Junior volunteer's cancer helps him serve WMC patients

By The Pulse Aug 28, 2013

Benjamin Doyle, at left, visits Amanda Kloeppel and her children on Aug. 7. Doyle, a WMC junior volunteer, was delivering new mothering guides to patients on The Birth Place.

Benjamin Doyle, at left, visits Amanda Kloeppel and her children on Aug. 7. Doyle, a WMC junior volunteer, was delivering new mothering guides to patients on The Birth Place.

If he had ever thought of getting down, giving up or feeling sorry for himself, Benjamin Doyle had only to look at the younger children on the cancer ward.

“I mean, they’re hooked up to IVs, hooked up to oxygen, they’re being pulled around by their parents in their wagons and they have these huge smiles on their faces,” said Doyle, a senior at Natrona County High School who is fighting brain cancer.

“I thought, ‘Holy cow. If they can get through it, I can get through it.’”

Doyle is an A student and a very good bowler. He’s so good, in fact, colleges are recruiting him. Doyle is also one of eight junior volunteers in Wyoming Medical Center’s new junior volunteer program.  This summer, volunteers worked on the medical floor, delivered books and magazines to patients, worked in surgical staging and performed other needed duties. Doyle, who has an interest in business and marketing, volunteered in marketing while also delivering new-mother guides to patients at The Birth Place.

Benjamin Doyle, at left, rounds with patients in The Birth Place with Alisha Havens, director of the Wyoming Medical Center Foundation.

“The junior volunteers program is designed to give students experiences that will help them determine if they want a career in health care.  It helps participants see the value in the work they are aspiring to do, and the kind of nurse or doctor they want to be,” said Jillian Riddle, volunteer coordinator.

Doyle’s frequent stays in the Denver hospital made him want to volunteer. There, volunteers brought in their dogs and made patients more comfortable. He wanted to do the same at Wyoming Medical Center, he said.

In the ninth grade, Doyle suffered debilitating headaches. He Googled “headaches every day” and the results came up “brain tumor.” He told his parents and they told him to stop trying to self-diagnose on the Internet.

On June 30, 2011 – a week and a half before his 16th birthday – Doyle went for his 10th-grade sports physical. He hadn’t grown for three years, according to his chart. Dr. Michael Granum, a pediatrician at Wyoming Medical Center, ordered an MRI. Doyle and his mother drove to Denver that night.

“Half my brain thought, I’m done. That’s how it hit me,” Doyle said. “The other half was saying you can get through this and kick this tumor’s butt. Sure enough, I’ve done it twice now.”

Doyle was diagnosed with a slow-growing, golf-ball-sized glioma tumor – a tumor that originates in the glial cells in the brain or spine. He underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments and got a clean bill of health.

Five months later, the headaches returned. Doctors found fluid where the tumor had been and his mother drove to Denver with Doyle clutching a bucket, the pain so bad he threw up the whole trip. Doctors inserted a shunt – a tube running from his head to his stomach – but it clogged and doctors had to operate. That’s when they discovered the tumor had returned, bigger than the first time.

To the first of his new round of chemo treatments, Doyle brought a bell.  When the nurse walked in, “I rang that bell and said ‘Bring it on. Round 2.”

Through 11 weeks of chemotherapy, this time at Rocky Mountain Oncology in Casper, Doyle fell asleep at prom and during his ACTs. (He’ll take the test again this year.)  In May, he walked his good friend, a fellow student fighting her own cancer, across the stage. His tumor is about the size of a pea and the fluid is gone, but they’re keeping an eye on it.

This spring, his mother saw a flier about the junior volunteer program and asked if he’d be interested. Since June, he has volunteered an average of seven hours a week here while working two jobs. He plans to volunteer when he can during this school year, all while maintaining his 3.8 GPA, raising his bowling score and preparing for college.

“I just think I can encourage patients, give them background of who I am and what I’ve been through. I can give them advice on having a positive attitude,” Doyle said. “I mean, that really keeps things going and helps out. You can’t let yourself get down.”

Volunteer at WMC

Wyoming Medical Center always needs and welcomes new volunteers. There are many ways to help including assisting the chaplain, working in the Cottage Gift Shop, greeting visitors and patients, flower delivery and more. For more information, visit the volunteers’ page on our website.

* Junior volunteers: Junior volunteers must be at least 16 years or older, advance through the application and interview process and pass a back ground check. Find the application here.

* Adult volunteers: We are also always looking for adult volunteers for a variety of duties. Fill out the adult application here.

Email Article

Send "Junior volunteer’s cancer helps him serve WMC patients" to a friend