Marian and Mel Scurnick
Since December 27, 2007, the day Melvin Scurnick was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, his extensive network of family, friends and colleagues have had access to detailed, sometimes daily, updates on his condition and treatment at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC).
Scurnick’s daughter, Debbie Block, took advantage of a free, easy-to-use service called CaringBridge to create a Web page for her father, complete with an online journal of her dad’s experience. The site includes photos and a guestbook for visitors to leave get-well wishes and notes of support for her parents.
“I knew about CaringBridge through a friend who kept a similar online journal for more than a year when her daughter was in treatment for brain cancer. I thought it was a great idea,” says Block. She lives in Florida, but has traveled to Baltimore numerous times in recent months to be with her parents as her father undergoes radiation, chemotherapy, and most recently, surgery to treat his esophageal cancer.
The CaringBridge Web site lets her post entries to the journal anywhere there’s a PC and an Internet connection. Friends and family who visit the page can “subscribe” to the journal and receive an e-mail message alerting them whenever a new entry is posted.
“It’s a wonderful service for families in times of crisis. My mom would be totally overwhelmed otherwise, having to explain each day’s developments to so many people over the phone. It can be exhausting, especially after you’ve spent a long day in the hospital, waiting through procedures and tests, talking with medical professionals, and caring for your loved one,” she says. “This lets her focus all of her energy on my dad and his care and treatment, but still keep everyone informed about what’s happening.”
While her father was in the hospital and could not check the CaringBridge site himself, Block or her mother read the Guestbook messages to him each evening through the free wi-fi Internet connection available in his room. In one post, she wrote: “Please keep your messages in the Guestbook coming. I read all of them to him today and he loved them. Many brought tears to his eyes. He wanted me to thank you all for your messages and notes and cards. He says that he needed them most of all today and he was happy to hear them. So, from Melvin, 'thank you' and 'I love all of you.' ”
In addition to writing updates about her father’s progress, Block also uses the journal to encourage others to pay attention to their health (“. . . I see that a few of you have gotten your EGDs [a test to examine the lining of the esophagus]. Excellent. You are good listeners. Good luck with that.”) and helping to raise awareness of the need for more research on esophageal cancer (“. . I have told you all about my friend, Mindy Mintz, and her efforts to help raise funds for medical research to fight esophageal cancer. . .”)
Now that her father is back home and on the road to recovery, Block plans to update the Web page periodically, just to let everyone know that he is doing well. Her father has even posted messages on the Web page himself thanking everyone for their continued support and love:
“First and foremost, my sweet, loving wife, my caretaker. Without her I would be lost. What a patient and beautiful individual! I love her very much. Then, my children and grandchildren. With their support and inspiration, I am able to push forward to a complete recovery. Next, my medical team at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center: Dr. Richard Battafarano, my surgeon; Dr. Heather D. Mannuel, my oncologist; Dr Mohan Suntha, my radiation oncologist; and the rest of the UMGCC nurses, staff, and therapists who have enabled me to have NED (no evidence of disease). Thank G-d!!! They certainly did a better job than my Ravens, Orioles, and Eagles.”
So far, the Scurnick’s CaringBridge Web site has been visited nearly 5,500 times, and over 400 personal messages of love and support have been posted by their friends and family.
For more information on free patient Web pages, visit the Caringbridge Web site.
For information on treatment for esophageal cancer, or any of the other programs and services of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, please call 1-800-888-8823.