Marlene Nei, Wisconsin, USA
Marlene has been a member of the Life Raft Group since 2011. She was referred to the Life Raft Group by her husband Bill’s surgeon , Dr. Kevin Roggin, at University of Chicago Hospital, after he was diagnosed with GIST. Marlene has a long history of volunteerism for which she credits her mother who modeled helping anyone and everyone.
Marlene holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and is a retired registered nurse. She has a passion for helping others and used her degree to help medically compromised patients. She has volunteered with the deaf community, struggling families, and 12-step programs. When Bill received his diagnosis, Marlene was not shy about expressing her needs as a caregiver. She recognized the importance of reaching out for support in an effort to be a reliable and effective caregiver for her husband of 56 years.
As an active member of the Life Raft Group, Marlene advocates for the needs of the caregiver community because she feels they are an underrepresented group. It is her mission to advocate for Bill as well as the entire GIST community making sure they are equipped with the appropriate resources on their GIST journey. She has become a vital support for caregivers in our GIST Mentor program; a program which links patients and caregivers with others who have walked a similar path.
Marlene believes caregivers need a mentor in times of crisis and search for connection to others who can empathize. She also understands it takes a lot of courage to ask for help. Marlene works to find the delicate balance between overwhelming her mentees with support and taking a step back and reminding them she is available when they are ready.
Through all the challenges Marlene and Bill have faced during their GIST journey, Marlene has held the philosophy of never giving up. She believes if you give up, you hit a wall because you don’t have anywhere else to go.
Her message to other caregivers is this:
“Be there as an advocate for others, your spouse, your children. Whomever the GISTer is, whomever you love. The connection I have with the members in the LRG is that we are like sisters and brothers. We are family. Don’t give up. Be an advocate. Don’t be afraid to let people in. Give love and show love.”