our upcoming conversation about how you can support families fighting blood cancers…..
One of the hardest periods of my life began that January day in 1992, when Rob and I got the confirmed diagnosis of leukemia. My heart sank, weighed down by fear of what was ahead. But, encouraged by Rob’s oncologist, we began learning about drug protocols that would keep him stabilized, and the process for finding a non-related donor for a bone marrow transplant. The one thing we didn’t talk about at the time, which neither of us even thought about, was what kind of support we might need to get through it all…..
Rob’s support came from the very small circle of people he chose to tell about his condition…. His 3 closest friends, 2 colleagues at work, and his mother. We knew no one who had lived this nightmare…. Where else could we turn to to share our experiences and gain support? There was no internet, and hence, no on-line support groups, hospital-run support groups ran on schedules that didn’t fit our needs, and we knew no one who had lived this nightmare. We did the best we could with our close friends and family, but for the longest time I felt isolated.
My first ‘real’ support system came from Faith, someone who was also living my nightmare, as it turned out, and who lived close by. Her husband Dom and Rob met in Boston when they were both in the hospital for pre-transplant procedures, and discovered they lived in the same area of CT and were going to be in the hospital at the same time. The four of us got together in the early summer of 1993, becoming acquainted and realizing that we could support each other. When Dom and Rob entered the hospital, Faith and I sought each other out, comparing our days, what our husbands were going through, and how we were feeling about it all. Knowing that I had someone to talk with who really understood my situation helped make a difficult situation bearable. To this day, I know that if I ever need her support about this, she’s there for me.
What, then, does it take to provide emotional support to a patient or family member battling a blood cancer? What’s your story? Have you or a family member needed support through a time like this? If so, where did you find what you needed? What advice would you give someone else in need of emotional support while fighting a blood cancer?
Share your thoughts and help others make a blood cancer connection…..