Published: July 8, 2008
Updated: Dec. 3, 2010
Lalania Hall was busy raising five sons ranging from age three to 11. She didn’t have time for herself, much less time for cancer. But in April of 2007, Hall was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer.
Under the care of Dr. Kimberly Blackwell, Hall’s oncologist at the Duke Cancer Institute, Hall began her regimen of chemotherapy soon after her diagnosis. Like many cancer patients, she experienced fatigue and aches and pains from the chemotherapy that left her lethargic and stressed.
“I have always been determined and tough, and my service in the Army made me even more disciplined,” explains Hall. “Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I had never asked for help, not even from my husband.”
Recognizing the challenges Hall faced, Dr. Blackwell introduced her to Tina Staley and the Pathfinders Program in hopes that she would find a way to begin taking care of herself.
“I was scared, but I wouldn’t let anyone know,” says Hall. “Tina just held my hand. She has a way of connecting; you feel like she is walking through this with you. She can put your mind at peace.”
One of the first challenges that Hall and Staley addressed was Hall’s unwillingness to accept aid from family and friends.
“Tina helped me realize that it is OK to accept help,” says Hall. “She helped me realize that people don’t know exactly what to do, but they need to do something.”
Hall was able to ease her way into allowing people to help. She formed a team for the American Cancer Society, and her husband’s co-workers joined the team.
“Tina taught me that allowing people to help you is a gift to your friends and family,” says Hall. “My mom wanted to be there for me. I am her baby, and she needed to do something. Now I let her help.”
Eight months after her diagnosis, Hall says that she is in a “good place.”
“I don’t want to say that cancer is the best thing that happened to me,” she says. “But because of Pathfinders, I am healthier than ever. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.”
Together, Staley and Hall have developed a plan that includes exercise, a new diet and stress-relieving activities.
“Soft belly breathing is awesome,” Hall says. “Even before my diagnosis with cancer, I had trouble sleeping through the night. Now, I am able to relax and settle things in my mind.”
According to Staley, there are many spices and foods that a cancer patient can add to his or her diet to help ease the effects of treatment. She suggested that Hall add turmeric, an anti-inflammatory, to her diet to help alleviate her aches, and garlic to boost her immune system.
Hall now receives treatment once a month and comes to Duke for scans every three months.
“Tina meets with me every other week,” says Hall. “If I need her in between times, she is there. I can call her or email. She is my advocate. Tina and Dr. Blackwell have been just wonderful. I call them my guardian angels.”
In the summer of 2007, Hall and her family had the opportunity to move from Durham, North Carolina, to Texas for her husband’s work, but they decided against the move.
“My husband and I talked it over, and we decided that we didn’t want to leave the care that we are receiving here at Duke,” says Hall. “I can’t imagine going through this without Duke and Pathfinders.”
Along with 54 other advanced breast cancer patients, Hall took part in a research study that evaluated the effect of the Pathfinders program on patient experience.
Despite advanced disease state and worsening symptoms, the Pathfinders program had a positive effect on a number of areas including patient distress, despair, and quality of life.
Learn more about the Pathfinders program.