A cancer diagnosis can be devastating. 

While often times hospitals focus is on patient treatment, a new grant awarded to UAMS focuses on patient support. 

“When I was first diagnosed 17 years ago I could have pulled a blanket over my head and said poor pitiful me.”  

No one would have blamed Gail Clayton for giving up. 

“Cancer is a scary, scary, scary disease,” she said. 

Clayton has faced two different breast cancers and recurring ovarian cancer. 

“You decide to fight,” she said.

A decision made easier with a strong support system. 

UAMS Cancer Institute received a 50,000 dollar grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation this summer. 

The money will be used to start a mentorship program pairing survivors like Clayton with newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patients. The program is slated to begin Oct. 1. 

“Our patients are universally so excited about this program,” Fendley said. 

Shayna Fendley is an oncology social worker and applied for the “Woman to Woman” grant.  

“I can talk to patients all day long about emotions and struggles and things like that but, to have somebody who’s actually been through it to say ‘I get it, and it’s going to be OK’ is incredibly powerful,” she said. 

Along with training materials for the mentors, the funds will help patients who need extra help carrying the financial burdens of cancer, like short term housing and transportation. 

“We think of the treatment that the patient needs but we don’t think about, well how are they going to get there?” Fendley said. 

While Clayton is continuing her treatment, she’s grateful for the care she’s received.

“I couldn’t do it without the support system of my friends and the staff here at UAMS.” 

And she’s excited for the opportunity to give back to those just starting their journey. 

“It’s not the end of life, it’s in some ways it’s the beginning of life.”

The mentorship program is specifically for UAMS ovarian cancer patients. The financial support is available for all patients with gynecological cancers.