• Fri. Aug 5th, 2022

Chicago Hospital Mobile Support Group Helps Patients Build Strong Bonds – NBC Chicago

ByJulie J. Helfer

May 31, 2022

Two strangers forged a unique friendship in the hallways of a local hospital, with the duo forming a mobile support group as they battled the same form of leukaemia.

Last June, Zach Jenkins of Bloomington had one of the worst times of his life.

“I remember walking into the doctor’s office a year ago, sitting down and saying ‘you have leukemia,'” he said.

Jenkins came to Northwestern Medicine’s Lurie Cancer Center in Chicago for treatment of his illness, and that’s when Eric McElroy knocked on his door.

“He just said ‘we’re going to walk every day’ and I was like ‘okay’. I didn’t expect to see him again,” he recalled.

Needless to say, McElroy meant it. The 39-year-old father of three from the suburb of Manteno was diagnosed with leukemia six years ago.

“The first year of my diagnosis, I was super depressed,” he said. “I just didn’t want him to go through the same thing that I did because the mental, the physical (the challenges) are no fun. But mentally, you can make it worse.

The two began walking the halls of Lurie, sometimes for hours.

“We were really able to bond and just talk about what we’re going through and going through it,” Jenkins said.

After a while, they started to expand their mobile walking support group.

“What we did was we knocked on other people’s doors and asked them to come out and walk, and many did,” McElroy said.

During three different hospital stays, sometimes for weeks, they walked, including during their stem cell transplants.

McElroy says he once walked 20 miles around the hospital floors, and the group was so inspiring that the nurses even bought lap counters for the patients.

“He really helped me out,” Jenkins said. “He’s like ‘we’re going to get through this together. Day by day. Step by step.'”

Now, the duo are coming together again this weekend to take part in the Cancer Survivor Celebration Walk and 5K Run, and they have every reason in the world to celebrate.

Jenkins says doctors have declared him cancer-free and McElroy is in remission.

“We were good for each other,” McElroy said.