Bess Cohn Humanitarian Award Nominee - The Journey's Journal

Laurie Oftedahl Helps Others After Surviving Her Own Health Scare

Laurie OftedahlWhen Laurie Oftedahl was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2005, she knew that she had a difficult road ahead of her. Having watched several family members battle terminal illnesses, Oftedahl did the best she could to mentally and emotionally prepare herself for the coming months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

Ten months later her cancer was finally in remission. "I made it through," she says, adding that she walked away from it knowing that she wanted to use her experience to help others through their health trials.

Her chance to give back came two years later, when a close colleague was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Reflecting on her own journey and the challenges she had faced, Oftedahl recalled that keeping track of things like appointments and medications had been especially trying for her because during chemotherapy "your memory is the first thing to go."

"If you've ever been through something like this, or if a loved one has, you know that there's a ton of medical information that's thrown around," Oftedahl says. "When a new caregiver comes in and you need to find it all, it can be very difficult."

And then Oftedahl, who works in the Carlson Craft Binder Division (asi/43923), made a connection. "When my colleague was diagnosed and I began thinking back to the process I had gone through," she says, "I realized that there are so many things we do here – with the pages and tabs and binders, we have all the pieces someone would need to make the whole process easier, to record their journey."

So Oftedahl created a mock-up of what Carlson Craft now markets as the "Journal for Your Journey." The journals, which are customizable for individual clients, include tabs and blank pages that help patients keep track of appointments, phone calls, guests, medication changes and other important information. "There are lots of medical journals out there, and lots of personal journals," Oftedahl says, "but Journals for your Journey are a combination of the two."

In addition to easing the burden for patients, the binders afford their families peace of mind. Oftedahl says that she was recently contacted by a woman whose mother had passed away and who wanted to express her appreciation for the journal. "Through the journal," Oftedahl says, "this daughter could hold onto the memories of her mother and to her information, so that if her family were ever faced with a similar situation again, they would have a detailed account."

Oftedahl has had success selling the journals to hospitals and clinics, which hand them out to patients. Minnesota's Mankato Clinic, which recently used the journals in its cancer division, also ordered custom editions for use in its pediatric, cardiology and diabetes programs.

Besides hospitals, Oftedahl sees the journals as beneficial for any medical office specializing in particular illnesses, like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, or in retirement communities. There, visiting family members and caregivers could benefit from "being on the same page" about a patient's medical care.

Oftedahl laughs that her experience fighting cancer has made her the "local expert," with friends coming to her for information. "When you've gone through something like this," she says, "a few years down the road you wish you could remember everything, and having it all in one place is really helpful."