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Our Patients. Their Stories. Susan Wheeler

Our Patients. Their Stories. Susan Wheeler

What I didn’t expect is that volunteering would help me to raise my awareness about my own health.

Susan Wheeler

In May 2014, I decided to become a volunteer at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) Manchester after retiring from the fire department where I had worked for 22 years. I was one of the first volunteers to come on board at D-H Manchester. What I have enjoyed most about volunteering is the interaction with the patients. As a volunteer, your only job is to greet patients and their families. I look forward to seeing familiar faces come back in. Often, they are just as happy to talk with us as we are to talk with them.

What I didn’t expect is that volunteering would help me to raise my awareness about my own health. During my routine visit with Dermatology at D-H Manchester in August 2015, I had a skin check that did not reveal any issues. In October of that year, I went back to Dermatology after discovering a spot on my forehead that wouldn’t go away no matter what ointment I tried. Before I started volunteering at D-H, I would have ignored it but because of my increased awareness, I knew I needed to have someone look at it. During that appointment, a biopsy was done. The test results revealed that the spot was a basal cell carcinoma. It wasn’t surprising in some ways. I am of Scandinavian descent with fair skin and blue eyes. As a child, we always played outside and suffered numerous sunburns because there wasn’t sunscreen back then. I was referred to Dr. [Daniel] Stewart to have Mohs surgery. During this procedure—which is done in the office with a local anesthetic—the surgeon removes part of the lesion, reviews the specimen under a microscope to check for cancerous cells, and takes more off, including in the surrounding area, until no cancerous cells show up. Dr. Stewart was able to remove all of the cancerous cells in two rounds. When the surgery was done, the scar was visible on my forehead; however, now that I’ve healed, the scar appears in my hairline—you can’t even see it! Dr. Stewart did a fabulous job and I have nothing but praise for him.   

So often we hear stories about how volunteers at D-H benefit patients, families and staff; however, what people may not realize is how just being a part of the D-H environment benefits volunteers. Because I was more aware of a possible health issue and the likely treatment options, I was able to get the care I needed before it became a bigger problem.