Cancer: it’s one of the most terrifying words in the English language.
But for patients this summer in Detroit, Michigan, at Karmanos Cancer Institute facing that horrible word, they were also facing the loving smile of a Bob Jones University intern. Brooklyn Veenstra, senior health sciences major with a healthcare administration principal, interned in marketing and communications this summer at the non-profit cancer institute.
Veenstra said she had many unique opportunities to talk with patients and their families and hear their stories. Required to complete an internship for her major, Veenstra worked with her faculty advisor, Dr. Amy Hicks, to find an internship that fitted Veenstra and her passions as well as prepared her for her career.
But beyond preparing her for her future career, this internship had a personal impact on Veenstra. Her father Tim Veenstra was diagnosed with stage four cancer in May 2015. “Cancer is something that no family, no person, wants in their vocabulary,” she said. “But that day, it became a part of how God was writing our story.”
She explained that Karmanos was where her dad was treated for his cancer. “Many times, I walked the same halls that we walked, pushing my dad in a wheelchair to chemo.” Veenstra got to work with the same doctors that cared for her father.
“It was a way to honor the staff that were at that hospital for all that they had done for our family,” she said. “The staff at Karmanos . . . went beyond just care of the patient. It was care of the family.”
Veenstra remembers her father’s faith as unwavering even while lying in a hospital bed. “Even doctors, physicians and nurses at Karmanos noticed,” she said. “They were curious how someone could hear those words, ‘You have cancer,’ and still have hope.”
Her father died at age 45 in April 2016, three weeks before Veenstra’s high school graduation.
Veenstra met many people at the hospital who also had been affected by cancer.
“My boss had lost four different family members to breast cancer,” she said. “I feel like that gives an extra dose of honesty and relatability that is really needed in the healthcare workplace.”
Another intern at Karmanos, who was also a believer, found a willing ear and open heart in Veenstra. “She had also lost her dad to cancer,” Veenstra said. “She had never found someone to talk [to] about it.”
The main purpose of Veenstra’s internship was to promote the hospital to other people. She said she had a passion for that because she had been on the other side of such promotion. “I could not have wished for a better way to spend the summer than to serve other families that are affected by such a diagnosis,” she said.
Her work included compiling presentations for different departments in the hospital, reading research publications and summarizing them, and communicating with medical professionals in the hospital and out.
“I would be calling and interviewing doctors,” Veenstra said. “Other times it was patients, and other times it was researchers.” She said the internship expanded her horizons on communicating with all individuals who make up a hospital. She also organized a fundraising event in July called “Pink Out the Park.”
“That was kind of the focal point of my internship,” Veenstra said. She coordinated volunteers and worked with the local baseball team, the Detroit Tigers. The proceeds from the event went to cancer research at Karmanos.
Veenstra said the internship was exactly what she’s hoping to do with the rest of her life, and she is incredibly grateful to God for providing the opportunity.
“He has written my story with cancer, but it doesn’t just stop there,” she said. “I’m thankful that God can still work, and He does work, in cases of sickness. Suffering is not permanent, and it’s not wasted. So being able to just be an ambassador for Him this summer is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.”