Three or four days a week for the past five years, Dorothy Spriggs has been showing up for work at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Maryland chapter. However, instead of a paycheck, she is earning the satisfaction of knowing she is doing her part to give back and helping others with blood cancer.
At age 73, the Baltimore woman known as “Ms. Dotti” has no plans to stop. She’s enjoying it way too much.
“It’s the joy of being able to give back in a small way,” she said. “When I look at what the staff do, it amazes me. What I do is kind of small compared to them.”
Ms. Dotti is still thankful for LLS coming to her aid when she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) in 1999. She tried the medication interferon, and when it didn’t do much, her doctor put her on imatinib (Gleevec), an investigational targeted therapy that hadn’t yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug quickly sent her into remission but she couldn’t afford the co-pays. The MD chapter helped her apply for co-pay assistance, which helped her cover the medicine for several years.
Receiving that assistance motivated her to volunteer any way she could. Her work over the years has been enjoyable because it’s a choice.
“I felt I had to do something to give back,” she said. “I don’t have money but I have time more than anything.”
Ms. Dotti, who retired from work at a publishing company, spends about 10 hours a week doing office work such as assembling packets and folders for events, filing, making copies and helping out staff. She participates at awareness tables, helps with set up at resource fairs and fundraising events (where she occasionally shares her own story), and volunteers as a peer counselor to support others impacted by the same diagnosis. She even makes financial donations once a year.
She also got to join a grassroots coalition that helped advocate for a bill requiring oral parity in Maryland. Traveling to the capitol in Annapolis for several years in a row, she enjoyed lobbying her state representatives to make sure patients don’t pay more out of pocket for oral therapies than they would for IV treatments in a physician’s office.
“It gave me the opportunity to talk about my concerns and speak on behalf of the average working person,” she said.
As a First Connection volunteer, she contacts patients by phone who have the same disease and provides one-to-one support. She tries to be a good listener and reassure and encourage them when they need support. She found a special connection with a patient named Donna and developed a friendship over three years of phone calls and cards. Unfortunately, they never got to meet as Donna died a week before she was planning to visit in person.
LaVerne Perry, patient access manager at the Maryland chapter, called Ms. Dotti “super-duper valuable” and emphasized how she gives back in every facet of her life and has been a long-time friend to LLS.
“Ms. Dotti has provided consistent support and is willing to help us all any way she can. She is the most dedicated, faithful, enthusiastic and caring volunteer we could have asked for,” she said.
For her part, Ms. Dotti is happy to be living a full life and proud to be a dedicated friend and volunteer.
“I’m not dying from this disease, I’m living with it.”
It’s Volunteer Week! Join LLS as a volunteer, and join the cause that’s having the most impact on finding new ways to fight cancer – not someday, but today. See some of the ways you can get involved with LLS.