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Inspiring hope: A teacher’s will to keep touching lives

By The Health News Team | May 17, 2023
Jennifer Tyrone of San Diego and Dr. Alfred Saleh of Sharp HealthCare

“I owe it all to Dr. Saleh, he is my bestie.” — Jennifer Tyrone

Jennifer Tyrone loves her job, inspiring second graders to reach for their dreams and showing them anything is possible. However, it wasn’t until Jennifer met Dr. Alfred Saleh, a Sharp Community Medical Group board-certified oncologist, that she was truly inspired to survive the toughest time of her life.

“Dr. Saleh is my Guardian Angel and my bestie,” says Jennifer. “Because of him, I can be back in the classroom, where I love to be.”

In 2015, Jennifer was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma stage 1 breast cancer after feeling a lump in her breast. Then age 38 and a mother of two young children, Jennifer was worried she would lose all that she loved. But thanks to Dr. Saleh and his team, Jennifer was able to find her inner strength and hope and became focused on healing.

“I will always remember my first time meeting Dr. Saleh,” Jennifer says. “I was crying uncontrollably as we discussed ports and my treatment plan — I was so terrified. Dr. Saleh could tell I was visibly shaken and offered to have me rest in the office before driving a couple of hours home to Temecula. I realized at that moment I was in the best, most caring hands possible.”

Finding a new mindset

For Jennifer, processing this life-changing health diagnosis was difficult. She could barely remember the last time she was sick. Other than visiting her primary care doctor once or twice a year and having her children at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, she had never experienced another hospital stay.

Sensing that Jennifer was struggling, Dr. Saleh encouraged her to share how she was feeling. Jennifer mentioned how it was challenging to grapple with being “sick” and how odd it felt to be considered a “patient with cancer” because she had always felt fine. It was Dr. Saleh’s response, she says, that inspired change within her.

“I will never forget what Dr. Saleh said,” Jennifer shares. “It instantly switched my mindset and reminded me of how strong I really am. He said, ‘You're not sick, Jennifer. This is just a bump in the road, another challenge that will soon be a distant memory.’ I thought ‘He's right. I'm not sick and I’m going to get through this.’”

Throughout Jennifer’s treatment, she received the same compassionate listening, understanding and care from the entire Sharp team.

“My care was flawless from beginning to end,” recalls Jennifer. “They put up with my endless questions and requests. They taught me how to meditate and how to eat well. The entire team has given me peace of mind these past 5 1/2 years. The fear is gone.”

Honoring compassionate care

With a grateful heart, Jennifer was looking for a way to give back. She wanted others to experience the same care she did while on their own cancer journey.

After speaking with Sharp HealthCare Foundation, Jennifer became a Giving Society member and donates monthly to the Dr. Fred Saleh and Dr. Thomas Shiftan Patient Assistance fund. Her monthly support helps patients of Oncology Associates San Diego, located at Sharp Memorial Hospital, with transportation or lodging for their families. This endowed fund is supported 100% through philanthropy.

“I have met many other women on this journey who haven't been as lucky,” says Jennifer. “Their lives were cut short because their doctors wouldn't listen to their concerns. I wish I had a magic wand to clone my care team and give every single cancer patient on this planet their own Dr. Saleh. I’m very proud to help support his patient assistant fund.”

Partner in Health members at Sharp are a passionate community of individuals who are united by investing in the medical innovation, advanced learning facilities and compassionate care at Sharp. All aim to improve lives today and for generations to come.

“I owe it all to Dr. Saleh — he is my bestie,” Jennifer says. “He not only touched my life but also the lives of my students. I am able to do what I love because of him.”

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