You don’t meet someone like Jeff Newell very often, he exudes a zest for life, even after a cancer journey that spans more than 20 years. As a patient escort volunteer at Providence Cancer Institute of Oregon, Jeff is a ray of hope and a source of comfort to many people who walk through the door.
Cancer journey leads to volunteerism
Jeff’s journey began in 2002, when he lost his father to prostate cancer. Then 18 months later, Jeff learned he had neuroendocrine cancer. More than 30 tumors had spread throughout his digestive tract causing extreme pain. Luckily, there were treatment options for Jeff. Half of the tumors were removed successfully by surgery, while others were reduced in size using a novel targeted therapy. After his treatments, Jeff wanted to use his own experience to impart hope and to let other people with cancer know they are not alone. Volunteering at Providence Cancer Institute seemed like a good place to start.
As one of the first friendly faces patients encounter at the front door, Jeff tries to meet each person where they’re at in their cancer journey. Sometimes he lends a hand, physically guiding them to where they need to go in the building. Sometimes he lends an ear, listening to their fears about their diagnosis or treatment. And then there are the times he offers his shoulder to cry on.
“To me, the escort volunteer role is a perfect marriage of giving and receiving. It’s a great part of the comprehensive cancer support at the best cancer center around,” he says. “To some, and especially those from out of the state, we, the volunteers, are a welcoming smile.”
As long as he can, Jeff will continue showing up for patients who come through the front door with their own playlist of emotions. "I will continue to volunteer as long as I have breath,” he says.
“As a cancer survivor, volunteering at the Providence Cancer Institute is one of the most powerful ways to give back to other cancer patients and survivors. We survivors share the same fears, anxiety, hope, regardless of the type of cancer. We are all one trying to eliminate this disease!”
New cancer diagnosis
Jeff has lived with cancer, gone on many adventures including a trip to Machu Pichu, and used his experiences to encourage others. But on Dec. 6, 2022, an annual check-up revealed that cancer has spread to his bones and is inoperable. “Up to this point in my cancer journey, I kind of knew what to expect. Now, I don’t know anything.”
But Jeff is not giving up hope. He may qualify for a clinical trial led by Providence oncologist and medical director of gastrointestinal oncology, Hagen Kennecke, M.D., MHA, FRCP. Dr. Kennecke is exploring a new treatment combination for patients with neuroendocrine tumors. If Jeff meets the strict criteria, he could take part in this innovative study here in his hometown.
How you can help
We couldn’t do what we do without the generosity and kindness of our volunteers. If you would like to learn how you can volunteer and help ease the way of our cancer patients and their families, visit Providence Cancer Institute.
More than 70% of our research is funded by philanthropy. To the thousands of generous donors who support cancer research, Jeff says, “Thank you for giving patients this opportunity to help finish cancer.” Make a gift in support of cancer research and support services, visit Providence Foundations of Oregon.