Take Charge

It is Never Too Late to Learn How to be a Caretaker

September 02, 2015

Kenneth-Susalla.jpg

By: Daniel Tummeley 

Some people tend to use the expression “put through the wringer” too often, but sometimes instances call for such phrasing. Kenneth Susalla’s experience with cancer is a prime example of someone who has gone through tumultuous times, but his ability to strengthen his resolve afterward, is what makes him different.

Susalla, an eight-year cancer survivor, is a devoted patient volunteer here at Moffitt, where he spends three days a week helping others with cancer in their fight against the disease.

“I volunteer, because I want to give back to the people,” said Susalla.

Susalla’s experiences with cancer have molded him into the caregiver he is today. He first encountered cancer in 2007, when he was diagnosed with a stage 4 cancer at the base of his tongue. After 35 radiation and two chemotherapy treatments, he was finally able to say he was done with cancer.

Unfortunately, cancer made another appearance, but this time it struck his wife Marlys. This is when he realized he had to do what she did for him while he was fighting cancer.

“Having cancer before my wife, made me the caregiver I am today,” said Susalla.

After months of fighting cancer, his wife passed away. Susalla has many fond memories of his wife, but one that he often references is when she thanked him for the sensitive caregiving he had given her. While thanking him, she mentioned that before his fight with cancer, she never would have thought he could be such an attentive caretaker. Susalla now attributes that as the moment he realized he had changed a lot in just a few short years.

“That made me feel good, it proved to me that I could do something real good,” said Susalla.

Not long after his wife’s passing, he decided he had to give more. He started volunteering at Moffitt, helping patients with various questions they may have while going through treatment. His battle with cancer has provided him with the ability not only to relate to patients, but also to comfort and encourage them.

Susalla has no idea when he will stop volunteering at Moffitt, but he does know that helping these patients in their most vulnerable times is something he will always cherish.

“What makes me really feel good is to come across them (former patients) in the hallway at Moffitt and to hear them thank me for helping them,” said Susalla.