Unsung Heroes Class of 2017
Maureen Donnelly Courage Award
For helping to ease the suffering of children whose lives are touched by cancer
Presented to the Heritage Hill Foundation
Community Impact Award
Recognizing outstanding contributions to the lives of people who are touched by cancer
Presented to the Make a Change (MAC) Foundation
Tim Hedrick Memorial Awards
Recognizing posthumous contributions to the lives of people touched by cancer
Presented to the Hedrick Family
Joslin Haggart Yeiser Awards
Edward Crane, MD
Irfan Firdaus, MD
Daniel Flora, MD
Douglas Flora, MD
Rodney Geier, MD
Cornelia McCluskey, MD
Suzanne Partridge, MD
Robert Summe, MD
Jen and Ellie Reker Murphy
Cathy Kiefel Hicjenlooper
Mary Alliston was nominated by Barbara Wexelman MD. Mary serves as the Breast Center Navigator at Good Samaritan Hospital. She meets with patients before a breast biopsy, after a positive biopsy, and if they are ultimately diagnosed with breast cancer she serves as their point person through their treatment journey. Many of the patients at Good Sam Breast Center have additional challenges, they may be homeless, have no family support, or have a significant complicating medical or social problem which adds to the complexity of their care. Many have small children which are additional stressors to a breast cancer diagnosis. Mary seeks out the challenges of the most difficult patients with grace and ease, giving each patient the dignity and time they deserve. Dr. Wexelman is proud to see Mary receive the deserving recognition of an “unsung hero”.
Michele Anderson was nominated by TriHealth Cancer Institute’s (TCI), Sarah Barwell, and Dr. Amie Jackson. The office where Michele worked closed in 2013. Sarah was a hiring supervisor for TCI, never met Michele, but had heard good things. Michele came in for a chat, and it was love at first sight! Sarah begged her to work with them. Michele declined initially but came 2 years later to work with a new oncologist, Dr. Amie Jackson. Watching Michele care for people makes one’s heart full. The compassion, empathy, and tenderness are so touchingly genuine. Dr. Jackson, who knows her best, writes, “Michele has been working with me since I took my position in 2015, but so many at TCI have known her much longer. Before I met her, people told me that she was special. Doctors, nurses, radiation technicians, and TCI administration…it seemed everyone knew Michele, and they all told me the same thing: she is amazing. I often encounter patients who knew Michele from her previous time in radiation oncology. They, or a loved one, may have received radiation a decade ago. Not only do they remember Michele, they remember her name and their faces light up when they see her. She remembers them too–little details about them so many years later. It seems to make both of their days.”
Tonya Bohl was nominated by Judy Hill, to represent the nurse navigators and the treatment nurses at St. Elizabeth MOB. Having stage IV metastatic breast cancer, Judy has multiple appointments, treatments, etc. at St. Elizabeth on a monthly basis. The nursing staff, led by Tonya, is a huge comfort to Judy. The field of oncology nursing, in particular, is probably one of the most challenging and rewarding fields in nursing. For those with cancer, oncology nurses are the ones who are there during the most difficult and intimate moments. They are also the ones behind the scenes, communicating with the doctors, coordinating care, and keeping the patients safe. They must keep track of numerous details thought the day, and they provide compassion & calm in the midst of difficult situations. Each one of these nurses is very special to Judy and her fellow patients. They are very caring and make sure needs are met from warm blankets to something to eat.
Connie Cook was nominated by Julie Holt. Connie wears many hats in her role as the Executive Clinical Director of Oncology Services at the Christ Hospital. As a nurse, Connie knows firsthand how important the role of the nurse is to the whole team. She also knows how critical every other role in a cancer clinic is. From the oncologists to the receptionist to the housekeeping and food services and everything in between. Connie works hard to ensure that every oncology patient at Christ has the information they need on current research, clinical trials, community resources, and more. She works tirelessly to ensure that all the staff committees run efficiently and smoothly with goals and measurable outcomes. She holds staff accountable and does whatever is needed to help get the job done. She doesn’t do it for rewards or recognition. She does it because it’s the right thing to do for patients. That’s what makes her an Unsung Hero.
Edward Crane, MD was nominated by Priyanka Ranatunga. Priyanka was diagnosed with lung and breast cancer in 2014, and she considers herself lucky to have Dr. Crane as a physician. He is highly knowledgeable in cancer care, up-to-date with the latest research, and skilled in handling his patients. He is a good listener and takes the time to understand her concerns. During office visits, he answers questions thoroughly and in detail, but in a way that is easily understandable. He is readily accessible, and any time she has a question over email, he promptly responds within a matter of minutes. When necessary he refers her to other physicians and health care providers and coordinates testing and treatment options with them to ensure improvements to her overall health. His care is so good that Priyanka hardly thinks about her cancer on a day-to-day basis. She thanks Dr. Crane from the bottom of her heart for everything he has done in her journey to defeat cancer.
Samantha Dietz was nominated by David Waterhouse, MD, MPH. Dr. Waterhouse describes Sammy as an exceptional talent, valued employee, and remarkable person. She is an MA at the OHC Blue Ash facility. Since June 2010, she has been helping to check-in patients and it is a rare day that one doesn’t express a complimentary thought about her. Sammy is able to bring an enthusiastic, embracing smile to each and every encounter, and to obtain blood samples from our patients in the gentlest fashion. Recently, Dr. Waterhouse learned that he had taken care of Sammy’s grandmother many years ago. Her grandmother apparently talked about how the employees at OHC made her feel at ease and, indeed, this is how Sammy came to work for OHC. In Sammy’s words, “I strive to make our patients feel comfortable and that they are being taken care of just as my grandma was.” Dr. Waterhouse values her work and her work ethic, he values the way that she instinctively attends to the emotional needs of their patients, and he adores her infectious smile.
Debbie Drew was nominated by the YMCA’s Kiana Trabue. A two-time cancer survivor, Debbie has worked at Blue Ash YMCA for over 20 years as a personal trainer and group exercise instructor. When Debbie heard that other YMCAs across the country were launching a new program called “LIVESTRONG at the YMCA” she immediately went to her supervisor and asked if the Y could offer the program. After many years advocating for this program, the Y was able to get a small grant for Blue Ash in January 2016. Debbie sprang into action, helping identify gaps in its current delivery model and making sure the branch was prepared. She helped organize focus groups with other nonprofit agencies that work with survivors. She volunteered to assist with fundraising to help support the program. She was one of the first employees to become a certified “LIVESTRONG at the YMCA” instructor in Cincinnati. Debbie is selfless when working with cancer survivors. She has a tremendous amount of empathy and patience and she leads her groups with grace & dignity. She humbly shares her cancer story with others and listens intently as others share theirs. She instills a sense of hope in each person she leads through this 12-week physical activity program. She not only inspires those she serves, but she also inspires her supervisors and other staff.
Irfan Firdaus, MD was nominated by Michelle A. Strole RN, BSN, OCN, of the Christ Hospital. Dr. Firdaus is committed to caring for the patients as a person and not just a disease — striving to provide the most up-to-date, evidence-based, and cutting-edge treatment available. He understands patients may be overwhelmed after a cancer diagnosis and is dedicated to spending as much time as needed to ensure they understand the plan and have their questions answered. Michelle has seen this first-hand working with him in the clinic. She’s heard many patients make numerous comments on his kindness, patience, and compassion for them. Dr. Firdaus specializes in treating patients with all forms of cancers and blood disorders. He has added interest in gastrointestinal cancers where he has also been actively involved in research, including as principal investigator for numerous gastrointestinal cancer clinical trials. He has presented his research at major international meetings. His additional interests include treating gynecologic and genitourinary cancers, especially ovarian and prostate cancers. Thank you Dr. Firdaus for all you do for your patients
Drs. Daniel Flora and Douglas Flora were both nominated by Nikki McGlone, RN.
Ten years ago she met Dr. Doug when her dad was diagnosed with Stage IV Metastatic Lung cancer. She was 17 years old. Three months after his diagnosis, on the day before her 18th birthday, he passed away. Nikki knew after watching the nurses care for him that she was going to be a nurse. In addition, she remembers the kindness that was shown to her dad by his oncologist, Dr. Doug Flora. How he walked into his hospital room, sat down, relaxed, and answered every question that a scared, teenaged-daughter had prepared. Doug asked her that day if she wanted to be a doctor, and she said, “No – I want to be a nurse.” He told her that she should, and Nikki listened.
Eight years later Nikki’s mother was diagnosed with Stage IV metastatic colon cancer. Within an hour of the primary care physician delivering the news, Nikki instinctively placed a call to the office of Doug Flora. She was going to get her mom the best doctor. However, as fate would have it, he did not have a new patient appointment that week. His brother Dr. Daniel Flora did. From the very first visit, Dr. Dan showed empathy and compassion to her mother at every appointment, scan overview, and each & every treatment option discussion. Nikki’s mom passed away in January of 2017, two years after diagnosis.
Two doctors, two brothers, came into her life at a time when she felt her world was collapsing, and they gave Nikki a pillar to hold it up. Aggressive, advanced cancer ended the lives of her parents, but because of the intelligence, training, and unbelievable hard work & dedication from Drs. Doug and Dan – it was certainly not without a fight. They are and will forever be heroes to Nikki.
Rodney Geier, MD was nominated by Michelle Strole. Dr. Geier specializes in Radiology. He is an experienced doctor, with 30 years of practice in the field and highly regarded by his patients for his bedside manners. He graduated locally from the UC College of Medicine. Many of his patients have prostate cancer, and they will go through numerous weeks of treatment. They comment on his kindness and commitment. Many patients that see him for follow-up treatment will mention how they look forward to seeing him again. When Michelle sees a new consult, the patient and family are usually nervous, so she tells them a few things about Dr. Geier. She says that if you like sports, especially UC, you will get along just fine. When he is done with the consult the patient and family members are more relaxed and stated they are glad to have met him. Dr. Geier is also one of the physicians that helped start the Prostate/Urologic Cancer Collaborative Committee, a multidisciplinary program where patients are seen simultaneously by several prostate cancer specialists to optimize their care. Additionally, Dr. Geier is in the 2015 Buddy Larosa High School Hall of Fame: You have to be a pretty special athlete to be a four-year letterman in three different sports, and Rodney clearly fit that description during his storied career at Cincinnati Country Day. A star in football, basketball, and tennis, Dr. Geier was among the city’s best. What an honor and privilege it is for Michelle to work with such a talented physician!
Sue Hamblin was nominated by Sue Powers because she is a great support to the TCI family and goes above and beyond to ensure workflow runs smoothly. The front desk and call center teams, led by Sue Hamblin, make every effort to ensure that patients, families, caregivers, physicians, and their team members stay connected to the people and the services that they may need. Some days are better than others, but she gives 110%. A clinical team member commented, “Sue, you are priceless… there is nothing that you cannot fix when things go wrong some days… Thanks for your support and encouragement. You are the best!!!!” Sue’s compassion for patients is reflected in all she does. Sue knows firsthand the importance of timely access. Along with her grandson, Kodie, she has been the primary caregiver to her mother up until her recent passing. Sue took her mom into her home to ensure she received the best care and the best access she needed. She deserves to be commended for her dedication and for the tough job she does every day.
Cornelia McCluskey, was nominated by Michelle Strole for her care and compassion for her patients. Michelle has worked with Dr. McCluskey since 2015 in the radiation department at Christ. Dr. McCluskey treats many breast cancer patients and patients with head and neck cancer. She sees these patients for at least 5 to 6 weeks and gets to know them very well. She will take calls from family members who have many questions and will make sure they are all answered in a timely manner. When patients are done with their treatment they get to ring a bell (which was donated by 2016 Unsung Heroes Tony and Missy Duggan) and receive a diploma. Oftentimes the patients want their picture taken with Dr. McCluskey, referring to her as “their hero & cheerleader throughout the treatment”.
Suzanne Partridge was nominated by Elizabeth Burneka. Compassionate. Dedicated. Unrelenting in her fight against cancer. These are the words that describe oncologist, Dr. Suzanne Partridge. Compassion is at the heart of her everyday practice. Spending unrelenting hours fighting for her patients, sacrificing time with her four children, is all just a part of daily life. Her patients respect her for her will to never give up on them. She bases her practice on the principle that she was placed here to serve others, and she does just that through her everyday practice. Liz considers it an honor to know her and work with her. “The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others” – Albert Schweitzer.
Jaimie Robinson is a social worker at the Christ Hospital Cancer Center, and her nominator Andrew Allan describes Jaimie as simply amazing at what she does, and what she does is bring Comfort – Support – Energy – Guidance – Compassion – Expertise, and Hope to cancer patients every day. Patients go through an incomprehensible struggle as they confront cancer, chemotherapy, radiation, and the unknown – often simultaneously. The battle challenges finances, relationships, identity, and faith, and it severely complicates the logistics of everyday life. They are overwhelmed and exhausted. As a nurse, Andrew has the distinct honor of being able to say, “I think you should talk to our social worker” with full confidence that Jaimie will skillfully address the trouble with persistence and empathy. If resources are available she will hunt for them, if paperwork is required, she will complete it, and if a smile and a listening ear are needed, she will provide those too. Jaimie cannot fix every problem but he knows that she wants to, and he knows that if it can be solved or at least improved, that she will find a way. Their patients know it too. Andrew knows because they tell him and because he can see it in their demeanor when, after a visit from Jaimie, the infusion bay curtain opens back up and Jaimie emerges to make the needed phone calls and send the needed emails, and his patient looks somehow lightened.
Dave Stengel was nominated by Ed Crane, MD. Dr. Crane believes he is the luckiest physician around to work with Dave as a Nurse Navigator for their patients. He is incredibly organized and conscientious which is essential to keep track of complicated issues. His quiet compassion towards providing outstanding patient care shines as Dr. Crane is complimented on a daily basis by patients about Dave’s attention and concern for them. They are constantly doing battle against insurance companies to ensure treatments are available for patients. Without Dave, Dr. Crane knows his success rate for approvals would be dismal. With him, they are regularly celebrating therapeutic opportunities for their patients when denials are eventually overturned. In addition to his hard work and dedication, he is an excellent father. The patients at OHC are thankful to have him as their navigator, and Dr. Crane doesn’t know what he would do without him.
Robert Summe, MD is nominated by Michelle Strole for his attention to detail and his considerate manner he gives his patients and staff every day. Dr. Summe is the medical director of radiation oncology at the Christ Hospital and has been instrumental in the acquisition of some of the best technologies in the country. Michelle started working alongside Dr. Summe in 2015, and he has been an excellent teacher. Numerous patients report how kind and caring he is in their care and in making sure their needs are being met. Michelle has recommended him to close friends and family. One family member, whose mother had lung cancer, was so impressed by how Dr.Summe took care of her mother. When her mother was in hospice, the daughter called and wanted to speak to Dr. Summe one last time to just be comforted and to thank him again. It is an honor and privilege to work with him.
Paige Willenbrink was nominated by Ed Crane, MD. Paige is the head treatment suite nurse at OHC’s West Chester office. Dr. Crane has had the privilege of working with Paige for almost eleven years at OHC. She is excellent, intelligent, and caring. She ensures that the patients’ chemotherapy orders are how they should be and diligently follows up on their labs to ensure abnormalities are addressed. She is more than just a nurse to the patients; however, she is their friend. It warms his heart to see how many of the patients insist upon having a picture with Paige to post on Facebook to highlight their favorite nurse for their friends to see. Thank you, Paige, for doing such an outstanding job!
Judy Bell was nominated by Debbie Sensibaugh. Judy was the primary caregiver for her son Eric, who passed away on March 26, 2016. Judy was with him through it all. When he was participating in a clinical trial at OSU, he became critically ill. Judy drove up and down I-71 so frequently it was routine. She stayed with him at his home whenever needed, because Judy was also the primary support for Eric’s two children, Molly and Josh. She never worried about herself. You can say any Mom would do this – true – but to maintain some normalcy, her outlet was running her Weight Watcher Meetings. You see, Judy is also a phenomenal WW leader! She found strength by supporting her members. Debbie watched Judy lead meetings and her heart would ache to know what she was going through. Very few people knew of her son’s illness, and even his death, as she was able to make the members feel they were her priority. Judy continues to be the Grandma everyone would want. She took Molly and Josh to the beach last summer to spread their father’s ashes and made the trip fun-filled and adventurous. They celebrated Eric’s life. Every Saturday morning Debbie goes to WW and listens to her hero, Judy Bell!! Her fellow members have no clue how blessed they are.
Carol Bonner was nominated by Mandy Bley, Maureen Donnelly, and Maureen Gallagher of the Neuro-Oncology Department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. A few years ago they had a patient who was terminally ill and really wanted a dog. The family wanted to get her a dog but was also overwhelmed by the thought of learning to care for a dog in light of many other challenges on their plates. Mandy reached out to Carol because of her connection with the SCPA. Carol went above and beyond to help. Carol not only helped them find a dog that would be a good fit for their family, but arranged for food and vet care, and remained involved to provide support for any and all pet-related questions. As a result of her kind and gentle presence, the dog became an integral part of the family’s life. However, after this first experience, Carol was determined to do more. Not only has she continued her work to help any family that we refer to her, but she has started a non-profit organization, “Pets for Patients”, to formally continue bringing joy to families in this special way. Carol’s compassion, understanding, and gentle presence allow her to connect with families at some of the most difficult moments. We are so grateful for the kindness and joy she brings into the lives of patients and families at Children’s Hospital.
Julie Chambers was nominated by Phillip Gray. Julie has risen through the ranks at OHC, first starting out as a medical assistant. She is now operations manager for the Eden Park office. Julie is widely known as a great leader and team player – always putting patients first. Several years ago OHC suffered a tragic loss with one of its employees, and Julie handled the situation with compassion and supported the staff so direct patient care was not compromised during this sudden loss. Her relationship with patients and their family members speaks volumes as she treats them as if they have become part of her family. She celebrates their success and shows great empathy when their cancer returns. Phillip is proud to call her a colleague and a friend.
Patricia Haley was nominated by her husband, Rodney. Rodney has been battling cancer since February of 2014, and Patricia has been with him every step of the way. She has spent her life being a caregiver, not just for Rodney but for many in the MRDD and elderly in her community. When Rodney was diagnosed with cancer, there was never any hesitation on Patricia’s part as to what her role in his care would be. She has been there in every way possible. They have been together for 20 years and have had good times and bad and she has never faltered. They have a “forevership” and Patricia is truly a Hero’s HERO!
Lynn Meiners was nominated by Judy McAuliffe. Lynn has the soul of a caregiver. With that, she has faced some pretty challenging times to care for some very special people in her life. Most notably, her late son Robby, who died from a malignant brain tumor at age 3 & most recently, her sister-in-law Barbara, who died from metastatic breast cancer a few months ago. Despite the profound loss of her son, Lynn did not hesitate to step forward and support Barbara & her family. As with Robby, Lynn’s focus was first and foremost for Barbara’s comfort, well-being, and dignity. She showed up daily at Barbara’s house and helped Barbara do things important to the legacy Barbara wanted to leave for her children & family, like completing her family’s picture albums & family tree. She helped Barbara maintain a routine when it became a challenge. She continued doing Barbara’s daily crossword puzzles with her & made it possible for Barbara to host her book club. She took her to treatments, did laundry, cooking & housework to help maintain some normalcy for her brother-in-law & nephews. And in typical Lynn style, she did these things in a quiet & unassuming manner. Lynn continues to her offer friendship, warmth, help & support in a spirit of love & generosity.
Scott O’Reilly was nominated by his sister, Leanne Blair. Scott lost his wife, Emily, on January 2, 2016, after an 18 month battle with cholangiocarcinoma. When Emily was diagnosed with cancer, they had three very small children. At the time, their son, Henry, was 3 and their twins, Gabrielle and Grace, were 11 months old. Scott, a prosecuting attorney, and a natural researcher/problem solver swooped in and researched all treatment options for Emily. He was her ultimate caregiver and champion and the main caregiver to their three small children, all while maintaining his extremely demanding career. The stress of Emily’s diagnosis challenged and changed everyone in her circle, but Scott was able to manage the stress better than anyone Leanne had ever seen and provide amazing support for Emily and their children, while constantly putting himself last. His commitment to the vow of “in sickness and in health” was, and still is, an inspiration to many. Caregivers are often overlooked throughout a loved one’s cancer journey as they’re supposed to keep it all together for everyone. Leanne’s hope is that people can see the dedication and strength it takes to be a caregiver, like Scott, and realize that those closest to the cancer patient also get cancer as well and need just as much support and prayer. Scott, you are Leanne’s “Unsung Hero” and she is beyond blessed to be your sister.
Jen and Ellie Reker Murphy were nominated by Lisa Farrell and Kent Wellington. Jen’s mother, Sue Reker, and sister, Katie Crane, both passed from breast cancer within the past 3 years. In 2013 the Reker family was a recipient of a vacation through the Karen Wellington Foundation for LIVING with Breast Cancer. Jen wanted to pay it forward for other families living with breast cancer to enjoy a similar vacation experience. The following October she started a pink lemonade and bake sale with her Kindergarten class at St. Mary School. This has now become an annual tradition to raise awareness and encourage future generations of givers. Ellie Reker Murphy has been inspired by her mom, Jen, and has gone above and beyond with her volunteer activities. Ellie serves with the Junior Board and sells her own goods to raise money at the St. Mary vendor nights.
Heidi Bright was nominated by Tara Robinson. Heidi is an Unsung Hero not only because of her own personal growth but because she has been determined to help others with what she learned from her experience. When Heidi was diagnosed with a rare Stage IV cancer, she immediately put into action all of her advanced awareness of the mind-body-spirit connection. She turned over every single stone and healing became a full-time job. She researched, overhauled her diet, maximized the effects of sound meditation, art therapy, dream interpretation, etc. She courageously chronicled her journey as it unfolded on her Caring Bridge webpage. All who watched Heidi’s healing trek in awe could see the strong possibility that her online accounts would one day be the perfect material for a book. She did, in fact, compile all she had learned and experienced into an extensive resource for others on the healing journey. Her book, Thriver Soup, was traditionally published and has been helping patients and families around the world ever since. Heidi continued to suffer the worst of life’s challenges when her son suddenly passed away. However, her spirit is not to be defeated. She once again drew on the strength and faith she had cultivated during her cancer journey to, not only survive, but thrive through this tragedy. Tara believes our world is a better place because of Heidi.
Rita Ferguson was nominated by the staff at the Barrett Center’s Gynecologic/Oncology Group. Rita was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2015 and has shown incredible strength throughout her treatment. In addition, she has a wonderfully supportive husband, Tom, who is always with her at each and every appointment. Professionally, Rita has co-authored a self-help book on wealth building/time efficiency. She also continues to stay engaged as a freelance “personal high-performance coach” as well as a volunteer leader in the local chapter of Toastmasters. Rita has four grandchildren from two grown daughters, one in North Carolina and one in New Hampshire, the latter who raises goats. The newest baby goat is named, “Baby Doc Herzog” after Rita’s Gynecologic Oncologist, Dr. Tom Herzog. Rita and Tom exude a presence that the Barrett Center staff enjoy and admire.
Bryana Gordon was nominated by Jill Todd. On March 2nd, 2016, at the age of 22, Bryana Gordon was diagnosed with cervical cancer. This amazing young lady, who held down 2 jobs prior to her illness, endured external and internal radiation as well as chemotherapy. Even on her bad days, Bryana made sure that others stayed encouraged and well informed. So with the help of her father Ryan, her mother Lacy, and her twin sister Kiyana, Bryana video recorded her treatments allowing others to see what people with cancer go through. Bryana has one particular video that received millions of views from people in New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, even Bermuda where she bravely showed viewers the removal of her hair that was falling out due to the chemotherapy. Bryana was constantly educating others on the symptoms and signs of what to look for with cervical cancer. On September 24th, 2016 she gave her testimony at the I Am Women’s Conference and another event on October 23rd, 2016 called the Save the Kitty Box where Local 12 came out to show support for her cause. Unfortunately on March 2nd, 2017 Bryana Gordon passed away. Although it is a great loss to her family and friends, Bryana’s unselfish spirit of education and positivity will live on forever.
Willie Harris was nominated by his oncologist, Dr. Olugbenga Olowokure. Willie’s never quit attitude and ability to make others feel better is one reason Dr. “Benga” was inspired to nominate him. No matter how difficult of a day Willie is having, he always has a smile on his face when he comes for medical appointments.
Donald Jansen was nominated by Jaclyn Jansen. For decades, this smiling face has touched countless lives throughout Cincinnati in service to the Ronald McDonald House, Our Daily Bread, and the Bayley Retirement Community. Many recognize his smiling face, but Jaclyn is lucky enough to know him as her father. In October 2016, he became a regular at chemotherapy when he began his unexpected and sudden battle with pancreatic cancer. Even in a cancer center, he manages to bring smiles to the faces of everyone he meets. Jaclyn watches the bravest man she knows fight the battle of his life with unbelievable humility and strength every day. Even now, he has never wavered in his beliefs and continues to volunteer and work in the service of others. Through treatments, nausea, sickness, weakness, and fatigue, providing service to others remains his joy and passion. She considers her dad to be an everyday hero, and in her words, “Pops simply radiates light and goodness into the world. It is my hope that the Unsung Heroes Award will reflect that light back and illuminate what this kind, warm, thoughtful, brave, and giving man has done in service of others.”
Cathy Kiefel Hicjenlooper was nominated by Debbie Sensibaugh, who calls her, “The Cookie Lady.” Cathy has been battling stage IV breast cancer since her initial diagnosis 2 years ago. She has dealt with profound anemia, treatment fatigue, and severe pain due to bone metastasis. She was an avid runner, but due to her disease and pain, she reduced her workout to 2 miles on a treadmill. She no longer enjoys it but says she pushes through because “I have to.” Cathy’s most comforting therapy is baking. When stressed, she bakes. When she retired from nursing, her dream was to be a chef, and has she fulfilled that dream!! Debbie and her colleagues see her white boxes arrive, and the immediate response is, “Cathy Cookies!” There is nothing ordinary about her gourmet cookies or her. Her strength inspires others more than she’ll ever understand, and her talent & generosity spoils the staff rotten. Debbie knew Cathy as a nurse. “She was an awesome nurse, and as a patient, she is even more amazing!!”
John Knipschild was nominated by Abbey DiMarco. John qualifies for two categories as an Unsung Hero: both Patient and Oncology Professional. John worked with TriHealth as a Certified Chemotherapy Technician, Level IV, for almost 25 years. John passed on his vast knowledge of oncology treatment regimens to other pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and nurses through training over the years. His hard work ethic and dedication to TriHealth were only rivaled by his genuine care and concern for the patients he made chemotherapy for every day. John was diagnosed with colon cancer in April of last year, and, through his own battle, was able to relate to patients on a whole new level. He continued to dedicate himself 110% to his work. John received treatment on his off day and worked four, ten-hour shifts on the remaining days. He had numerous cycles of chemotherapy and radiation, yet he still showed up to work every day, with a shining smile and positive attitude. John passed away on March 31st, and his recent death has left Abbey and her colleagues with heavy hearts.
Janie McFarland was nominated by Dene Wrenn, MD. At the age of 39 Janie was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. Just as it is for most people the diagnosis was unexpected and shocking. She quickly took action and began treatment with a positive attitude. She always came to the office with a smile on her face. She balanced being a wife, mother, school teacher, and cancer patient with grace. Once she was in the hospital after a second surgery watching her daughter’s dance recital on FaceTime. She always made sure her family knew that the cancer was not more important than them. She is always anxious to get back to her role as an educator and wants her students to see someone who can persevere through treatment for cancer. She is a hero to many and Dr. Wrenn is in awe of her ability to take one day at a time, with hope and a smile.
Jane Menkhaus was nominated by the staff at the Barrett Center’s Gynecologic/Oncology Group. Jane was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2010, and, despite the obstacles that have been put in her way, she maintains a grace that all of the staff admire. Jane comes to the office with a smile on her face and some “pep in her step”. When they ask her how she is, her answer is always, “Great!”, and then she is ready to talk about her weekly golf league, her son, her husband, or her upcoming cruise. The name Jane means “Gracious” and this certainly describes her. The Barrett Center Gyn/Onc group thanks Jane for being a positive influence on everyone she meets.
Cindy Ohmer was nominated by her daughter, Kim Sellmeyer. Their love story started from birth, a Mother and Daughter bond that would last a lifetime. When Cindy was diagnosed with breast cancer, Kim was filled with emotion. After the first meeting with her oncologist, all they could do was sob while they embraced each other not knowing what the future would hold, but that they would continue their amazing friendship. Cindy’s support system gives her the courage that she needs to get through the battle that exceeds anything prior. She will soar high feeling better than ever because she knows that they need her, she is their everything, a light on a dark day, a warm hug when life isn’t so great, a smile when achievements are made, she encourages her family to always do their best. Cindy is Kim’s hero, and she finds happiness in the small things in life. She is more carefree knowing that she is no longer in control. She has taken the cancer diagnosis with grace and acceptance knowing that she can handle anything and is never standing alone, but with a support system that continues to grow.
Carolyn Pope was nominated by her daughter, Florence Pope-Harris. Florence says, “My mother will give you the shirt and skirt off of her and give you a ride to where you need to go.” Carolyn is a breast cancer and stroke survivor and she was a caretaker. Both of Florence’s parents had cancer- their sicknesses overlapped. Her father took care of Carolyn while fighting his Multiple Myeloma and Carolyn took care of him through his multiple bouts with the disease- to which he succumbed in 2009. She took him to all his appointments and was his full-time caretaker at home. She never left his side at the hospital or hospice. All this while refusing to be called a survivor herself because she says there are so many who had it worse than she did. Florence describes her mom as the epitome of unselfish in every way. She adopted Florence’s brother and was the primary caregiver for him since he was born with CHF and cognitive disorder. She loved and cared for him until 2015 when he succumbed to heart failure. When she adopted him the doctors said he’d never survive 1yr and yet the years and victories continued- he was a Special Olympian and lived a great life. Carolyn is her daughter’s hero because she can’t imagine how her heart has managed to love and go through so much!
Chuck Scheper was nominated by Jeff Krumpelman. As a cancer survivor, Chuck has interpreted his battle as a blessing to enrich his life and direct it to leadership in health & wellness in a mission to help others facing similar challenges. 25 years ago, at the age of 39, Chuck felt like he was on top of the world. He had been promoted to President of his company, and he & his wife, Julie, had recently purchased a historic home in Covington. Life was good. Then he noticed a lump in his neck and within a matter of weeks, he was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer—Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It took Chuck about 2 years to fully recover, and today he remains cancer-free. It was during this time of recovery that he made a promise to himself that he would live his life, whatever time he had, such that he could look back and say, “I wouldn’t change anything.” In 2009 Chuck retired from his career to invest more time in charitable ventures and those related to health & wellness. Chuck refers to this period as his “rewirement” rather than retirement. A few of his “rewirement” accomplishments include Chair of National Board of The Wellness Community (now Cancer Support Community), Chairman of the Board of Bexion, which is now conducting clinical trials on a potentially transformational treatment mechanism first discovered at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to kill solid tumors of all types, and in 2011, Chuck became Mayor of Covington, KY and helped put the city on a path of fiscal health.
Peggy Schuckman was nominated by Casey Johnson. Peggy always has a smile on her face! She is always laughing and joking with the staff, and everyone at the Barrett Cancer Center looks forward to seeing her whenever she is there. She has been receiving treatment for 4 years, and she continues to inspire those around her. She also continues to take vacations and do the things that she loves, whether that be taking day trips with any of her 4 children, or whether that be going to an Indian Reservation in Arizona. She is excellent at balancing that quality and quantity of life thing so many people aspire to achieve. Her oncologist, Dr. Olowokure and Casey, along with the entire team love laughing and sharing life experiences and funny stories with Peggy and her daughters, Stephanie & Katie. “We all love you, we are cheering for you, so keep your boxing gloves on!” – Dr. Benga