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Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021

Real Men Wear Pink

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Raising funds to support breast cancer awareness

A workday for Daniel Speir is anything but predictable.

As the chief therapist in radiation oncology at Willis-Knighton System’s Cancer Center, Speir and his team manage care for approximately 85 patients in a single day.

“I spend most of my day doing whatever is needed of me,” Speir said. “I’m either checking patients’ charts, ensuring a patient’s treatment is in line with their doctor’s order, making sure all of the therapists are doing well, or managing the orders for transportation of patients. If anything clinical is happening in the center, I make sure it all goes as planned.”

Above all, Speir is building relationships with his patients. One relationship he made while completing a radiation therapy rotation during X-ray school over a decade ago is why he pursued radiation oncology as his career.

“There was a patient I cared for every day, and one day his wife came to me and said, ‘Daniel, you just don’t know how much you mean to my husband, because you treat him like a person and not a cancer patient,’” she said. “I thought, ‘OK, this is definitely where God wants me to be.’” Speir has been working at the Cancer Center going on 13 years.

“Having relationships with the patients is the reason I love what I do every day,” he said. “I’m able to walk side by side with my patients during a hard time and be able to encourage them, pray with them, and be there for them in a way that no other profession really can.”

The time, care and attention that Speir invests in each of his patients is evident to many, including the Cancer Center’s director, Dana R. Jones, RN, MSN.

Jones approached Speir and asked if he’d represent the Willis-Knighton Health System in the 2021 American Cancer Society of Northwest Louisiana’s campaign.

As an annual national campaign each October, leaders across the country become Real Men Wear Pink Ambassadors for a month, committing to wearing pink and raising funds to support breast cancer awareness. The fundraising effort helps the American Cancer Society save lives from breast cancer by funding innovative breast cancer research, providing education and guidance to help people reduce their risk, and offering comprehensive patient support.

“I told Dana I’m all in,” Speir said. “I told her I’d do whatever I could to raise awareness.”

Speir wore pink every day in October, whether at work, at church, or with family and friends. Even if the only pink he had on was a wristband, “the pink served as a reminder to me of my patients and for me to pray for them,” he said.

The first contributor to his campaign was a pediatric patient Speir treated years ago; the former patient is now in college. From the Houma area and affected by Hurricane Ida, Speir eagerly reached out to the patient to thank her.

“Daniel, you gave me so much that I’ll never be able to pay back,” she told him. “Donating to your campaign is the least I can do.”

“That first donation was a great reminder that this is a way bigger picture than one could think,” Speir said.

And that was just the beginning of Speir’s campaign.

His coworkers joined him in his efforts; every Friday in October, Willis- Knighton employees wore pink with a $5 donation toward Speir’s campaign.

“Our employees at the Cancer Center supported Daniel; we took group photos, and Daniel dressed in his pink man costume,” said Jones, adding that leaders throughout the Willis-Knighton system wore pink to support the cause.

Speir’s campaign impacted his patients, too.

Employees took part in a pumpkindecorating contest, with each pink pumpkin displayed in the lobby of the Cancer Center.

“Many of our patients come to the Cancer Center repeatedly throughout the month, and we try to brighten their days however we can,” said Jones.

Speir said it was neat to see his coworkers come together to do this at work.

“It wasn’t all about me,” he said. “It’s about raising awareness for breast cancer. If it’s me – or whoever else – I’m going to support it no matter what.”

Speir has been supporting breast cancer awareness for years. He and his wife got involved in the annual Susan G. Komen® Race for the Cure run 10 years ago.

“It’s one more way to show support,” he said. “I see patients at the race, and I show them that I am here for them.”

Speir supports and encourages his patients, whether running on the pavement, working the floors at work or fundraising for Real Men Wear Pink in the Shreveport-Bossier community.

“Our patients are already coming in with a lot of baggage and a lot of things on their shoulders,” he said. “We get a chance to make them smile and to really make a difference in their life.”

He continued, “The Cancer Center is not all doom and gloom. There’s so much joy that comes from working with a patient when you treat them like nothing is wrong with them.”

Despite his unpredictable days, Speir’s caring approach to his patients remains steadfast.

To anyone battling breast cancer, Speir will tell you that you’re not alone.

“There is so much support out there,” he said. “If not family, then your treatment team is here to walk side by side with you as you go through this tough time.”

Finally, Speir added, “Breast cancer is not a death sentence. It is very treatable. Don’t let the ‘C’ word make you automatically think you are going to die.”

Nationwide, the Real Men Wear Pink Campaign raised over $11,324,460 in 2021. Northwest Louisiana’s campaign raised just over $66,000.

To learn more about breast cancer or to get involved in next year’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign, visit www.cancer.org and search “Louisiana.”

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