Those passing them in the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care at Dana-Farber may assume Pamela Desmarais is a dutiful daughter taking her elderly father to his appointments. They certainly look the part, but while Pamela Desmarais cares for 84-year-old prostate cancer patient Donald Segur, there is no familial bond between these two neighbors from East Sandwich, Mass.
Just a special friendship, formed from a selfless act.
Desmarais, a nurse, first met Segur when she was caring for his late wife, Margaret. After Margaret passed away last fall, she kept checking in on Segur and noticed he was looking gaunt and fatigued. Since Segur has no relatives in the area, Desmarais wanted to help.
Now, she takes Segur to all his Dana-Farber appointments. They make the 115-mile round-trip drive together two to four times a month, and always stop for blueberry muffins at the Lavine Family Dining Pavilion. When they are not at DFCI, Desmarais assists Segur by taking him for other appointments and errands. They love sitting on the porch, going out for ice cream, or taking a walk along the Cape Cod Canal.
“His friendship is a gift to me – he’s just a wonderful person,” says Desmarais. “I’m doing something that anyone could do, and you certainly don’t need to be a nurse to do it.”
Segur, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer almost 20 years ago and has been treated at Dana-Farber for nearly half that time by Philip Kantoff, MD, director of the Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, says the feeling is mutual. As his constant DFCI companion, Desmarais helps him navigate around the growing Longwood campus and explains difficult treatment protocols. Even with a husband, five children, and four grandchildren, she has signed on as Segur’s health care proxy (able to legally make decisions about his care if he is incapacitated).
“We hope our relationship gets the message across to people that the person next door to you who is living alone and getting old may need some comradeship,” says Segur. “Pamela and her husband have practically adopted me. I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas with their family and it was wonderful.”
The pair’s bond has made an impression on Dana-Farber staff as well. Renée Fox, executive assistant to Kantoff, says Desmarais “may be an angel on earth” who recently canceled a family vacation to Florida so she could bring Segur in for treatment. “I was blown away by her kindness,” says Fox. “She almost had me in tears; she is such a sweet woman.”