An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Carol Mallon, RN, MS, OCN [ Penn State Hershey Medical Center Cancer Institute in Hershey, Pennsylvania ]
Rosemary E. Manbachi, CRNP and Carol Mallon, RN, MS, OCN PHOTO BY CHRISTINE CHARDO
I am a cancer survivor who was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic melanoma in March 2012. Throughout my journey with cancer, Carol Mallon acted as my personal warrior: a constant beacon of strength, hope and compassion during one of the most challenging times of my life. I myself was a pediatric nurse practitioner for many years, and Carol’s expertise, dedication and never-ending compassion for her patients is unparalleled to anyone I have ever met in the health care profession.
With such a bleak prognosis, I often heard kind and encouraging words from the team around me, including the medical staff that treated me, but Carol went above and beyond simply listening. She treated me with genuine respect that made me feel like my emotions were understood and valued. While battling a cancer that most would consider terminal, patients constantly waver between the emotions of hope and fear. Carol supported me through this whirlwind of emotions and truly empathized with me. She strengthened my attitude by allowing me to fully experience all of my feelings and emotions. She was keenly aware of my clinical issues and kept updated on my test results. She was with me every step of my journey and seemed to know when I needed a hug or just a good cry. She made herself available to me and my family on a continuous basis. With Carol by my side, never did I feel alone, even though I was receiving treatments two hours away from my home and extended family.
Beyond her emotional support, Carol’s physical presence made all the difference in my treatment. Although her role was mainly in the outpatient arena, wherever I was receiving treatment, Carol showed up. It was not unusual for her to drop by my room when I was hospitalized for inpatient clinical trials so that she could be by my side. She’d come by the infusion room to see me. She encouraged me to call her day or night with any questions or concerns. If one of my doctors was out of the office or “unavailable,” she wouldn’t stop until she got them on the phone to talk with me. She fought for me so that I would receive the best possible care and attention.
Carol not only advocated for me, but also for my family. She went above and beyond her duties by arranging lodging for my husband and family members at the nearby Hope Lodge. One time when I was having an issue, she called Hope Lodge and had them leave an encouraging, uplifting note on my door. Carol knows that cancer not only impacts the individual, but the entire family. Each time I saw her, she asked how my daughter was dealing with my diagnosis and treatment. She also reached out to my husband and sister many times to ensure that they understood my treatment plan and that their needs were being met. She included my family in all of my care.
In addition to Carol’s dedication, her expertise in her field is unprecedented. During the clinical trials and combination therapies, Carol was always very involved and kept me well informed based on her knowledge and previous experience. To me, she is a trailblazer, and her knowledge and clinical skills in the oncology field never cease to amaze me. I know I am not alone in the way I feel about Carol’s oncology nursing skills. As I sat in the waiting rooms at the clinic and the visitor’s room at Hope Lodge, I would hear many patients and families expressing the same feelings about her.
With Carol’s help, this cancer journey has been a lot more bearable for me and many other patients. There are no words to adequately express my eternal gratitude for Carol Mallon and the support she provided me and my entire family throughout my journey. She personally sacrifices her own time and energy so that each and every one of her patients feels valued, understood and cared for. She never hesitates to jump in and help no matter what the issue. Carol’s healing hands reach the heart, soul, mind and body of many patients with cancer and their families. She is truly an inspiration.