By: Christian Dischler

Fifty years ago, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center (MBP) began treating patients in South Louisiana.  Forty-five years later, Maura Donahue would find herself a patient at the renowned center.  “I was diagnosed with what’s called double-hit Lymphoma, an aggressive type of B-Cell Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  I also had a second cancer called follicular cancer, which certainly made it more complex, but achievable when you’re working with professionals like MBP,” the Mandeville resident said.  

Adversity such as Donahue’s makes a person stronger, but there’s always room for the healing power of compassion.  The kindness found within the smiling faces at MBP would make any pessimist balk.  More importantly, it generates a feeling of hope within the patients, their families and the caregivers themselves.  That empathy leads to laughter and ultimately to a sense of community.

“Those people are absolute angels at Mary Bird.  They embody compassion and are compassionate about what the patients are going through.  When you cry, they cry.  When you laugh, they laugh.  They feel every bit of what you’re going through.  It was a life-saver,” she explained.  The value of such comprehensive and kind care was not lost on Donahue, but it was important for her to remain close to home and surrounded by her family.  

“You may not realize at first the importance of your support system, but to have the quality of care you get at MBP, and have your family being able to participate – is part of the healing process.  Going through the treatments you need that support, and the staff becomes a part of your family.  I was so grateful,” Donahue said.  

Her daughter, Lauren Andrews, was a big part of that support system and spent countless hours with her mom, and in the waiting rooms of MBP.  The two women began to understand how integrated MBP was in their lives, but also amongst South Louisiana’s communities.  

“They offer so many things in addition to excellent quality care.  Educational resources, nutritional classes, financial assistance, early detection programs.  It’s all these things that not everybody knows about, and I didn’t know until my mom was undergoing treatment,” Andrews said.  Her mom’s diagnosis brought their family together and opened doors into being supportive of the hospital’s mission.  

“We’re partnering with Mary Bird to have their Prevention on the Go program screen our employees for skin cancer.  It’s a fantastic program that offers the early prevention mobile unit to come out to your office for screenings of employees and their spouses and give them the resources needed in the event of abnormalities.  That’s life-saving,” Andrews explained.  

Maura Donahue now celebrates 4 years of being cancer-free while Mary Bird Perkins celebrates their 50th anniversary as a volunteer-driven cancer treatment center.  Together they continue to support the cancer community and bring awareness to the importance of early detection, a positive mindset and a compassionate support system.  

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