McKesson employees offer Massey patients comfort and support
Most of us would probably feel unsure of what to say in that moment—the moment when someone is in the midst of a battle to regain their health, and in some cases a battle for their life. Nurses and doctors do it every day, but what are the rest of us to do when tasked with offering comfort and support rather than medical treatment? Fortunately, for the patients who happened to be at Massey Cancer Center’s Stony Point clinic one morning in late August, the McKesson Foundation is offering a welcome answer.
On, August 21, 15 McKesson employees spent the morning at VCU Massey Cancer Center at Stony Point to visit with patients and give them comfort kits. They also offered small tokens of support to caregivers. Marcia Erhardt, who has been employed by McKesson for six years, says the company’s community involvement was a major draw for her and one of the many reasons why she wanted to work there. “I try to participate whenever we have events like this, which can be hard because they fill up so quickly,” she explained. “I need a purpose. I want to give back, and this is part of McKesson’s core.”
“We want to help and encourage cancer patients through our Giving Comfort program. McKesson volunteers created more than 16,000 Giving Comfort care packages in 2017 alone. We work with cancer care community partners nationwide who hand these packages to patients,” said Stanton McComb, president of McKesson Medical-Surgical. “A few years ago, when we looked for a partner in the greater Richmond area, I immediately thought of VCU Massey Cancer Center. Massey’s national reputation, and the direct impact it has had on so many of our local employees and their loved ones, made it our first choice. Our partnership has grown since then and we are very proud of that.”
Richmond-based McKesson employees assembled 650 comfort kits for Massey Cancer Center patients last year. This year, they are hoping to assemble and distribute 700. Each kit comes with a hand-fringed blanket, a notebook with colorful details creatively added by employees and their families, and, perhaps most importantly, a handwritten note of encouragement. The note, Erhardt eagerly pointed out, is her favorite part.
Like most of the McKesson employees in attendance, Erhardt’s personal experiences with cancer inspire her to give back through the Giving Comfort program. Her experience as a caregiver coupled with her passion for supporting patients also makes her a natural at striking up conversations with others facing health challenges. During the visit, Erhardt was always the first to greet each person who came through the door and could frequently be found deeply engrossed in heartfelt discussions with both patients and their accompanying family and friends.
Aside from her personal connection to the cause, Erhardt’s other motivation for being involved in the program is really quite simple: “We should all feel a sense of duty to help each other. That’s what we’re all supposed to be doing, right? Care for each other?”
Jean Wyndham and husband, Herb, were two of the recipients of that support in August, receiving comfort kits and caregiver gifts.
“It makes you feel cared for,” said Jean upon receiving her blanket, notebook and card. “And it’s nice having someone here to visit with.”
Despite the fact that Jean is facing her third battle with cancer, all of which have been unrelated, her kind, welcoming demeanor and knack for storytelling quickly makes everyone feel like they’ve been lifelong friends. Jean and Herb have been married for 55 years, and, on this particular morning, they arrived to Jean’s chemotherapy treatment dressed almost identically.
“It’s an accident, but it happens all of the time,” Herb observed while chuckling. “We finish each other’s sentences, too.”
Jean, who is now facing chronic leukemia, was fairly quick to gloss over the fact that she will need to receive treatment for the rest of her life and was much keener to share the adoption stories of her and Herb’s two children or regale the McKesson crew with stories about how tall their grandchildren -- four boys and two girls -- are getting.
After spending their careers here and raising their family, Jean and Herb’s roots run deep in the Richmond community, which has a meaningful impact on their gratitude toward Massey Cancer Center. It enhances their appreciation for having a renowned medical resource in their backyard and makes them feel even more touched by the outpouring of support from McKesson.
Still, those who are battling cancer, especially cancers without known cures, are facing major challenges. “The hope is different,” Erhardt explains. “But you have to look at the hope. And it’s just like science fiction…immunotherapy, CRISPR…all of it. I love to think that a cure is right around the corner. I love to think that it’s coming.”
The Wyndhams’ courage and Erhardt’s shared vision of a world without cancer are just two of thousands of reasons why researchers at Massey Cancer Center have that same hope, and they are working hard to make it a reality. Of course, help is always needed, and donations are always appreciated as we continue in our pursuit of a cure. In the meantime, patients, caregivers and Massey Cancer Center are grateful for companies like McKesson and people like Erhardt who are at the ready, with arms open and resources available to offer comfort and support while the quest for better, more effective treatments continues.
If you or your company are interested in supporting VCU Massey Cancer Center, please contact the development office at 804-828-1450 or about the different ways you can give.