Health

Former cancer patient turned volunteer dedicating her time to encouraging other cancer patients

Letson talked to a patient
Written by Lindsey Morris

Lesley Letson’s journey from patient to volunteer started in 2018 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing a year of treatments—surgery, chemo, and radiation—she was doing great. However, once she reached her two-year mark of being cancer-free, she was diagnosed once again with cancer; this time Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). Since passing her two-year cancer free mark, this time from AML, she plans to volunteer her time and words of encouragement to other patients.

Lesley Letson’s journey from patient to volunteer started in 2018 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing a year of treatments—surgery, chemo, and radiation—she was doing great. However, once she reached her two-year mark of being cancer-free, she was diagnosed once again with cancer; this time Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

 

AML is a type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow makes a large number of abnormal blood cells. These cells do not function properly and will block the production of normal cells. This can cause numerous health concerns, such as anemia, neutropenia, pancytopenia and thrombocytopenia.

 

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Letson’s husband, her four sons and her friends, could not visit her like they had during her previous stay. This was a difficult adjustment for her since she is a very extroverted person and loves to chat and socialize.

 

“The staff up here on 5 South were my immediate family. Everyone here was great and were the encouragement I needed when my family and friends could not be here,” Letson said about the staff who provided her comfort during this lonely time.

 

Since passing her two-year cancer free mark, this time from AML, Letson has donated blankets and pajamas to patients to provide comfort. Now, however, she wishes to provide her time and words of encouragement.

 

“There is so much ‘mis-information’ out there and Lesley wanted to make sure patients got the right information from the start,” Susan Doughtie, one of the Georgia Cancer Center’s Social Workers said. “She reached out to me and I got her connected to Nina, our Patient Access Manager for Georgia out of the Atlanta Office.”

 

In order to become a Community Outreach Volunteer (COV) with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS), Letson had to participate in orientation to LLS, a background check, review and sign the volunteer handbook and complete two role-specific trainings so she can competently perform and document her activities. After this, she had to go through the GCC’s Volunteer Program Department to officially become a volunteer. LLS offers free resources and services to patients with blood cancer and funds lifesaving research, with the goal of finding new treatments and cures.

 

“We are thrilled to have Lesley working with Susan and her team on site at Georgia Cancer Center,” said Dr. Nina Logan, Senior Manager for Patient and Community Outreach for the Georgia/South Carolina Region of the LLS. Starting in June, Letson will visit the floor that she stayed at during her treatment twice a month and visit the patients that are currently staying there. She plans to spend as much time as the patient would like chatting and spending time with someone who understands what they are going through.

 

“It was always encouraging to me, especially during my AML diagnosis, to hear from people who had been through it,” Letson said when asked why she is volunteering her time. “It helps you get through the day sometimes.” Letson hopes that her visits can bring joy and encouragement for the patients and help break through the gray cloud that can surround a patient while undergoing treatment.

 

“I want someone to laugh, to smile. I want to provide a little bit of joy to that person for the day.”

 

If you would like more information about LLS and the services they provide, please contact their Information Resource Center at 800-955-4572, Monday to Friday from 9AM to 9PM.

About the author

Lindsey Morris

Lindsey Morris is the Communication Specialist at Georgia Cancer Center. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic at 706-721-9173 or limorris@augusta.edu.