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Volunteer helps patients find their way

Annual Report - Winter 2013

By Gail Goodwin

With six children and six grandchildren, caregiving comes naturally to patient navigator volunteer Denise Taliaferro. However, acting in that same role to her husband was never on her list of things to do.

Taliaferro found herself in that position soon after returning from a family trip in late January 2009. What her husband, Woody, thought was just a sore back from too much golfing was soon diagnosed as metastatic melanoma.

By the time the Taliaferros arrived at MD Anderson from Dallas, Woody had trouble walking. Denise remembers well the volunteer who greeted them at the front door and guided them to Floor 9. “This place is huge and overwhelming,” she says. “We had no idea where to go.”

Denise Taliaferro
Photo: John Everett

Seven months from diagnosis, Woody lost his cancer fight, and Denise soon returned to her native Houston. “Coming home felt good,” she says. “My family is very close, and they were all there for us when we needed them. They’re my anchor.”

She also returned to 
MD Anderson to volunteer. “It’s a blessing,” she says. And, she knew exactly which volunteer position interested her. The volunteer she met on her first visit to MD Anderson made a huge impression. Denise wanted to help others as she had been helped.

Now on Tuesdays, Denise stands at the entrance to the Main Building, ready to greet those entering MD Anderson. She spends Wednesdays at the MD Anderson Regional Care Center in Katy, a Houston suburb, where she enjoys visiting with patients and assisting staff.

When asked, Denise will admit that her family is very proud of her volunteer work. “My being there keeps the link to their dad alive,” she says.


In fiscal year 2012, MD Anderson had:

  • 1,248 volunteers
  • 192,152 volunteer hours (equivalent to 92 full-time employees)

Patient volunteer: Frank McCreary

By Gail Goodwin

Frank McCreary is not one to sit down on the job.

Frank McCreary
Photo: John Everett

Though he is a retired partner of a large Houston law firm, this 11-year survivor of T-cell lymphoma and MD Anderson volunteer has stood up to cancer and continues to represent survivors of the disease.

McCreary currently serves as one of 
two survivor representatives on 
MD Anderson’s Cancer Survivorship Program Steering Committee. In addition, he is active in the Anderson Network, a program of the Department of Volunteer Services, and is not only the Steering Committee chair-elect, but also an active participant in the annual Anderson Network Survivorship Conference.

McCreary’s steady demeanor and professional skills make him a natural to represent survivorship for all cancer patients.

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