Thursday, 07 September 2017 21:34

Cancer Warriors Unite

In front photo: Saratoga Hospital intern Elizabeth Johnstone (at left) with hospital staffers Kweilyn Taylor, Renee Russell, Jennifer Baldwin and Joni Richter. Kweilyn Taylor next to a poster announcing the event arranged in her honor. Photos by

SARATOGA SPRINGS – With small amounts of money deducted from her paychecks over the last 10 years, a Saratoga Hospital employee has donated more than $25,000 to lift the spirits of local cancer patients.

Hospital managers were so inspired by the efforts of Kweilyn Taylor, a transport aide, that they have organized a special retreat next week in her honor, so people diagnosed with cancer may find some comfort and make new friends.  

“This is very exiting for us,” says Renee Russell, the program director in Saratoga Hospital’s Radiation Oncology Center (ROC). “We wanted to create something that would be a legacy of her donations.”

The first “Kweilyn Taylor Survivor’s Retreat” will be held all day on Saturday, Sept. 16 at The Barn at Bassett House in Greenwich. There are about five slots remaining out of 45 total for those interested in attending, Russell said.

Earlier this week, Taylor explained that her donations were borne out of the loss of a friend’s mother, who passed away in 2007 after a short battle with esophageal cancer—only seven weeks after the official diagnosis. 

“I still have days where it’s, like, yesterday that she’s gone,” Taylor said. “She was like a second mother for me.”

Taylor said the retreat is intended to help cancer patients relax, as much as it is to overcome their weaknesses and find inner strength.

“It takes a strong person to fight this,” she insisted. “This is definitely something you can’t go through alone.”

The retreat is open to patients diagnosed with any type of cancer. It includes a “YMCA Livestrong” exercise session, sound-healing hypnosis, and talks focused on the use of essential oils and arts in cancer treatment, among other related activities.

Jennifer Baldwin, an ROC social worker, and her Rutgers University intern Elizabeth Johnstone joined Russell and numerous other hospital volunteers in making the necessary arrangements.

Johnstone said the Greenwich retreat is designed to ensure that cancer patients will find a “shared connection.” 

For several years, the ladies noted, staff members at Glens Falls Hospital have organized similar retreats for cancer patients, many of whom report their satisfaction with the genuine relationships that result.

According to Russell, the Saratoga Hospital Employee Campaign includes a Cancer Patient Fund that receives between $9,000 and $14,500 each year from generous hospital staff.

Russell said money from that fund is typically used to assist cancer patients in meeting various expenses—every day roughly 45 people receive treatment at the ROC and its affiliate offices—through the purchase of gas cards and lodging. Patient visits to massage therapists are also covered, she added.

A related fundraiser is being planned for October, called “Comics Care,” and Russell said those proceeds will also be added to the Cancer Patient Fund.

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