Lena Canaj's Treatment Team
Gillette Center for Gynecologic Oncology
When Blerina Rista brought her mother-in-law Lena Canaj to the Gillette Center for Gynecologic Oncology at Mass General, the two women were reassured by the kindness of the entire staff.
Lena’s endometrial cancer was spreading, and they had come to see Richard Penson, MD. “He said, ‘Lena, it is going to be a long and very difficult journey,’” writes Blerina. “‘I promise that we will be on this journey together.’”
Throughout Lena’s chemotherapy and clinical trials, Blerina often phoned Dr. Penson for guidance on managing symptoms. “He ended every call saying, ‘Call me during the night if you need me,’” says Blerina.
In October 2011, Lena entered palliative care. One dream was yet to be fulfilled, but still within her reach: Raised in Albania, Lena had long prepared to become a U.S. citizen. The entire Gillette team, including the reception staff, case manager, social worker, nurses and Dr. Penson, appealed to Senator John Kerry’s office. An immigration officer went to Lena’s home. “Lena could hardly stand,” writes Blerina.
“But she raised her right hand and proudly recited the oath to become a U.S. citizen.” Lena died at Mass General on December 11, 2011, accompanied by loved ones, including her treatment team. “She left in peace,” writes Blerina, “surrounded by friends, family and the best care-giving team in the world.”
Help us honor the 2014 one hundredNominate Your Cancer Hero
- Tyler Jacks, PhD
- Donna Karan and the Urban Zen Foundation
- Michelle Boutin, Karen Ingwersen, RN, and Michael Keamy
- Richard L. Deming, MD
- Jennifer E. D’Alotto, MSW, LCSW
- Kathy Giusti
- Uniting Against Lung Cancer
- Betty J. Borry Breast Cancer Retreats
- Tristan’s Gift of Hope Foundation
- Mara G. Bloom, JD
- Pennies from Heaven
- Phyllis McNally
- Moireen and Aaron Ruotsala
- Corey Jacobson
- Steve Beauville
- Nancy and Richard Kelleher
- Teagan Stedman
- Sue de Vries Cancer Foundation
- Breast Intentions, Massachusetts Chapter
- The Center for Cancer Risk Assessment Genetic Counselors at Mass General
- Bruce A. Chabner, MD
- Kathleen A. Stakes, RN, MS, CPON
- Eileen McGuirk’s Flash Mob
- Children’s Tumor Foundation
- Kathleen Lopez, RN
- Linda J. Verville Cancer Research Foundation
- David E. Fisher, MD, PhD
- Estelle Sugarman
- Amy S. Colwell, MD, FACS
- Harrison Strickler
Mass General honors 100 individuals and groups for their diverse contributions to the fight against cancer.
There is strength in numbers and Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center proves this each year. the one hundred is the Cancer Center’s annual fundraiser, honoring 100 individuals and groups whose diligence and discoveries, philanthropy and passion have helped advance the fight against cancer. Funds raised at the gala support research, patient care, education and community outreach programs. Meet the Honorees.