Not Just a Nurse, but a Friend: The Glory of a Little Kindness in the Face of Cancer

Apr. 19, 2019

Kelley Duncan and Albert SmithAlbert Smith had been living with myelodysplastic syndrome for a few years. He sees Jason Mendler, M.D., and Sean Goonan, R.N., B.S.N., B.A., O.C.N., at Wilmot Cancer Institute and has been coming to Wilmot for infusions for a while.

That’s where he met and befriended a nurse named Kelley Duncan, R.N.

Each time Al came in, he and Kelley would get chatting, and one time, Al’s horses came up. It became a topic of conversation for them at each visit, but recently when Kelley asked, Al shared he needed part ways with the horses. With the difficult winters and his cancer, it had just become too difficult for Al to keep up. He and his daughter had been having a hard time finding a new home for one of the horses, named Glory.

When Kelley heard this, “she took the bull by the horns," Al says. 

GloryKelley says she wanted to help, not just because she was Al’s nurse, but because she’s his friend.

She reached out to a colleague, Marcia Buckley, M.S., N.P., A.C.H.P.N., Senior Nurse Practitioner, Palliative Care Consultation Service. Kelley knew Marcia had connections with the local horse community. She contacted a friend, Tammy Lozipone, who works with an organization called Begin Again Rescue. Tammy also sometimes helps individuals find new homes for their horses when the rescue is full.

Using Facebook, Tammy put out some information about Glory, saying something to the effect of, “Anybody out there with a J-name?” because Glory has a J-shaped marking on his face.

When Heather Jansen came across the Facebook post, it resonated right away, not only because of her last name but because the horse would be primarily for her husband, Jake. The young couple had been looking for a new horse. Of course, other factors besides the J-markings fell into place, too. For example, the living situation Glory was used to sounded similar to what the Jansens could provide. Heather got in touch with Tammy and after interviews and meeting Glory, the Jansens brought him home.

“What we really enjoyed so far is just seeing how he’s responded to us because he was in his previous home for so long and he really bonded to his owners and, just like it was hard for them to part with him, I’m sure it was hard for him, too,” Heather says. “He’s really settled in quite well.”

Al and his daughter had been working to find a new home with their connections, but with no luck. Having Tammy’s help – thanks to Kelley’s initiative and Marcia’s connection – helped it finally come together smoothly.

While it was bittersweet to give up Glory, Al is thankful for the supportive care Kelley and the whole team have provided at Wilmot. As he begins on a new clinical trial at Wilmot to treat his MDS, Al is glad he has a team that provides help beyond just his medical needs. 

“I’ve had great experiences at Wilmot Cancer Center with the doctor, with Sean, with the infusion nurses. Everybody has treated me just so special,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve met anybody at Strong that I have not really been able to relate with.”