The Friends of Karen Family Support Program social workers develop strong bonds with the families they work with for months or years. When Friends of Karen social worker Rhonda picked up the phone in 2021, she was pleasantly surprised that Pat, whose daughter battled acute myeloid leukemia 30 years before, was calling. We asked Pat, who lives in Queens, to share her memories of that time and what prompted her to contact Rhonda.

“When my daughter was 10 years old, she was diagnosed with leukemia. When that happened, I was in big trouble because I had to be at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center all the time with my daughter and could not work. The hospital social worker referred me to Friends of Karen so I could get help with some of my bills. I will never forget Rhonda; she was a godsend. She arranged for me to get help paying the electric bill and my rent. Rhonda was there for anything I needed, and she showed us so much love and support.

That time in our lives was exhausting and I almost never left the hospital in the one and a half years my daughter got treatment. I found ways to make it bearable for us both. I cooked all my daughter’s meals for her on a little stove near the children’s playroom in the hospital.

Children who didn’t enjoy the hospital food and the staff would come out and tell me that the food smelled good. So, I began cooking lentil soup for the staff two days a week, as well as writing down the other children’s favorite foods and cooking them.

After her treatment ended, my daughter got stronger and healthier. Years later she graduated law school and today she is an attorney with a busy practice and life. We have so much to be grateful for and I always dreamed of the day I could give to Friends of Karen what I received. I am now retired and in a better place to help.

Last summer, I decided to reach out to Rhonda. I was so happy when I heard her voice that I started to sob. We had a really nice conversation and I told Rhonda I had not called just to catch up, but I was going to make a contribution to help others. It felt great to give back and it is something I look forward to doing again and again.”

– Pat

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