Cancer patients receive blankets

Published 9:30 pm Thursday, July 18, 2019

William Key made sure to go around and visit with each patient in the Virginia Oncology Associates treatment room Thursday.

He, and others from First Team Subaru and the Virginia Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, handed out blankets to the patients, as well as messages of home and arts and crafts kits to cancer patients and their families. The 80 blankets being passed out were a part of about 1,300 that the Subaru dealerships in Virginia and 43,000 across the country, in partnership with the LLS, were donating.

For Key, the visit was especially personal, as the Bon Secours Health Center at Harbourview facility was where he received his own treatments for colorectal cancer after he was diagnosed in 2015.

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“I’ve been literally sitting in the same seats these folks have,” Key said. “Just to share my own story and experience of what I went through with my treatment, and the importance of the caregivers and the positive attitude, just to be able to talk to them and voice some understanding of what they have and what they’re going through.”

Key said he forms bonds with those he talked with, and even after his own treatment, he says he gets as much, if not more, out of the interactions with them as they might get from him.

“It’s showing them that you understand what they are going through mentally and physically,” Key said, “to the positive attitude and the mental aspect of it is probably as important as some of the other treatments.”

Mike Vinsand, general manager at First Team Subaru on Bridge Road, said it was a no-brainer to take part in this after Key came to them with the idea. Vinsand and Cherilyn Willis, a sales consultant at First Team Subaru, were at VOA along with Key.

“This is paramount in what businesses in a community relationship is all about,” Vinsand said. “To really make a difference, to let people know you care during that type of fight and that kind of battle, that’s — what else can you do more rewarding and more satisfying than to help people that are in a situation like this.”

It was Key’s idea, as a Subaru Ambassador, to start a local program to give out blankets and the messages of hope, written by those who have been in the dealership and handed out with each blanket to the patients. He said he was humbled to help bring the program to Suffolk.

“When I learned about the program, I brought it to Mike and Cherilyn and told them my story and shared what I had learned about the program, they took that and ran with it,” Key said. “And to be able to do that in my local community at the center where I had my own treatments is so important to me.”

Connie Bauswell, 70, of Bennett’s Creek, has been coming to the facility since November, and has been receiving treatment for metastatic breast cancer since December. She said the staff at VOA has been great to her, and she appreciated the conversations and the blanket she received.

“It’s nice to think that people are thinking of you in your time of need,” Bauswell said. “And it’s local.”

Vinsand, whose dealership has participated in the program for two years, was visibly moved by his encounter with patients in the treatment room.

“When you can sit with a patient and talk with them, you get a feeling of seeing their hope and their strength, ‘cause you know what they’re going through,” Vinsand said. “To see their faith, and their ability to fight what’s happening, it means everything. It tells you, ‘You know what? We all have bad days, but how bad are our bad days?’ When you see someone here who’s battling, and the attitude and the faith they have, it keeps your life in perspective.”