File this under: Crazy shit I do because it just makes sense.

There is just one brain tumor support group for the entire Sacramento region and this group meets once a month at the UC Davis Cancer Center. (First Thursdays, holla!)

I first learned of the group from an oncology social worker who gave me this sad-looking pamphlet.

Pamphlet for the brain tumor support group.

I wish I had taken photos of the inside of the brochure too, because it was just as disheartening as the cover.

And that last line, “…Live One Day At A Time…” If I hadn’t already thought I would die from my brain tumor that line really drove things home.

I went to the support group just a few times within the first year after my diagnosis, but I still saw that same yellow pamphlet in the neuro-oncology waiting room every stinking time I went in for my 6 month MRI and exam (and this was at Kaiser, a completely different health system).

Then one day a few years ago I got fed up with looking at the hideous yellow handout. It was depressing and it made me mad for two reasons.

Reason 1: Part of me thought if this was for a breast cancer support group more resources would have been invested in creating a more attractive piece of collateral. This is not true, I just felt that way at the time.

Reason 2: As a person with a design degree it is in my nature to want everything to work better for end users. I couldn’t let my fellow brain tumor peeps be disrespected like this.

So I decided to do something about it. I got in touch with the person who runs the support group–a neuro-oncology nurse practitioner at the UC Davis Cancer Center. I told her I wanted to redesign the handout and asked if would she be willing to work with me on it.

She was thrilled! Apparently the support group has been around since the late-1980s and the handout hadn’t changed since it was first created. Sadly, this is common theme with most patient-facing materials.

I told the NP I was surprised UC Davis Health had not updated the handout because they were such sticklers when it comes to branding. She said that the health system did not have resources for the support groups (WTF?!) and that she has been making photocopies of the original handout on the machine in her office for years (OH MY GAWD).

This is the deal I made with the support group facilitator: I would redesign the handout, make it adhere to UC Davis Health branding guidelines (using the approved fonts, logo and colors), and design it in such a way that it was budget-friendly when it comes to printing. In exchange, I asked her to get UC Davis Health to kick down some dollars each year for basic printing costs.

A few days later she got an answer: yes.

Me with the redesigned handout in a Kaiser waiting room.

A few months after I completed the project I went to see my neuro-oncologist and was stoked to see the new handouts arranged on a wall with the rest of the patient materials.

I immediately pulled one off the wall and was so excited I didn’t know what to do. Everything in me wanted to bring it to the front desk and say, “Look what I did!” But I quickly realized that would come off as bragging or weird. Instead, Brett took this photo of me and now I will have that memory forever.

Is there a lesson to be learned here?

Not every patient is a Adobe Creative Suite ninja with the skills (or crazy desire) to redesign patient-facing print materials. But each one of us has a talent, whether that be with gardening, cooking, painting, planning, writing, video gaming, you name it!

So I ask you, how might you use your skills to redesign a patient experience?

It has been a few years since I did this and I had forgotten all about it until a recent Twitter conversation triggered my memory. Thank you to Rick Boulay, MD, for bringing this back to me.