Tom Chapman sat with his wife as she was dying of multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. As CEO of Equifax, a leading consumer credit company, Chapman could afford second opinions from the nation’s experts. But it came down to this: holding Jane’s hand as she received chemotherapy infusions at Piedmont Hospital. Finding some space for hope. Trying to turn the impossible into something bearable.
By the time Jane died in 2003, her husband had spent years sitting in hospital waiting rooms and treatment centers and had plenty of ideas about how to help cancer patients endure the intense medical battle.
“We need to have an environment that at least gives them some comfort,” he says. “Attitude is everything in this fight.” He collaborated on Piedmont’s first cancer wellness center and donated more than $1.5 million to establish four additional programs and other support for patients and oncology nurses.
At Cancer Wellness at Piedmont on Howell Mill Road, an entryway sign above a row of hooks makes it clear that patients rule here: “Doctors are always welcome at Cancer Wellness, but please leave your white coat at the door.”
The center’s programs soothe the body (yoga and acupuncture) and the spirit (meditation and counseling). They are free for anyone who is affected by cancer—including those who aren’t patients at Piedmont.
Chapman tapped the resources himself when, in 2010, he discovered he had throat cancer and needed radiation. A dietitian advised him on how to stay healthy even when his throat ached and his taste buds were scorched by the treatment.
Chapman and his current wife, Karen, have also funded “cancer navigators,” people who assist patients through their medical journeys, and he’s working with the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (CORE) on programs for cancer survivors.
(His altruism is not limited to cancer; Chapman, who has a family member with autism, is the second-largest individual donor to the Marcus Autism Center.)
Chapman’s focus on the patient experience is unique, says Angie Patterson, director of CORE and herself a breast cancer survivor. “Without his funding to expand what we’ve done in Georgia [for patients, survivors, and caregivers], we would be like most other states—really far behind,” she says.
This article originally appeared in our November 2013 issue.