Carolyn McCahon, radiation therapist at Memorial Regional Hospital, has seen smiles vanquish the fear and pain that cancer causes. In her 40-year career, she’s made it her mission to fight the tyranny of this disease, one grin at a time.
“Carolyn is the type of person who will restore your faith in the human race,” says John A. Brown, Director of Radiation Oncology & West MCI Physician Practices, Memorial Cancer Institute. “She is a most kind, caring and dependable individual. All sources will agree she delivers grace and compassion on a daily basis.”
Before joining the Memorial family, and before entering the field of radiation therapy, Carolyn almost followed another course of study—radiology. She changed her mind after a counselor pitched the pros of Broward College’s new radiation therapy department. She was three years into her career before coming to Memorial, where she’s worked for the last 37 years.
“When I originally started here, we only had one treatment machine,” Carolyn recalls.
She has witnessed Memorial’s growth and the phenomenal advances in oncology treatment. Big changes are impactful, to be sure, but sometimes the smallest acts can prove just as powerful. One such deed is simply giving a child a toy.
In 2001, Carolyn and her husband, Joe, started the Smiling Faces Forever Foundation, an organization that raises funds to purchase toys for children in Broward County hospitals.
“Kids can be crying, but then you give them a toy and they’ll just start laughing and smiling. When this happens we remember their smiling faces forever. That’s how the name came about,” says Carolyn.
Toys are distributed year round, but the biggest drive is for Christmas and Easter deliveries. Donations are accepted any time of year through their website. The foundation also distributes backpacks and school supplies to children at the start of the school year.
To the kids, SpongeBob pillows and Spiderman figurines are just toys. To Carolyn and her colleagues, they are practical tools for lifting spirits and bringing comfort and easing the fears of pediatric patients. A plush animal can be the promised reward for staying still during vital exams and scans.
It’s a win-win situation.
“It’s really rewarding to see that you can help them,” says Carolyn.
No matter the intention, these small favors make a huge difference to patients, families and healthcare employees. And so does Carolyn.
“I can only hope to stay my own course in healthcare with the same enthusiasm for as long as Carolyn has done and with the same success she has achieved, not for herself but for her peers and for the lives of all our patients and families she has touched,” says John.