Special employee helped my dad mark radiation therapy finish during coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Completing cancer treatment is a big deal. Frequently, it’s celebrated through a bell ringing ceremony with family and care team members. But things were a little different when my dad, Ken, finished radiation therapy at MD Anderson West Houston for his pancreatic cancer recently. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, neither my sister nor I could be with him during treatment. As an MD Anderson employee, I understand why MD Anderson has temporarily stopped allowing visitors to its campuses – it protects my dad, the other cancer patients and our care teams. Still, we would have loved to celebrate this milestone with him. Thankfully, a very caring radiation therapist named Karrie Bellard helped mark the occasion in a particularly meaningful and personal way. Immediate connection between runners My dad wore a Houston marathon finisher T-shirt during the first of his five radiation treatments. He completed four marathons several years ago. “Karrie noticed and told me she was a distance runner and we started sharing stories of grueling long-run training and the highs of finishing races,” my dad tells me. “Runners have common experiences that quickly create a bond.” “We became instant friends,” says Karrie, who, in 2009, decided she needed to get active, and as a result lost 50 pounds and became an accomplished endurance athlete. Their connection proved beneficial to my dad, who is a rectal cancer survivor and now also battles Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF), which causes scarring of the lungs. “Ken had a particularly long, tough treatment where he had to hold his breath, which is tough for someone on oxygen,” says Karrie. “He did what he needed...