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Nomination Letters – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Shahrzad Bahrehmand

How do I describe Shar (her nickname) and where do I start? When I arrived at Dana-Farber and found out I had cancer, I was devastated. I had lost one son to cancer and I wondered how I would handle my own cancer. Then I met Shar, who took me under her wing, was so compassionate, and made me feel I could conquer this. She has been with me since last year and she’s there to answer any questions I need answered. She’s so gentle when she gives me chemo and explains everything she’s doing and why. I am very fortunate to have this beautiful women who is so kind and caring as my nurse.

—Nominated by Suzanne Powell

Ann Marie Beauchemin

Pretty much every nurse at the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber is a wonder. They do not have an easy job, but they handle it with grace, dignity, and a big serving of humor. Ann Marie Beauchemin stands out as a prime example.

—Nominated by Reid Boswell

Kerry Belliveau

Kerry understood me better than I understood myself during a difficult and often dark time of my life. Her smile lit up my morning. She is a delight.

—Nominated by Emily Plante

Brenda Biggins and Rachel Enos

In times of darkness there are rays of light. The first time I did chemo at Dana-Farber was in 2007, my nurse was Brenda Biggins. She was so great, positive, encouraging, knowledgeable and fun. That’s right, fun—even in infusion. We became very good friends. We exchange Christmas cards and pictures of our kiddos. She was a rock for me. Fast forward to 2013; I have a recurrence. I need to go back to infusion. But Brenda is no longer able to be my nurse; she is now on the 9th floor in the beautiful new Yawkey Center. I never imagined I could duplicate the experience, friendship, and partnership in care that I had with Brenda. I then met Rachel Enos. We had an immediate connection. We laughed about cancer and infusion. We ate candy together (her favorite is Peeps), we watched cheesy game shows. We shared stories, me of my daughter and her about her then boyfriend, now fiancé. We had fun. And Brenda would often come and say hello. How loved and cared for I felt in both experiences. Friends and fun and cancer. Who would ever think that you could make life-long friends in treatment? Only at Dana-Farber! Thank you, girls.

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—Nominated by Robin Chandler

Jill Brace-O’Neil, Perini Clinic

Nurse Jill always makes me feel good about coming to Dana-Farber as a cancer survivor. She cares and it really shows. She’s also very funny and always cheerful. She has made a difference in our lives.

—Nominated by Sam Mahler

Michelle Ciszewski

It’s a sentence women hope never to hear: you have breast cancer. When I was diagnosed three months after my fiftieth birthday, I needed a healthcare team who would be up on all the latest treatment options, partner with me in decision-making, and provide tender loving care on the toughest days of the journey. Michelle Ciszewski, a nurse practitioner in Dana-Farber’s breast oncology unit, was the cornerstone of my team. Michelle is super smart, wonderfully matter of fact, and tirelessly upbeat in the face of this dreadful, frightening illness. Though she attends to hundreds of patients each year, she always remembers the details of my diagnosis, my treatment, and my family life, even now that most of my treatment is behind me and I see her only once or twice a year. Every time I have called her with a question, she has made sure I get the answer within hours. And I will never forget a particular day during chemotherapy when I unexpectedly needed care well past the end of Michelle’s shift, and she chose to stay late to be by my side, despite having three-year-old twins at home. As a child, I admired Florence Nightingale. As an adult, I am so grateful to have Michelle on my team. Michelle Ciszewski embodies the full breadth of what nurses are called to provide to patients today.

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—Nominated by Rebecca Schuster

Michael Comeao

We lost our beloved sister, Judy, despite a courageous battle against cancer on Jan. 14. Our admiration for a most special nurse, Michael Comeao, is extremely heartfelt. Michael provided nursing care that was highly specialized, individualized, and showed the highest degree of compassion. Michael’s kindness throughout chemotherapy made the unbearable bearable for our sister who was terrified by this frightening diagnosis. He truly exemplifies the best of nursing.

—Nominated by Doris Sinkevich

Kristen Graham

Kristen is one of the many awesome people I got to know when I was sick. She liked to make fun of me, which was refreshing when everything was so serious. Sometimes, I’ll randomly think of something she said and burst out laughing. She loves whales, and anyone who loves whales has to be a good person as they are majestic creatures. She’s also the one who told me to always play the “cancer card’’ to my advantage, which was some of the best advice I’ve ever received.

—Nominated by Sky Murray

Allison Hester

I have been undergoing chemotherapy for just over a year. Allison has been my infusion nurse and she always brightens my spirits. She greets me with a warm, inviting smile and takes impeccable care of all of my needs. She makes sure I am getting everything I need. Thank you, Allison, for making a not so great experience a little lighter!

—Nominated by Tracy Roach

Catherine Hulme-Freudenberger

Catherine is an extraordinary nurse. She consistently has demonstrated strong clinical skills and compassionate care through two years of care and three chemotherapy regimens. She is an effective teacher, clearly explaining complex information; she answers all our questions and makes us feel comfortable asking any questions and sharing any concerns. Despite the complex medical care, she treats us as real people, with lives outside the “cancer world,’’ taking time to converse about areas of interest un-related to illness and significantly contributing to our ability to maintain balance and quality of life in a challenging situation.

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—Nominated by Debbie and Jim Gleason

Robin MacNeil

Along with my cancer treatment, Robin gave me back my hope. All of the nurses here are caring and compassionate, and I wish I could nominate them all. They have become like a second family to me.

—Nominated by Sue Spiliakos

Cullene Murphy

In September, 2013, I began chemotherapy at Dana-Farber and have received treatment every other Friday ever since. For all but one of those treatments, Cullene has been my nurse. She goes above and beyond the call of duty to make me feel comfortable. Once she even found me a bed so I could take a nap on a day that I was exhausted but not scheduled for infusion. During my treatment she guards the door when I fall asleep to make sure I’m not interrupted. She always has everything ready and waiting for me, including an extra pillow to prop up my leg.

—Nominated by Sarah Dalzell

Diane Ransom

I was diagnosed with small lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia in mid-November 2012. I was 72 years old, had never been sick in my life, and my family had no history of cancer. My parents both lived to age 90. I am an athlete who does Cross-Fit and does a 5K run once a week. I was totally devastated and beyond being able to cope. My husband was a tremendous support while the local part of my family abandoned me soon after the diagnosis. The rest of my family lives several hundred miles away.

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I met Diane, my oncology nurse, at my first infusion. She was very caring, but also very professional. She spent considerable time with me and was willing to listen, to discuss my devastation, but also to be firm. She had to put up with a few horrible outbreaks of emotion. Again she was caring, but firm. I found that the infusion process was not as onerous as I had believed and, little by little, Diane helped me build up some confidence. She was also my go-to person when I had questions. Her advice was always on target. She always had time for me, even when I knew she had other patients to deal with at least as ill as I was; she made it always appear as though I was her only patient. I don’t know how I could have survived without Diane. When I went into remission, she told me that I had helped myself. I know that Diane was my reason for making it through.

—Nominated by Jean Bonney

Every Dana-Farber nurse is superbly qualified but Diane Ransom is special. She was my infusion nurse at Dana-Farber for over a year. Diane’s approach to me as her patient was warm, caring, and personal. She is a great listener and asked perceptive questions about my life as well as my health. She’s very smart. She understands leukemia (and other cancers) exceptionally well and always explained the process and importance of various treatments, including infusion, clearly and completely. She is a good teacher.

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Diane is highly professional. She always, at every step, asked my name, date of birth, and asked to see my bracelet to view my patient number. She never omitted that protocol. Diane was always positive and encouraging about my progress. She was genuinely happy to see my successes and remembered, from month to month, what else was happening in my life besides my CLL. She did not focus only on my disease, but on my entire well-being. Diane is always interested in continuing to learn about new developments in her field. Now she is studying and preparing for a new chapter in her career as an oncology nurse. I wish her every possible success, and thank her for her outstanding care and friendship. She is truly an exceptional nurse, in every way.

—Nominated by Clare D.

Caroline Sheehan

Caroline was a wonderful nurse practitioner who helped my mother during her treatment at the institute. She was very personal, tactful, and sensitive.

—Nominated by Feyzi Bagirov

Leslie Spencer, Radiation; Marie Zano, Infusion

My husband is being treated for lung cancer at Dana-Farber. We never, ever could have gotten through this without the help of this incredible team of nurses. Treatment started in 2012 and continues: chemo, traditional radiation and stereotactic radiation. Both Leslie Spencer in radiation therapy with Dr. Ray Mak and Marie Zano in infusion therapy (10th floor) are the best in their game. They go way above and beyond. They made the entire experience a pleasure. They explained everything and give us such support.

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—Nominated by Arlene McKim

Laurence (Larry) Traiman

I have had chemotherapy every other week for three years now, and it’s exhausting, but Larry’s bright, smiling face gives me strength. He’s full of wry wit and broad humor, but the humor and wit are gone in a split second if he notices anything amiss in my demeanor or in the treatment plans. He makes sure I am in one of my favorite places for infusion. He knows that I want to know about my treatment, so he’s taught me what each of my medications is called and what it will do. He is on top of my infusion medications, not only pushing the pharmacy for the next infusion bags he will need, but also knowing when each of them will be empty and is usually quick to shut off the noisy alarm.

But Larry gives me much more than that. He tells me stories (unrelated to the medical world) that are funny and insightful, he helps me through my sad moments, and he helps me enjoy our minor triumphs. Larry has been my infusion nurse at Dana-Farber for 18 months and that will hopefully continue well into the future. He is not just my nurse, and I am not just his patient—we have become friends during these many intimate moments.

—Nominated by Randy Cox

Christin Whelan

I am currently in a trial at DFCI for my second recurrence of ovarian cancer. I left my husband and four children far away in Tel Aviv. Christin is not only my nurse but my everything. She checks in with me at least twice a day to see how I am, physically and emotionally. She spent hours, if not days, turning the whole system upside down to move one of my treatment days so I could fly home and be at my six-year-old’s first grade ceremony. I know it seems like a silly thing, but to me and to him it meant the world.

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—Nominated by Rana Samuels

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