Friends and family of the Wellingtons knew the 4th floor halls of The Christ Hospital (TCH) all too well. “During our 10 years LIVING with breast cancer, our family used to joke that The Christ Hospital was our ‘Mt. Auburn Bed & Breakfast.’” Not only were the halls familiar, but the people were too. “The doctors, nurses and staff on 4West certainly treated us like special guests,” says Kent Wellington, founder and KWF board chair.
The youngest and most precocious Wellington, Angeline, knew exactly where to find rubber gloves so she could do cartwheels down the hall without getting her hands dirty. She also cracked the code to the VHS closet. On hospital sleep-overs, “Father of the Bride” was a favorite with her mom and “Ferris Bueller's Day Off” was a standard to watch with her dad. On Labor day, the view of the WEBN fireworks was hard to beat. (This was long before the new state of the art Spine Center blocked the river view.) Birthdays, family dinners and life happened at The Christ Hospital, not just for Karen, but for the whole family. Together, they embraced LIVING with breast cancer on 4West.
Kent recalls, “Karen’s room was always a bee-hive of activity. Kids, friends, people she knew who had family members delivering babies just a few floors above her, etc. But we noticed that many of the other rooms were quiet. There were often older patients who had very few visitors. (Other than Angeline wandering in from time-to-time).” So it was only appropriate that the first gift from Karen’s Fund was for the oncology patients on 4West.
With the help of friends and Connie and Dave Laug, the Wellington family KWF hosted a WEBN fireworks party on the Labor Day for every patient on 4West - complete with massage therapists making the rounds, gift baskets for each patient and most importantly, someone in every room keeping the patients company between nurse check-ins. It was a great kick-off for our FunNow mission. And the right place to do it. Karen’s fund also paid for the first “flat screen” TV at TCH – fittingly in the 4West lounge. “The same lounge,” Kent notes, “where we celebrated the kids’ birthday parties and watched them unwrap and pedal new bicycles down the hall.”
Today, a strong KWF advocate and friend is Nurse Navigator, Lisa Shelton. Lisa has been with TCH since 1998. She originally was an ICU nurse, but after her own Breast Cancer diagnosis (2006) she began looking for a role as a patient advocate. As a Nurse Navigator her role now involves education, patient contact, and navigating them through the unknowns. “Some patients have never been ill their entire lives before their diagnosis,” Lisa says, “and Breast Cancer is such a scary word in and of itself.”
Lisa also runs the Metastatic Breast Cancer Community Support Program at TCH. Participants of this group talk about how to LIVE with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. They share stories candidly, learn from each other’s journeys, and have ongoing education opportunities from professional speakers and community members. “This is an empowering group of women...not a sad group,” Lisa shares.
Lisa first learned about KWF’s FunNow mission years ago. She was hooked. Just this year, Lisa has nominated over a dozen patients for a gift from KWF. It reinforces in her life what it means for her to keep LIVING and putting FUN on her calendar. “After my journey with cancer a lot of things changed for me. Material items meant nothing… I was giving everything away to family and friends. I told my children that I only wanted gifts that were LIVING, like plants and flowers,” she says.
When The Metastatic Breast Cancer Program staff recently asked their women what it means to be LIVING with Breast Cancer the answer was consistently and overwhelmingly “time and connection with others.” We couldn’t agree more. Each KWF gift experience connects people to the overwhelming generosity of our donors, homeowners and partners. This cycle of giving and receiving is a powerful force. It creates time and space for women to connect with their friends, family and themselves. For many of our recipients, it’s the first time since their diagnosis that they have had a respite from the day to day of living with Breast Cancer and their treatment.
It was only appropriate that while attending one of KWF’s annual Karen’s Gift bashes (see below for more info on the 13th annual Karen’s Gift on Oct 9), she won one of Karen’s paintings in the raffle. ‘Lemons to Lemonade’ now proudly hangs in Lisa’s kitchen.
Angeline recalls, “As a child, having a parent with cancer is unpredictable, scary and confusing. And whether we chose it or not, Christ quickly became a second home for my family. The medical team went above and beyond to make both my mom and our family comfortable. They provided normalcy and a bit of fun in a time when it was desperately needed (sometimes even helping me pull off my little pranks in the cafeteria).”
Robby Wellington, the older of the two siblings, most vividly recalls, “one of the oncologists showing me the room where they stored all the little ice cream cups… and maybe letting me sneak one out if I asked nicely. It’s the small seemingly insignificant things that makes a world of a difference.”
Lisa says that “The art of nursing… is making things happen for people. Little acts of kindness for our patients and team mates.” Lisa says. For many years now, TCH has been doing just that. From the Wellingtons to the women they now serve, they are caring for and making small but important magical moments for their patients.
Thank you, TCH, for many years of friendship, putting FUN on the calendar, and helping people to continue LIVING. Cheers to you, The Christ Hospital!
KWF’s Medical Advisory board is made up of skillful and caring healthcare from the entire Cincinnati community. We receive nominations from every hospital system in Greater Cincinnati including, UC Cancer Center, Tri-Health, St. Elizabeth, Cancer Family Care, Radiation Hematology and Oncology, Mercy Hospital and more. If you are a medical provider and would like to nominate a deserving woman, please NOMINATE here.