Volunteer at Huntsman Cancer Institute honored, ‘I’ve always just wanted to help people’

Apr 17, 2018, 9:16 PM | Updated: Apr 18, 2018, 12:50 am

LAYTON, Utah – Volunteers at Huntsman Cancer Institute put in 12,000 hours last year, contributing the equivalent of six additional employees. They bring snacks to patients, visit with them, and restock critical medical supplies. Sandy Crandell of Layton started to volunteer at the cancer hospital for a very important reason.

“I’ve always just wanted to help people,” Crandell said.

Crandell has volunteered most of her life. Her husband is retired from a career in the Air Force. Over the years, she volunteered wherever he served, including his last post at Hill Air Force Base.

“I figured it was a great way to give back to the military, and to meet new people,” she said.

She enjoyed helping younger military wives sort through difficult times.

“If their husband was deployed, or getting ready to deploy, just helping them from the experience that I had,” said the volunteer.

At the cancer hospital she shares a different kind of experience. The volunteer work she does at Huntsman Cancer Institute is personal for Crandell. It’s important to her to put a smile on a patient’s face because she’s been where they are. She spent 69 nights in this unit with a rare form of brain blood cancer.

“They told me I had intravascular lymphoma,” she said.

It hit her pretty hard.

That was March 2015: four years ago.

“It was stroke-like symptoms for about two-and-a-half months,” she said.

Doctors said she was one of the youngest patients ever stricken by that form of cancer. She spent the first couple of weeks in an induced coma. Meantime, doctors told her husband and two daughters her condition was dire.

“The one doctor had the talk with my husband, twice,” she said. “So, I wasn’t supposed to be making it. It was already stage four when they found it.”

But, Crandell battled through chemotherapy treatment, and is cancer free today.

“You’ve just got to keep fighting,” she said.

She shares that perspective with patients as she goes room to room visiting.

“It’s just nice to be able to give them that hope: that I was where they were at,” she said.

Louise Swensen, manager of volunteer services and customer service at Huntsman Cancer Institute agrees. Recovered cancer patients make some of their best volunteers, she said.

“They understand what they are going through, emotionally and mentally, in a way that a lot of us might not understand,” she said.

Forest Holmes, of Pocatello, is getting treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He’s been in the hospital for four weeks, but going home soon.

“Released sometime this week,” he said.

He looks forward to Crandell’s visits.

“They’re giving of themselves,” he said. “But, they’re also giving back some of their experiences to help you gain an understanding of… this is what it was like for me. So, there is a shared bond there.”

As a former cancer patient, Crandell knows there are frightening times in the midst of cancer treatment.

“You don’t know from day today what’s going to happen,” she said.

Which is why she takes time with the patients to give them some of the most valuable treatment.

“To see how they’re doing, to see how far they’ve come,” Crandell said. “Kind of just give them that hope.”

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Volunteer at Huntsman Cancer Institute honored, ‘I’ve always just wanted to help people’