Adrienne Doherty has come a long way since her stage III colorectal cancer diagnosis in November of 2014. She went from feeling terrified of the side effects that could result from the surgery that was part of her treatment protocol, to recently finding out she was in remission. Adrienne credits her Mentor Angel, Donna, with contributing in a significant way to the positive outcome.
“’Angel’ is probably the single best word in the English dictionary to describe Donna. Her courage, laughter and positivity gave me hope that I was going to come out on the other side of this, and Donna demonstrated that she was going to do everything she could to help me,” Adrienne says.
Exploring her treatment options was a frightening process for Adrienne. The tumor was so far down in Adrienne’s intestinal tract, her doctor felt there may not be enough intestine left to repair it by re-attaching the top and bottom of the intestine after the tumor was removed. When she was in the beginning stages of her education on the surgery and feeling overwhelmed, Adrienne learned of Imerman Angels from her sister and contacted the organization immediately.
“When I called Imerman Angels, I got the exact message I needed to hear. They told me they would connect me with someone who has been there. My anxiety level was cut in half instantly. It was like being lost out in the Atlantic in your sailboat and then you make radio contact with a rescue team and you know they will come for you,” she says.
Adrienne was now able to face the prospect of surgery in a calmer state of mind.
“Imerman Angels and Donna gave me the strength to get the surgery,” she says.
Adrienne and Donna had a good rapport from their very first phone call.
“Donna showed me the kind of attitude you need to have when fighting cancer and the confidence to know that you are going to get from here to there. You never take your eye off of the goal. I got the sense from her that she never doubted she was going to get to the end of her trip successfully. She has tremendous strength of character and determination, and she was really empathetic to me,” Adrienne says.
Adrienne’s surgeon told her there was an 80 percent probability that he could reconnect her intestines after removing the tumor and Adrienne had the surgery in October of 2015. Following the first surgery, Adrienne was given an ileostomy – a temporary externalized GI tract – for six months. She then had the reversal surgery to reconnect her intestines. Both surgeries were successes, and a month-and-a-half after having the reversal surgery, Adrienne is nearly back to her normal self.
“At one point, I never thought that it would be possible for me to feel this good. The miracle of what my surgeon was able to do should give other people with colorectal cancer hope,” she says.
Adrienne feels that Donna helped heal her as much as the surgery did.
“Battling cancer is such a personal journey on many levels, and it puts you in a position where you do not have control in some ways, so you need to take control where you can. This includes sharing your feelings with people who you trust and who you know will help you navigate through it – criteria that a Mentor Angel meets. Plus, a Mentor Angel has already developed the ability to handle the emotional impact of cancer, so you do not need to take care of them emotionally. You can share with your Mentor Angel and receive an immeasurable amount of reassurance. It is a bit like having a co-pilot right there with you,” Adrienne says.
The enormous impact that Donna made on Adrienne inspired Adrienne to become a Mentor Angel herself and she registered for the role after her reversal surgery.
“After having an experience like that and seeing firsthand what a lifesaver a Mentor Angel is for someone battling cancer, I want to make sure that resource – that support – is always available,” Adrienne says.
Each Mentor Angel applicant is screened and trained by a staff member of Imerman Angels. For example, Mentor Angels are discouraged from giving any medical advice to mentees. Mentor Angel applicants also complete a thorough profile detailing their personal experience with cancer to ensure they are matched well with support seekers. All of this information is kept confidential and shared only with the people they agree to support.
Based on the specific needs of support seekers, it may take some time before Mentor Angels are matched, but they remain in the matching database and will be contacted when an appropriate support seeker registers for the service. While Mentor Angels may not get matched immediately, they are still active when they share the Imerman Angels mission and allow the organization to help more people. When a good match is found, Mentor Angels are always contacted in advance of the connection to ensure they have availability in their schedule.
Three weeks after the connection is made, Imerman Angels sends separate follow-up surveys to the Mentor Angel and their mentee to check on the success of the match. This is one of the many ways that Imerman Angels strives to make the best possible connection.
Become a Mentor Angel like Adrienne and provide critical one-on-one support to a cancer fighter, survivor or caregiver.