Carol Kulok never had the chance to meet Sheehan AlRabie, but if she had, she would have been one of Sheehan’s biggest fans – and we’re sure the feeling would be mutual.
That’s because Sheehan is a helper. As a Patient Services Case Manager at PanCAN, Sheehan spends her days meeting the needs of pancreatic cancer patients and their loved ones and caregivers who call in looking for information, referrals and support.
Carol was a helper, too. She was generous in listening and genuine with her advice. Throughout her life, she was a hard worker who knew how to find joy in everything – even after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
When Carol passed away in 2016, her daughter Lisa looked for ways to keep Carol’s spirit alive. She continued to sponsor PanCAN’s PurpleStride Orange County, where she serves as Team Captain for “Carol’s Purple Crusaders” – the team has raised more than $50,000 each year since 2014 – and she joined PanCAN’s Board of Directors. All to honor her mom.
Lisa felt like there was even more she could do. Something that would not only help further PanCAN’s mission of taking bold action to improve the lives of those impacted by pancreatic cancer, but that would embody the spirit of who Carol was.
Since Carol was a helper, Lisa decided she would like to honor those working every day on the frontlines at PanCAN to assist everyone impacted by pancreatic cancer – the Patient Services team.
Working with PanCAN, Lisa made a generous donation to Patient Services and established the Carol Kulok Award for Compassion.
The award is being given to one Patient Services team member a year who exceeds their goals; readily demonstrates the importance of the Right Track in improving patient outcomes; demonstrates mastery of pancreatic cancer-related topics; and is seen as a department leader who takes initiative to go beyond what the position requires while serving as a role model for junior staff.
And most importantly, this person embodies the spirit of Carol Kulok, both at work and personally.
In January 2021, Lisa joined as a special guest at PanCAN’s all-staff Zoom meeting.
When Lisa began talking about her mom, her words painted a vibrant picture of who Carol was. A woman with a huge, compassionate heart who would help anyone, anywhere, anytime. She was always interested in helping where the need was the greatest – going out of her way to aid people who were struggling and in need of support and care.
The common theme at Carol’s memorial service? How much she gave back to her community.
And then Lisa announced the inaugural Carol Kulok Award for Compassion, and its first recipient, Sheehan.
Hands flew up in elation on the screen as virtual cheers flooded the Zoom chat section. One of PanCAN’s own was being recognized for their stellar work and it was so well-deserved.
Sheehan exemplifies all that is unique with PanCAN’s Patient Services program. A natural nurturer and listener, she’s able to weave empathy and science together to bring comfort and facts to the patients and caregivers she speaks with.
A week later, Lisa and Sheehan had a chance to personally meet, virtually.
“Tell me a little about yourself,” Lisa prompted Sheehan.
Sheehan’s response highlighted part of why she was chosen for the award.
She graduated with a degree in public health and wanted to find a position that would combine her passion for education, helping people and medicine. She found that with PanCAN and her professional world opened.
After three rigorous months of training, Sheehan felt she now had an insider perspective on how to help patients navigate pancreatic cancer with empathy and compassion. She learned how to be an advocate for others.
Sheehan relayed that one of the biggest things she had learned was to find joy in the little things, a lesson Carol had carried with her through her life.
Patient Services Case Manager, on learning how to navigate the big picture by reveling in the details
She asked Lisa about her experience as a caregiver to her mother and requested stories about Carol to carry with her on her career path.
“As a caregiver, you don’t have to know all the answers, so you figure out how to do it as you go,” said Lisa. “There’s such a roller coaster of emotions for the patient, so I think being present is important. You have to be present. And like you and my mother said, even the smallest things feel like big wins.”
The two continued to share anecdotes – Lisa about her mom and Sheehan about the experiences she’s had in her role. But most of all, they shared the gratitude they feel.
Sheehan has felt so blessed in her life that she aspires to contribute to something bigger than herself.
Lisa shared that her mom would have considered Sheehan an adopted daughter.
Lisa and Sheehan are now bonded through this amazing experience and they both vow to keep their new “sisterhood” going.
“Don’t be surprised if I check in with you to hear how you’re doing,” said Lisa. “It’s inspiring to me that through this work I get to keep Mom’s spirit alive. Thank you. We need more people like you, especially during the hard times in our lives.”
“I’m humbled,” Sheehan said, “because I was chosen among the most incredible and compassionate people I know.”
“I’m ready to share Carol’s spirit with all the patients and caregivers I speak with.”