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Fister a Fixture in Surgery Waiting Area

Annual Report - Winter 2011

Volunteer helps care for patient caregivers


By Gail Goodwin

Susan Fister is an experienced volunteer who has literally given her life’s blood to the patients at MD Anderson.

She began by donating platelets to help two friends diagnosed with breast cancer. Almost 13 years later, she is a fixture in the surgery waiting area.

Cancer is 'family disease'

Fister explains that she’s always tried to identify with the caregivers while accompanying patients on their appointments at MD Anderson. 

“Somehow, they just seemed to be a little left out. I believe cancer is a family disease. It affects every person who loves that patient.”

Volunteering, she feels, is like training for any event in life. “It’s an emotional and spiritual challenge for me.”

Susan Fister volunteers in the 
surgery waiting area. 
Photo: Wyatt McSpadden

Experience is best teacher

Fister says that caregivers are never certain how they will be affected by the events that may occur the day of surgery. 

“In the surgery waiting area, the atmosphere can range from tears to jokes. It’s a position where experience is the best teacher — you have to live it to react appropriately.

“I learn something new every time I volunteer, “ she says. “Families need someone to talk to. Part of my job is to listen, to provide them with information and to help resolve any problems. You can’t panic. You just love your way through it.”


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center