Offering a hand to hold through a cancer diagnosis

Kathleen Reynolds

By Kathleen Reynolds, MSN, RN, CS, clinical nurse specialist with Social Work and Counseling at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center

How do I put into a brief blog the reasons why I find being a part of the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center so rewarding on both a professional and personal level?

I can say that 16 years ago when I came to Karmanos, I would have crawled on broken glass to be accepted into this fine institution. It was and still is well-known for being a cut above the average medical environment.

Physicians are truly dedicated to their patients, not the clock. There is no “It’s 4 p.m. — I am out of here,” echoing in these halls. Doctors stay until patient issues are resolved. The entire nursing and support staff also goes out of their way to make sure patients are cared for. They truly go beyond the call of duty. They give their all and they go to the ends of the Earth to meet and fulfill patients’ needs and wishes.

Personally, as a nurse practitioner in adult mental health, I know that Karmanos employs a gold mine of people who really want to help patients cope with a cancer diagnosis. In my 30 years of mental health, providing care to the patient sometimes has been a challenge.

So often clients I’ve seen in the past have fought accepting mental health support. There’s sometimes a stigma attached to those who seek that type of support. Karmanos is a place where I am allowed to use my creativity to help people cope. I am free to individualize my care for them.

I meet with people who need a hand to hold, or need to move through a crisis, or want to make major changes in how they look at life and their place in it as they battle cancer or are recovering from it.

I have held mind-body skills training groups for patients and staff and through these classes, I have come to realize that my biggest challenge is to help people find, renew or replenish their self-esteem. Another challenge is to help people realize their sense of personal power in their fight against cancer and to nurture that ability to have a successful recovery.

Lastly, and perhaps selfishly, my job has taught me to strive to value each day. I appreciate each aspect of health I personally possess and value each person I come into contact with for their special contribution to humanity. I prioritize what is most important in life…to live each day and treasure its gifts.

I am a better person for working here and anxiously await each opportunity to share the stories of survival and success that I have learned with each precious client who allows me to accompany them on their cancer journey.

Let the Karmanos Cancer Center staff help you through your own journey with cancer. We offer counseling services to our patients and everyone is welcome to take part in our many support groups even if they aren’t being treated at Karmanos.

For more information about our support services, call 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266) or visit


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