While her peers were enjoying a relaxing Thanksgiving break during their senior year of college, Luciana Henderson, BSN, RN, spent hers wracked with anxiety in a Connecticut emergency department.
“I remember having to check in, and they ask you why you’re there. I had to say, ‘I think I have leukemia,’” recalled Henderson, who had been advised by her doctor to seek emergency care after some concerning blood test results. “I was 20 years old. It was really numbing to say.”
Two days later, she had a bone marrow biopsy to confirm the cancer diagnosis and genetic testing to identify what might be causing the disease. As Henderson and her family awaited the results, their local oncologist recommended that Henderson’s sister get tested to see if she could be a potential donor for a bone marrow transplant, in the event Henderson needed one. As it turned out, her sister was a perfect match.
Once the genetic testing results revealed a mutation linked to leukemia, Henderson’s local oncologist referred her to Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center (DFBCC), where experts reviewed the findings and recommended that she undergo a bone marrow transplant as soon as possible.
Those decisions not only saved Henderson’s life, but also reshaped the course of it. Now a Brigham nurse in Medical Oncology on CWN 7, Henderson chose the nursing profession based on her own experiences as at DFBCC patient. The personalized, expert and compassionate care she received years ago continues to inspire her nursing practice today.
“As a patient, I just felt like my team was so on top of it. They listened to me and my family, and everyone was so nice and caring. It really made such a difference for us,” said Henderson, who has been in remission since undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant with her sister’s donated stem cells.
Now, she is also one of several patients featured in a new DFBCC marketing campaign highlighting the center’s highly specialized, personalized and patient-centered model of care. Launched on Jan. 23, the campaign seeks to bring patients’ faces and voices to the forefront through advertisements on local television, streaming media, radio, digital channels, outdoor structures and social media, as well as content on Dana-FarberBrigham.org.
“As we were developing the campaign, we heard time and time again about the incredible compassion and deep expertise of our clinical teams and the many ways in which they tailored care plans to meet the needs of their patients — not only their clinical needs but their social and emotional needs as well,” said Lori Schroth, vice president for the Office of Strategic Communication. “We’ve worked hard to capture that sentiment and hope it reflects the pride we have for the incredible work of our teams who care for patients and families affected by cancer.”
Not one to seek the spotlight, Henderson acknowledged it has been surreal to hear from friends, family and colleagues when they see her in one of the campaign spots. But she added that she was more than willing to overcome that discomfort if it gives hope to even one person.
“I actually hate attention, and now people are texting me every time they see me on TV,” she laughed. “My whole thing is we need to bring awareness, and when you see a success story, it can be really helpful — including for nurses, as we often see people when they are very sick.”
Henderson also hopes sharing her story will shine light on the importance of the National Marrow Donor Program and encourage more people to consider providing a lifesaving marrow or blood stem cell donation.
Despite her newfound status as a local celebrity, Henderson said she feels the utmost humility and gratitude for the opportunity to deliver the same level of compassionate care she once received.
“I’m truly honored to do this work — having patients share their life with you when in their most vulnerable moments and being able to listen to them, care for them and help their families,” she said.