When Pat Barker was diagnosed with macular degeneration and began losing her eyesight, she remembers thinking, "At least it's not cancer."
So when she learned she had stage IV ovarian cancer in 2002, she was so devastated she couldn't even bring herself to say the word "cancer" for months. Then she found out the survival rate for her disease was 15%—and, to her, that was a good thing.
"I didn't think anybody survived ovarian cancer. I thought, somebody has to make up that 15%. I can be that 15%."
Turns out she was right. After 18 months of continuous chemotherapy—the usual 6-month regimen plus 12 months on a clinical trial—the cancer was gone. It hasn't recurred since.
After going through such a difficult experience, Pat wanted to help others in the same situation. She began volunteering at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) in 2006. "During treatment I was here a lot, and the volunteers were always so nice," she says. "I wanted to give back." Pat works the snack cart, one of the things she looked forward to as an infusion patient. She cheers up patients with her positive attitude and lets them know they're not alone, that she went through cancer too. "Mostly I just listen to what they have to say and help however I can," she says.
Pat was named HCI volunteer of the year in 2011. In 2012, Utah Business magazine honored her as a Health Care Hero.