She's the Sh*t: Paige Malinowski

Paige Malinowski is the kind and loving program manager in the Young Adult Program at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. She has been the liaison between Shit that I Knit and Dana Farber and has played a huge role in facilitating such a successful partnership for our Give-A-Shit Knit Kits. We are so grateful for her positivity and couldn’t help but feature her in our She’s the Shit series!

Hometown: Acton, MA (but currently live in Cambridge, MA)

Favorite part of your day: Meeting with and working with young adult patients (ages 18-39), connecting them to the unique resources, services, and support programs offered by the Young Adult Program (YAP)

You have been integral to the success of the Give-A-Sh*t program at Dana Farber and we are so grateful for your help in facilitating it. Why do you think the Give-A-Sh*t program is a good fit for the Dana Farber Young Adult Program?

Give-A-Sh*t’s goal is to enhance the quality of life of young adults undergoing cancer treatment by providing the tools to complete a basic knitting project, simultaneously promoting confidence, control, patience, and distraction from a difficult and often overwhelming time. It really jives with YAP’s goal of supporting and empowering YA patients to build resilience and realize their own strengths to help them cope.

What kind of positive effects of knitting have you witnessed when patients use our knit kits? Have you tried knitting yourself?

Knitting is a great source of relaxation and has many meditative qualities. Several of our patients have mentioned that knitting provides distraction from what is going on in their lives (whether cancer or otherwise) and is sometimes the first moment when they’ve been able to take their minds off cancer. Knitting also promotes confidence by way of overcoming challenges and achieving a goal. My cousin taught me how to knit a few years ago, which I really enjoyed, but I was thankful to be re-introduced to it after Christina connected with YAP. I’ve been watching STIK’s tutorial videos and am excited to get back into it!

What did your journey look like before you started at Dana Farber Cancer Institute? Did you always want to work with cancer patients?

I was drawn to oncology, and particularly psychosocial oncology, after spending time with close family members hospitalized for cancer treatment, surgery, and recovery. I witnessed the impact psychosocial services had on my family and how much we benefited from the support we received during these difficult times. In college, this led me to become involved with various cancer support organizations and internships, further confirming my passion for this field.  

How did you get involved with Dana Farber Cancer Institute and what drew you to the Young Adult Program in particular?

Having grown up in a Boston suburb and knowing DFCI’s reputation for excellence and compassion, I knew it would be a special place to work. Prior to graduating from college, I actually began my time at Dana-Farber as a volunteer, then worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator, a Resource Specialist, and my current role as Program Manager for YAP. I was drawn to YAP’s unique mission of focusing on the emotional needs of young adult patients, who are often caught between the pediatric and adult worlds physically, emotionally, and socially. They face challenges different from those of children or older adults; having the opportunity to support them during an often vulnerable time is really meaningful.  

I can imagine working with young adult cancer patients can be incredibly difficult and often heartbreaking. How do you find ways to cope with difficult experiences at work?

There are certainly good days and not-so-good days, but over time, I’ve learned to manage and balance various emotions in recognizing that the work we do to support patients and families is extremely important, meaningful, and makes a difference. I am very fortunate to work on a supportive team with my wonderful YAP colleagues – Karen Fasciano, PsyD (Program Director), Katelyn MacDougall, LICSW (Clinical Social Worker), and Shannon Watterson (Senior Communications Specialist).

What do you do outside of work to decompress and unwind? What would an ideal day off look like for you?

I love spending time with my family and friends, and especially my two adorable nephews! In addition to being a huge Boston sports fan (Go Sox!), I enjoy exercising, beach time, and exploring all of the incredible things that Boston has to offer. Nantucket Island is my all-time favorite escape. I also spend time volunteering for Comfort Zone Camp, a bereavement camp for children who have lost a parent or sibling. An ideal day off would include any of the above, good food, and good company.

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