Ann

Impact Stories

Ann was a patient at the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute Radiation Oncology Center at University Parkway. Now she’s a volunteer. This is her story.

Ann Jefferds: Cancer Survivor and More

When Ann Jefferds noticed a little bump on her breast, she thought it might be an infection from a playful kitten’s scratch. She eventually decided to see her doctor and was surprised when he advised her to go for a mammogram. The X-rays revealed she had cancer.

Receiving a diagnosis of cancer is frightening for patients and families, and Ann’s family had been through this before. Her husband died of cancer and she was concerned about putting her kids through that experience again. The timing of her diagnosis further complicated her situation—we were in the middle of a pandemic. She worried about how she and her kids would cope.

After diagnosis, Ann recalls being confused about what to do and where to go. She didn’t want to travel to receive treatment as her husband did. Lifting some of that burden was learning that with the opening of the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute at Sarasota Memorial, the care she needed was available in her hometown. “There are so many excellent, dedicated cancer doctors and nurses here,” she says. “They took so much time with me to help me make the best decisions for myself.”

Ann was beyond grateful for her oncology nurse navigator, Veronica Martinez, MSN, RN, OCN. Oncology nurse navigators are specially trained to assist patients and families from diagnosis to survivorship, coordinating all aspects of their care. “Veronica made a horrible thing not so horrible,” Ann says. “She was amazing.” Even after Veronica’s primary duties were completed, she would check on Ann to make sure she felt supported and had everything she needed. Ann says, “The nurses and techs always took the extra step, listening, being kind and comforting, and treating me like family.”

Ann’s road to recovery was difficult. Since July 2020, she has undergone a lumpectomy, mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and reconstructive surgery. Of course, her experience has changed her life, but she is thriving and her outlook is wonderfully positive. “I don’t waste my days,” she says. She plays the bagpipes, sings in a choir and marvels at all the nice people she would have never met had she not been on this journey.

Today, Ann volunteers at SMH’s Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute Radiation Oncology Center where she underwent 28 consecutive days of treatment. In addition to making sure the waiting rooms are stocked with patient information and cold drinks, she shows first-time patients where they need to wait and where they need to go. She says some of the patients want to talk, and some don’t, but she waits for all of them until their treatment is done. Comforting.

You too can help save lives.

Every gift to the Healthcare Foundation’s Leading with Care campaign supports the creation and expansion of the Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute, including the oncology nurse navigation program. If you are inspired by Ann’s story and wish to learn more about how you can help, click here.

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