Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 15, Samantha Daggett remembers how something as simple as a fuzzy pair of socks could make her hospital stay more comfortable.
So on her way to work Tuesday, Daggett dropped off three sets of cozy socks and a warm blanket at the Rutledge Foundation’s holiday donation drive at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth in hopes of bringing a bit of happiness to a teen fighting cancer now.
“My hope is they can focus a little more on their battle instead of focusing on what their friends are going to think about them. That’s the hardest part about being an adolescent,” said Daggett, a community relations coordinator at the hospital. “You are so worried about your hair falling out and you are so worried about all these other things that come along with cancer.”
Cancer is the leading cause of disease-related death in adolescents and young adults from ages 15 to 39, according to the National Cancer Institute. Each year, about 70,000 in this age group are diagnosed with cancer in the United States.
Besides providing comfort items to teen and young adult cancer patients at local hospitals through its Carley’s Closet initiative, the Fort Worth-based nonprofit Rutledge Foundation is also funding research and development of new immune-based and targeted therapies designed to cure aggressive cancers with fewer long-term health consequences for patients.
“Chemotherapy and radiation causes secondary cancers, heart failure, infertility and a myriad of other things,” said President Laura Rutledge, whos daughter Carley was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 15. “We are giving them way too much toxicity. These are young adults. They have their whole lives ahead of them. The side effects for the rest of their life are enormous.”
As part of its Carley’s Closet initiative, the Rutledge Foundation collects a variety of items, such as pajama bottoms and slippers, games and movies and even posters and pillows, that might help teen and young adult cancer patients feel more at home while in the hospital for treatment. Those donated items are packaged up in backpacks and tote bags and distributed year-round in hospitals including Baylor All Saints, Cook Children’s Medical Center and John Peter Smith Hospital Fort Worth.
“It’s very challenging for anybody to have cancer but for teenagers it’s particularly difficult. We’re collecting things that might make their journey a little bit easier, things of comfort,” said Dr. David Klein, president of Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth. “It can be robes, socks, blankets, and DVDs — anything so they can feel they are in more of homelike environment and focus on getting treatment for their disease.”
Kristi Evans, a former breast cancer survivor, donated pajama bottoms and a pair of fuzzy slippers “to pay it forward” for the kindness she received during her treatment.
“I can’t imagine going through cancer at such a young age,” said Evans, who works in the hospital’s breast cancer center.
Dr. Klein, who dressed up like Santa for the donation drive, said the care packages will hopefully help younger patients take their mind off their health issues for a little while. Klein, whose son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 16, knows how important that temporary distraction can be.
“They want normalcy. Anything that makes them feel normal is what they crave,” Dr. Klein said.
Susan Schrock, 817-390-7639
As part of its Carley’s Closet initiative, the Rutledge Foundation collects comfort items for teen and young adult cancer patients. Examples include magazines, DVDs, games, arts and crafts, blankets and pillows, towels, posters, headphones and sporting items. Donations, including cash and gift cards, can be made at the Rutledge Foundation office, 5608 Malvey Ave., Ste 100A, Fort Worth; or at Baylor All Saints Medical Center, 1400 8th Ave., Fort Worth For more info, visit www.rutledgefoundation.org.