Peace Sullivan has never set foot inside MD Anderson. But despite the fact that she lives more than 1,100 miles away in Miami, Florida, Sullivan holds a special place in her heart for the institution.
"My daughter-in-law went to MD Anderson when she was diagnosed with breast cancer treatment at the age of 25," she says. "Other institutions had only negative news for her, but thank heaven she went to Texas. Ten years later, she has two beautiful children."
When Sullivan's grandson was diagnosed with leukemia, she came up with a novel idea.
"I was most taken by these unmet needs people were experiencing that nobody would think about," says Sullivan. "For example, there was a play area for the children to enjoy, but it would have been nice if every child could have an iPad or individual toy for those very long days of chemotherapy treatment."
Working with the Department of Social Work at MD Anderson, Sullivan made a $100,000-plus gift dedicated to supporting unthought-of needs of cancer patients and their families.
"We've got the very best physicians. We know our patients are getting very good medical care," says Margaret Meyer, director, Social Work. "But we also want to ensure that they've got all of the other support to help get them through the process. That's where social work comes in."
Sullivan's fund already is being put to good use. In the short time that it's been available, it's been used to:
- purchase formula for feeding tubes necessitated by surgery for a head and neck cancer survivor
- help cover a breast cancer survivor's bills while she was out of work for surgery
- help cover a clinical trial patient's rent
- help a breast cancer survivor make an emergency mortgage payment that prevented her from losing her home
"This gift is truly a gift beyond gold," says Carmella Wygant, a social work counselor at MD Anderson. "These families see $100 or $200, but they feel like it's half a million. They don't feel alone anymore because they see that someone cares. It's really powerful."
Sullivan hopes that her gift might inspire others in the long run. "When people are so overwhelmed by an illness like cancer, it's very hard to think clearly and work out the other details of your life," she says. "I hope, in a small way, this fund might make that part just a little bit easier."