A special bond: Wellspan Cancer Center patients, caregivers celebrate

By on June 16, 2016
Jack and Linda Fritz of Narvon (left and right) with Ephrata Cancer  Center nurse Diane Moll. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

Jack and Linda Fritz of Narvon (left and right) with Ephrata Cancer Center nurse Diane Moll. Photo by Preston Whitcraft.

Jack Fritz calls Diane Noll his “head angel.” The 77-year-old Narvon man has been under Noll’s care for nearly five years.

“I call her the head angel, since I consider all of the nurses and staff at the Ephrata Cancer Center to be angels. They see a lot during their day at work and yet they always have a smile as they greet you. Diane is my ‘head angel’ since she’s been with me throughout my treatment,” Fritz explained.

Both Fritz and his 72-year-old wife, Linda, clearly remember the day he was diagnosed in September 2011. Fritz had visited his family physician, Dr. Traci Kohl, and was sent for X-rays during a bout of pneumonia.

“They found tumors in my right lung and spots on my left lung,” he said. “Dr. Kohl was in the hospital when I received the diagnosis, and she came over and gave me a hug &tstr; I really needed that.”

He had been a smoker since his teens.

“At that time, cigarettes cost a few cents a pack,” he recalled.

Additionally, at that time, the effects of smoking on one’s health were relatively unknown.

The year or two prior to his diagnosis with lung cancer, he smoked a pack-and-a-half a day. Ironically, he said that he quit smoking about six weeks before that fateful day in September.

“Linda had quit smoking, and she nagged me about quitting, too. I had tried to quit a couple of times over the years and told her that I would quit when I was ready. Now I definitely don’t smoke and wouldn’t do so, but now and then I get a craving, especially when I walk by an area where someone had just smoked,” he explained.

He and Linda recall being scared when told he had lung cancer.

“It’s frightening,” he said.

“You don’t know what to expect from treatment,” she added, although she firmly said that there was no question about where he would be treated. “I trust the Ephrata Hospital &tstr; I’ve gone there for all my procedures. Plus, it’s local; it was important to both of us to have treatment as close to Ephrata as possible, neither of us wanted to drive to Lancaster.”

Prior to beginning treatment, the couple, who have been married 37 years, went on a cruise.

“We didn’t know what was coming, and we wanted to have something good to remember during Jack’s treatments,” Linda said.

They met Diane Noll, registered nurse, in December 2011, when Jack’s treatments began. He had volunteered to participate in a clinical trial for his chemotherapy treatment. Noll is a research nurse who works with clinical trial patients.

“I’m very close with all of my research patients, particularly at the beginning &tstr; I’m their point of contact. Cancer is a terrible diagnosis &tstr; it’s scary and people don’t know what to expect from treatment,” she said.

For those volunteering in a clinical research trial, follow-up is even more important.

“Clinical trials give patients an opportunity for treatments that they would not otherwise have, what’s research today can become tomorrow’s standard for treatment,” she explained, citing the fact that medication now exists that can prevent the nausea and vomiting that had previously been experienced by patients after a chemotherapy treatment.

She said that prior to its affiliation with WellSpan Health, Ephrata Hospital was committed to clinical research. Ephrata Hospital has had a cancer center in operation since the mid-1990s, and the current Cancer Center opened in 2000.

But Noll said the main priority in a research study is the patient’s safety. Unfortunately, Fritz developed a side effect from the study medication.

“I was very worried that he wouldn’t want to continue treatment at all, so I called them a number of times. I’m sure they were both frustrated by my calls, but whether he wanted to continue the study drug or just the standard care was up to them, my main concern was that he continue a treatment,” she stressed.

Ultimately, the couple continued with standard treatment, but Noll continued to be a contact point.

“I had developed a relationship with them,” she said. Fritz is a retired mail carrier, and Noll’s husband is a mail carrier. Her late father also had lung cancer.

Whenever Jack came in for treatments, Linda was by his side.

“She was very much involved and helped manage his diet among other things,” Noll said.

“The treatments really tired me out. It took all my energy,” Jack added.

Noll said that whenever the couple came into the center, she would be with them. She took care of any blood work, and ensured that they had answers to any questions quickly. She also reported results from blood work and CT scans to them.

“They are now comfortable with all the nurses at the cancer center, but they still have a special place in my heart,” Noll said.

After 39 radiation treatments, Fritz’s tumors have shrunk, his breathing has improved, and he’s no longer receiving treatment.

“I thank God and everybody that prayed for me; most of my prayers have been answered,” he said as he, Linda and Diane all gathered at the Ephrata Cancer Center’s annual patient party.

The theme of this fun event, which was attended by about 260 patients and caregivers, was a sock hop.

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