Linda Nelson counts herself lucky to live near a facility devoted to researching and treating Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia, the rare blood cancer for which she has a genetic predisposition. Recently, when a unique opportunity arose to share her geographic good fortune, she responded quickly.
Nelson is being monitored at the Bing Center for Waldenström’s Macroglobulinemia at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center for Monoclonal Gammopathy of Undetermined Significance, a pre-Waldenström’s condition commonly known as MGUS. In August, she served as host to current Waldenström’s patient Pam McGinty, a retired colonel still serving as an Air Force civilian and stationed in Germany. McGinty is on a clinical trial at the Bing Center that requires travel to Boston every three months; during her most recent visit, she and Nelson quickly bonded while discussing travel, family, and more.
“Pam is a long-term patient as well, so sharing one-on-one time with her was very meaningful to me,” says Nelson, whose mother and uncle both died of Waldenström’s. “She comes to Boston frequently as part of her trial, so I look forward to seeing her again.”
This type of volunteerism is nothing new to Nelson, a retired pediatric dentist who also serves on the board of trustees for the International Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia Foundation (IWMF). She and her husband, fellow IWMF board member Barry Nelson, have opened their house to patients traveling to Boston for medical care for nearly 25 years through the Hospitality Homes program. They estimate they’ve had more than 100 guests, including many adult cancer patients treated at Dana-Farber.
“We started doing it because we wanted our son to have a sense of sharing and of charity,” says Nelson. “Finally having the chance to host a Waldenström’s patient in Pam was very special. We hope it’s the first of many.”
The experience was also memorable for McGinty, whose recent flight into Boston was delayed by bad weather. She did not get to the Nelson’s home until late at night, but Barry waited up for her.
“The next morning, we all had coffee and breakfast in their beautiful kitchen, and that’s when I learned about Linda’s own family history of Waldenström’s,” says McGinty. “I felt very welcomed, and was pleasantly surprised when Linda offered to drive me in to Dana-Farber. We had a delightful talk on the way, and she said they would love to host me again.”