Breast Cancer Survivor Jan Robitaille

From Patient to Volunteer: A Cancer Survivor's Story

When patients walk into the Olathe Health Cancer Center for the first time, they might see more than just a friendly face—they may see the empathetic smile of another cancer survivor, like Jan Robitaille.

Jan is just one of a few cancer survivors who volunteers in the Olathe Health Cancer Center. The volunteers, called Ambassadors, also provide clerical assistance, care team support, and other services as needed in support of the cancer center.

“It is so rewarding to be able to give back,” Jan said. “I offer to talk with people who might need it, bring them coffee, and when I share my story they know I understand. I know what my husband went through, and that can be helpful to other caregivers too.”

Jan was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2018.

“Of course, it was the biggest shock of my life,” she said. “I remember crying as my husband, Bob, and I were walking out of the doctor’s office that day. But a woman at the reception desk stopped me, and she gave me a hug and told me she was a cancer survivor. It just meant so much me, to have that moment of support when I needed it the most. I’ll never forget it.”

Jan's cancer treatment began quickly after that. She met her nurse navigator and social worker, who helped her schedule and coordinate her appointments, connected her with support services and answered her questions. Craig Anderson, MD, FACS, a surgeon with Olathe Health Midwest Surgical Associates, performed a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tissue from the breast.

Jan’s cancer team also included radiation oncologist Kelly Rhodes-Stark, MD, and medical oncologist Larry R. Corum, MD. In March 2018, she became one of the first patients to be treated in the new Olathe Health Cancer Center.

The new center includes a linear accelerator, one of the most sophisticated radiation technologies available. The linear accelerator allows for enhanced speed and accuracy when delivering targeted radiation—accurate to the millimeter—to allow for even more precise targeting and treatment of tumors.

Jan received radiation treatment daily, Monday through Friday, for four weeks.

“Within a day or two, everyone knew me, knew my name, knew my husband," Jan said. "They were so sweet and made me feel special, from the minute we walked in. I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else."

With the support of her family, friends and faith community, Jan finished her radiation treatment and is cancer free today. Inspired by a friend of hers who volunteered at Olathe Medical Center (OMC), Jan decided to become an Ambassador in the fall of 2018. Her first volunteer assignment was where she had finished her cancer treatment just months before—the Olathe Health Cancer Center.

Jan and fellow Ambassadors at the Olathe Health Cancer Center have been busy helping to start and enhance existing cancer support services to support Olathe Health patients. In February of this year, they hosted a special Valentine’s-themed event at the appearance center and boutique and provided manicures, makeup, scarves, hats and gifts to attendees. Jan and her fellow "Feisty Fighters" also recently furnished celebration bells for the Olathe Health Cancer Center and host a peer-led cancer support group called Crafting Through Cancer.

“The people I work with are amazing,” said Jan. “I know this is what I’m called to do.”

To learn more about cancer resources and programs available at the Olathe Health Cancer Center and within the community, please visit olathehealth.org/cancer.

Volunteering at Olathe Health

As a volunteer, we will match your talents, interests and schedule with our available opportunities. Orientation and job-specific training is provided along with the many benefits of giving back to our community! Learn more at olatheheath.org/volunteer.

To volunteer at the Olathe Health Cancer Center or Olathe Medical Center:
Contact Abby Hardwick at 913-791-4380 or abby.hardwick@olathehealth.org.

To volunteer at Miami County Medical Center:
Contact Juanita Sprinkle at 913-294-6640 or juanita.sprinkle@olathehealth.org.

To volunteer at Olathe Health Hospice Care:
Contact Amy Potts at 913-324-8515 or amy.potts@olathehealth.org.

 

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