In May of 2015, Lesha Spahr discovered a lump in her groin. A biopsy would later reveal her worst fear: she had cancer. Lesha was diagnosed with Follicular Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and referred to Dr. Mark Marinella, an oncologist at Dayton Physicians Network (DPN), for treatment.
“My husband, Jeff, came with me to that first appointment with Dr. Marinella. I think we were still in shock over the diagnosis and, of course, scared about what it all meant,” said Lesha. “But Dr. Marinella sat down with us and really took the time to explain everything. Still, it was a lot to take in, and we were feeling very overwhelmed. But our faith was strong, and we knew God would see us through.”
With their heads still spinning from information overload and the fear of what lay ahead, the Spahrs got an unexpected phone call on the Saturday morning after their appointment.
“It was Dr. Marinella calling to see how I was doing after our visit,” remembered Lesha. “He told me, ‘We’ll get through this together.’ The compassion he showed in taking the time to do that meant so much.”
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Lesha soon began her course of treatment, consisting of six months of chemotherapy, followed by almost two years of maintenance immunotherapy treatments. She, along with her fellow cancer patients, spent several hours in the infusion room at Dayton Physicians Network for each treatment. Jeff came along with her to every treatment, as did her 79-year-old father who, upon hearing that his daughter had cancer, vowed to be by her side at every single treatment.
Over time, a kind of “infusion room family” feel began to take shape. The sight of familiar faces became a mental comfort at a time when physical comfort had long since flown the coop. In between dozing off, patients interact with each other, the nursing staff, and the family of other patients. While you’d rather be anywhere but in that infusion room, at least the people there with you completely understand what you’re going through because they’re going through it, too.
“Until cancer hits you or someone you love, you don’t really know how you’ll handle it,” said Jeff. “In the infusion room, we could always tell who the new ones were because they had this look of total fear. All we could do was try and be a comfort to them and keep things lighthearted.”
Yet, Jeff saw first-hand how physically and emotionally grueling the treatments could be for patients, and he wanted to do more to be of help and comfort.
Then he got an idea.
“The snack guy” is born
The night before one of Lesha’s treatments, Jeff made a trip to Sam’s Club and bought an assortment of snacks and drinks that he’d noticed the patients seemed to like. The next day at DPN, he filled a double-wide wheel chair to the brim and headed to the infusion room for a special delivery. His providing food and refreshments was a gesture appreciated by patients and family, alike.
He’s happily been “the snack guy” ever since.
“It’s not necessarily about the snacks,” said Jeff. “When I would take Lesha for treatment, I saw how others were hurting, either physically or emotionally. It’s really more about letting others know that someone cares about them. It might make a day that’s already really hard just a little easier.”
Jeff’s kindness is no surprise to Lesha.
“That’s just how Jeff is,” said Lesha. “He sees a need, and he fills it. He’s been here for me every step of the way. I couldn’t ask for a better partner to have by my side through all of this.”
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Continuing to give back
Nearing her final immunotherapy treatments, Lesha now is considered in remission. And while she’s thrilled to put this chapter behind her, Dayton Physicians Network and its staff will forever hold a special place in the hearts of both Lesha and Jeff.
“The entire staff at DPN is phenomenal,” said Lesha. “I can’t recommend this practice enough.”
Soon, “the snack guy” will become “the snack couple,” as the Spahrs plan on continuing to deliver snacks to patients in the infusion room for the foreseeable future.
“Helping others is just the right thing to do,” said Jeff. “It’s also just a small gesture to give back and thank Dayton Physicians Network for all they have done and continue to do for us.”More Perspectives