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Dietitian and friends donate chemo care bags to VICC patients

May. 28, 2015, 8:35 AM

Heather Bumbalough, left, recently delivered donated chemo care bags to Jane Kennedy, former Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) Manager of Patient Advocacy, and VICC volunteer Brittany Jarrell. (photo by Jamie Pope)

A Nashville-based dietitian who lost her mother to cancer is using the power of social media to raise funds for chemo care bags for cancer patients.

Heather Bumbalough completed training at VUMC in 2014 to become a Registered Dietitian. The training program included rotations in Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center clinics, and Bumbalough was reminded of the needs of patients undergoing treatment.

More than two years ago, her own mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal forms of cancer. She died within just a few months.

“Seeing her go through the journey of getting chemotherapy and radiation really inspired me because I saw how much our community assisted our family,” said Bumbalough.

As an independent consultant for Thirty-One Gifts, which sells tote bags, purses and other items, she took advantage of a monthly special to buy totes at a reduced rate. She posted an appeal to her friends and family on Facebook for funds to fill the bags with personal supplies for patients. Within a few days, she received enough sponsorship funds for more than 80 bags.

Bumbalough donated 40 chemo care bags to VICC and 40 to Gilda’s Club Nashville, plus a few to personal friends undergoing cancer treatment. Donors were able to dedicate each bag in honor of someone who had battled or is battling cancer.

Each chemo care bag contains a blanket, water bottle, lotion, hand sanitizer, snacks, lip balm, an inspirational puzzle book and other personal items that patients can use during their treatment sessions. Every bag also features a tag with the name of the sponsor and the person in whose honor the bag is donated.

Bumbalough said she knows “chemotherapy can be very draining mentally, physically and emotionally.”

She hopes the chemo care bags, which will be distributed by VICC clinic volunteers, send a special message of hope to each patient who receives one.

“I think the patients should know that they’re not on this journey alone and that they have a supportive community.”

Bumbalough hopes to fund and donate another group of bags within the next year. For more details, contact bumbalough31@gmail.com.

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