APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The coronavirus and social distancing guidelines didn’t deter an area man from celebrating a cancer milestone with friends and family in Appleton.
Forrest Clark was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year, according to ThedaCare.
“When you hear the word cancer, your world changes,” he told ThedaCare. “I recognized this was a big moment for me and my family.”
What Clark never expected was how the coronavirus pandemic would impact his journey. What was certain was that his wife, Mary, family, and friends would continue to serve as his support system.
ThedaCare says Clark went through seven weeks of treatment for esophageal cancer at the Regional Cancer Center. His treatment looked a bit different as visitors were limited, but that didn’t deter his network.
“I have people calling me all the time, checking in on me to see how I’m doing,” he said. “They let me know they care about me and want to know how I’m doing through all of this.”
As Clark completed his weekly treatments, plans were made for Clark to take part in the ringing of the survivorship bell – a ritual for many patients as they celebrate a milestone in their treatment. Family, friends, and caregivers often gather as the patient rings the bell.
Clark’s support system wanted to be involved in the celebration, and they knew it was important to adhere to social distancing guidelines. So they joined with signs of encouraging messages, standing 6 ft. apart from one another.
“When I turned around and saw everyone there behind me, I had tears in my eyes,” he said. “I cannot explain how much that meant to me.”
Donna Boehm, ThedaCare Director of Cancer Care, explains how important it is to have a group of people to support patients in treatment during the COVID-19 response, and finding creative ways to show that support.
“Our patients are faced with ‘finding a new normal’ and adjusting to life after a diagnosis with a new perspective,” she said. “That continues as we are also adjusting to changes regarding COVID-19. It’s incredibly important to celebrate patients and families along the way, every chance we can, be it a clear scan, the end of a cycle of treatment or a final dose of chemotherapy. These are the moments that keep us all going.”
Clark is now planning for surgery soon and knows his team will be there with him, every step of the way.