Department: Island Cancer Care
Despite Fear, Fatigue and Cancer, Hammonds Continues Caring for Others
An avid hiker and backpacker, Respiratory Therapist Leslie Hammonds, RRT, knew something was wrong when the fatigue she had been experiencing progressively worsened. Months of inconclusive bloodwork and scans passed while Hammonds got weaker. Finally on March 12, 2020, Hammonds received the diagnoses she feared—she had chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Then on March 13, all attention turned to COVID-19.
Hammonds’ life changed overnight. She had been treating patients with COVID-like symptoms already and was told by her oncologist to take immediate leave. Too little was known about the virus at that time. She felt tremendous guilt for “abandoning” her work as a respiratory therapist at a time when the need was so great. In addition, she worried about telling her family she had cancer, mere months after her mother had passed away from the disease. “It was surreal,” she said. “It’s very hard being on the other side, accepting help. I felt guilty taking up anyone’s time and resources.”
Hammonds received treatment for her cancer at Island Cancer Care and after nine months returned to work part time. The CDC had recently approved the COVID-19 vaccine. “I’ll be fine,” she thought. Then the Delta variant hit, and her anxiety only increased. She has a medically fragile son who has been diagnosed with failure to thrive and Dygge-Melchior-Clausen syndrome. Because of this, he also battles respiratory issues, so Hammonds’ fears were not solely for her own health.
“The best part of my job is meeting people where they are and helping them get to where they need to be,” Hammonds said. “It’s been incredibly rewarding to be back at work and to be able to help COVID patients.”
While the past year has been anxiety-inducing, Hammonds is also very grateful. She is quick to give a shout out to her supportive colleagues and the caregivers at Island Cancer Care.
Because her type of leukemia is a very treatable one, Hammonds now takes a chemo pill every day, which has some brutal side effects but is doing its job. In fact, she was able to hike 200 miles this past summer.
Island Health’s courageous caregiver, Leslie Hammonds, RRT, graduated from Valencia College in Orlando, FL. She is especially grateful for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) and bethematch.com, which helps match blood and bone marrow donors with patients in need of their life-saving stem cells.