By Sara Bondell - August 11, 2022
When Susan Glowski compared Moffitt Cancer Center to Disney World, her daughter, Christine Williams, didn’t quite understand.
“I thought what an odd comparison,” Williams said. “But I get it now. She thought of Moffitt as this magical place. This place where you go in, there’s hope and miracles happen.”
Glowski was looking for a miracle when she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2019. She had just turned 69, celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary and had no symptoms. Doctors told her there was nothing that could be done and to get her affairs in order.
But Glowski wanted to fight and turned to Moffitt, where she immediately underwent robotic surgery. Even though the surgery went well, the cancer had spread to some of her lymph nodes and Glowski required further treatment.
“The day we met Susan, she was just delightful, which is really difficult when you have such a serious diagnosis,” said Michelle Roberts, a thoracic oncology nurse. “I just felt so grateful and thankful that we were able to take care of her and to help the family navigate through all the ups and downs.”
“Having her care coordinated where you had one place where all the doctors were talking and sharing information made me feel like she was getting the best treatment. But it was more than just that. It was more of the people that we got to know along the way,” Williams said.
One of those people was Dr. Mark Ledbetter, an internal medicine physician who specializes in palliative care. He offered Glowski his personal cellphone number. Glowski baked him a birthday cake and told him stories about her family.
“At the very, very end, it got really hard. It got really rough,” Williams said. “And I said, ‘I’ve got to call Dr. Ledbetter.’ So, I found my mom’s phone and I found his number in her phone and I called him. And not only did he help me through that really hard time, he asked if we would be OK if he actually came to her house. And she grabbed his hand and she said, ‘I’m so honored to have known you.’ And she passed the next day.”
“Spending that little bit of extra time meeting Susan Glowski touched me in ways that I couldn’t imagine,” Ledbetter said. “I know that there’s so many other individuals throughout this hospital that have similar stories. And that’s why I’m honored to work here at Moffitt.”
Despite her initial prognosis, Glowski’s treatment gave her more than two more years with her family. During that time, she was able to celebrate many milestones and see three of her grandchildren graduate. Maybe Moffitt was her Disney World after all.
“So many times you wish you could change the outcome, but you can’t,” Roberts said. “But it’s so satisfying to know that you were able to help them at a time in their life when they’re so vulnerable and so afraid of what is going to happen next. And just to know that you were able to help them along that path is really the reason why we do what we do.”
“While my mom’s story didn’t end the way we wanted it to end, I know for a fact that the people there at Moffitt gave her more time,” Williams said. “We got more time and more birthdays, more holidays, more time to make memories. And for this, and I know my mom would want to make sure everyone there knew just how grateful she was for that.”