Celebrating Compassion: One Patient’s Heartfelt Giving to Thank His Cancer Care Team

Charles Cauthen rarely thinks about his cancer journey without also thinking about the unique cancer journeys of others. While receiving care at Novant Health Agnes B. and Edward I. Weisiger Cancer Institute in Charlotte, Cauthen bonded with many of the patients. “I’m grateful to be in remission and feeling healthy, again,” he says. “But there are many people enduring longer and harder struggles than mine. Honestly, I’m more interested in helping them get the support and comfort they need than talking about me.” During his cancer journey, Charles Cauthen received care from the teams at Novant Health Claudia W. and John M. Belk Heart & Vascular Institute and Novant Health Agnes B. and Edward I. Weisiger Cancer Institute.

Made possible by the generous philanthropic engagement of the families of Claudia W. and John M. Belk and Agnes B. and Edward I. Weisiger, the Institutes are co-located, making it easier and more convenient for specialists to collaborate on patient care and thereby lessening confusion and stress for patients and caregivers.

On-site programs and services to support patients and families before, during and after cancer treatment are provided by the Novant Health Kemp Bessant Support Center- made possible by financial support through the foundation’s partnerships with NCNB in memory of the late Chairman, Buddy Kemp, and continued support from Bank of America Charitable Foundation in honor of Catherine P. Bessant. Over the last 25 years, the Kemp Bessant Support Center has been a beacon of hope and a free resource to our community through the continued generosity of thousands of generous philanthropy partner.

But Cauthen will tell you his story because he’s on a mission to help cancer patients and to support research on new cures.  He wants to share his experience if it can give someone else a boost of optimism and confidence.  “My entire oncology team at Novant Health was the very best,” he says. “Dr. Alan Skarbnik, and his teammates Mary DiLorenzo, Kiki Raptis, Carla Land, Ronetta Bouchard and others have been great. The Wellness team including Sarah Berkshire, Natalie Fulton, Morgan Sivak, Robert Crider, Michelle Newell, Natalie Fulton, and Praveen Rathee kept me moving and gave great education as well. The infusion team – including Chia Lee, and others made sure I got the chemo I needed and were so caring. Dr. Jeff Hardin, Novant Integrative Health, was also very supportive, and informative. All the wonderful people that came together to provide the absolute highest quality, friendliest, most comprehensive healthcare.  I’ll never forget them.  People should know how fortunate we are to have this remarkable care right here in our community.”

On New Year’s Eve of 2022, Cauthen’s son noticed a swelling in his father’s neck.  While he was not overly concerned, he made an appointment with his Novant primary care physician -, Dr. Joe Mueller, who was instrumental to make sure Charles received the needed tests and attention and referred him to Dr. Alan Skarbnik.  “I’d never been really sick before,” he shrugs. “And then suddenly I’m being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is a blood cancer that can spread into several areas of the body.”  Again, sensitive to patients facing their own battles, Cauthen is almost inclined to minimize this life-altering moment. “It can be a highly curable form of cancer,” he says.  “The folks at Novant knew exactly what I needed.”

What he needed was lymph node surgery, to diagnose his subtype, and six rounds of chemotherapy. “I also benefited tremendously from counseling” Cauthen says about his time with Shannon Crystal, at the Novant Health Kemp Bessant Support Center.  “Novant’s holistic approach to healthcare takes your whole being into account.  It’s a process of coming to terms with your reality and then doing what’s needed to heal.”

Today, healthy and moving forward with life, Charles is eager to give back.  He admits he’s still exploring what this can mean over time. “Not long after my treatment, my employer – McGriff Insurance, and I enjoyed surprising everybody on my Novant team with coffee and breakfast, going to every floor and thanking them, again.  It was a lot of fun and very emotional.”  Kudos to his McGriff coworkers Melanie Smith, and Stacey Whitney for putting this together.  This thoughtful gesture perfectly embodies the foundation’s belief in a culture of gratitude, which we work daily to foster throughout all of our relationships. “Now I’m helping raise money with Dr. Skarbnik, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to find cures for blood cancers and to assist patients and families as they battle this disease,” he says.

Charles Cauthen is grateful to God, his family, his church, his friends and colleagues.  He is grateful for every member of the Novant Health care team that made it possible for him to return to his normal life among all the people he loves. When he thinks about a future of philanthropic engagement with Novant Health Foundation, helping others is what motivates him. “I want everybody who needs remarkable healthcare to have access to it,” he says.  You can hear in his voice the heartfelt respect he holds for every cancer patient’s personal battle.  “I just want to support people in their journey.”