Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines respite as “a short period of time when you are able to stop doing something that is difficult or unpleasant.” The trips that For Pete’s Sake Cancer Respite Foundation provide for patients clearly fit that definition. The all-expense-paid vacation is a chance for the patient –– and his or her loved ones -– to get away from the day-to-day anxieties of cancer treatment and just relax and have fun.
That’s how Daryl Robinson, now a patient service representative at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, viewed his trip to Cancun in 2010, when he was undergoing treatment for GI cancer. “Cancer affects your life on so many different levels. I enjoyed my time away from the everyday battles,” he said.
But the getaway did more. It gave Daryl a new focus on life. “It helped me clear my head, give me more insight about what life is about,” he said. “It made me want to fight the disease more.” The trip to Cancun also motivated him to give back to the organization that gave him this chance to rethink his life.
For Pete’s Sake is named in memory of Peter Bossow, who died from cancer in 1999. According to its website, Pete and Marcy Bossow went on a vacation in the midst of his treatment. When they got back, Marcy wrote, “Pete wanted to ensure that patients just like him had this critical opportunity to regenerate their minds, bodies and spirits. I promised Pete to pursue his dream.”
All candidates for a “respite” must be nominated by a health-care professional who is a member of the patient's oncology team. Patricia (Trish) Gambino, BSN, MSN, nurse navigator in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, who nominated Daryl, was no stranger to the organization. Back in 1998, when she was a nurse on Rhoads 6, an oncology unit at HUP, she met and got to know the Bossows. She became a volunteer when the organization was formed, later served on its board and is still on its program committee. “I believe in its mission,” she said.
Daryl started volunteering with For Pete’s Sake in 2011, serving as the keynote speaker at the gala fundraiser that year and again in 2014. “He’s an inspirational speaker with a dynamic and optimistic personality,” Trish said. She saw this enthusiasm firsthand when he volunteered at the ACC in 2013 before he started working fulltime, talking with and helping cancer patients who came in for treatment. “He’d been through the same journey as these patients,” she said. “He helped them see they can come through the storm as well. It was inspirational for me, as a nurse, to see the impact he had on patients.”
His dedication has not gone unnoticed. In 2012, Daryl received the ACC’s Distinguished Partner in Hope Award for “his outstanding dedication to improving the quality of life for GI cancer survivors.”
Daryl continues in his role as spokesperson with For Pete’s Sake and also serves on its board. Like Trish, he believes in what they do. “We’ve sent 110 families away on vacations this year alone,” he said, “and we’re looking to do more.”