Episode 39: When the patient becomes the caregiver, Molly and Tom’s story

Molly MacDonald was diagnosed with breast cancer 18 years ago, 3 years into her marriage with her husband Tom Pettit and founded Pink Fund out of her experience. This year Tom was diagnosed with tonsil cancer, and Molly has become the caregiver. This episode takes a look at the couple’s role reversal, how family relationships shift after a cancer diagnosis and the wake-up call you receive when you are facing your own mortality or that of your loved one. Molly and Tom are equal parts insightful and hilarious in sharing their experience as both patients and caregivers, and how Molly has shifted from the “Patient from Hell” to the “Caregiver from Hell.”

  • Molly MacDonald

    Molly MacDonald is co-founder and CEO of Pink Fund, a nonprofit that provides three to six months of financial support for women and families in active breast cancer treatment. Pink Fund was born 17 years ago out of MacDonald’s own experience as a mother of 5 struggling to make ends meet during her breast cancer diagnosis. Prior to founding Pink Fund, MacDonald had an extensive career in journalism, public relations, marketing, and sales. She is a frequent columnist and contributing writer for health journals publications.

  • Tom Pettit

    Tom Pettit is a professional piano technician by trade, with 40 years of experience on the concert stage providing and tuning pianos for renowned performing artists. He spent 25 years with The Detroit Symphony Orchestra. His fine auditory skills have made him in high demand for some of the world’s most acclaimed pianists. He is co-founder of Pink Fund and serves in the role of Comptroller working with Pink Fund’s accountant, auditors, and lawyer.

Watch the video of our episode on YouTube

  • 9 minutes:

    On how family relationships shifted upon Tom’s cancer diagnosis.

    I think Tom getting sick is changing things a little bit for them. Like it’s a little bit of a wake up call for them. They’re reflecting a little bit on all the things he’s done for them to improve their lives.

  • 25 minutes:

    On keeping the patient at the center of decisions as a caregiver.

    I know it’s hard for the caregiver, but I think the patient needs to be in charge. When I had my breast cancer and was told I had two options, a full mastectomy and no radiation or a lumpectomy and radiation. And I asked my surgeon, ‘If it were you, what would you do?’ And she said, ‘The thing is, it’s not me. And I can’t be responsible for your choice.’ So it is not me, and I really cannot thrust something on Tom because I don’t want to be responsible for the outcome of his decision.

  • 45 minutes:

    On how Molly’s choice for cancer treatment created a movement.

    Sometimes I wonder, even though the biopsy came back that it was showing cancer, even though it was Stage 0 and hadn’t formed a tumor. Sometimes I wonder if I’d elected to do nothing, if nothing would have happened. But if nothing would have happened, and I’d elected that, then there would be no Pink Fund. Because we wouldn’t have gone through this experience together where we experienced financial toxicity, and where I met other working women who were going to stop treatment and go back to work because their treatment was going to outlast their FMLA, and they couldn’t afford to lose their jobs.

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