The tea party crew: Olivia Thornton, Dr. Marc Moss, Tracy Priebe, Barbara Wenger and Maureen Hession

Feb. 9, 2023
Barbara Wenger, left, and Traci Priebe, right, helped throw a tea party for cancer patient, Melissa Turner, center. Photo by Katie McCrimmon.

For more than two years, a beloved cancer patient has been bringing treats to health care heroes. To thank her, health providers threw a tea party.

The cancer patient has been bringing special treats for health care workers every three weeks for more than two years whenever she comes for cancer treatments at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital.

Melissa Turner started doing treat deliveries back in December of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.

By chance, at a fundraising event just before the pandemic began, Melissa met Dr. Marc Moss, a UCHealth pulmonologist and critical care doctor. Moss and his colleagues have worked on the front lines of the pandemic. They tend to the sickest patients who need care in special COVID-19 Intensive Care Units (ICUs).

In December of 2020, Melissa reached out to Moss to see how she could lift his team’s spirits and say thank you for their heroic efforts.

Melissa offered to bring treats to Moss and the ICU team. She also started bringing special cookies, breads, candies and kind notes to her cancer team.

“I wanted to say thanks to the ICU team and to my lung cancer team who were keeping me alive,” Melissa said.

Shortly thereafter, Melissa’s sister was admitted to an ICU in Los Angeles for COVID-19 and later passed away from the virus in January of 2021. She was just 61.

Melissa’s kindness to health care heroes meant even more after the tragic loss of her sister. While the California team could not save Melissa’s sister, who also had Addison’s disease, nurses and doctors spent hours talking to Melissa and put the phone to her sister’s ear so she could hear her voice. Melissa had all the more motivation to keep the treats coming.

During a recent infusion appointment, Melissa’s care team decided to turn the tables and do something kind for her.

So, they organized a tea party.

Back before the pandemic, Melissa often brought friends and shared tea with them during her infusion appointments at the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

The gatherings had to stop because of visitor restrictions.

But every two-to-three weeks since December of 2020, no matter how poorly Melissa has felt, she has kept bringing special items like home-baked cookies, candy and special bread. She always drops off kind notes and goodies for providers in both the COVID-19 ICU and for her cancer team.

When Melissa arrived for an infusion appointment in early December of 2022, she walked into a small treatment room and was stunned to find a group of nurses and doctors who created a celebration for her.

They decorated the room. A comfy blanket and a backpack full of goodies sat on the hospital bed. A cheery tray of tea wrapped in spiffy yellow boxes greeted her.

Olivia Thornton, left, and Dr. Marc Moss, right, wanted to thank cancer patient, Melissa Turner, center, who has been bringing treats to hospital heroes every two to three weeks for more than two years. So, they threw her a tea party. Photo by Katie McCrimmon.

“You are always doing kind things for us, so today we wanted to do a little something for you,” said Olivia Thornton, a nurse manager who has overseen COVID-19 ICUs at University of Colorado Hospital and now serves as a nurse manager for UCHealth’s Virtual Health Center.

Thornton read a thank you letter to Melissa on behalf of dedicated, grateful staffers throughout the hospital.

They included Dr. Moss along with oncology nurse, Barbara Wenger, ICU nurse, Traci Priebe, and Maureen Hession, associate nurse manager for the cancer infusion center.

Melissa was shocked and humbled that several of her favorite providers squished into a room to share tea with her and thank her for her kindness.

“Every single one of us is rooting for you,” Thornton said.

“I’m just trying to thank you for what you do,” Melissa responded. “You mean everything to me. You always work so hard and have your patients in mind every moment of every day. Thank you!”

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About the author

Katie Kerwin McCrimmon is a proud Coloradan. She attended Colorado College thanks to a merit scholarship from the Boettcher Foundation and worked as a park ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park during summers in college.

Katie is a dedicated storyteller who loves getting to know UCHealth patients and providers and sharing their inspiring stories.

Katie spent years working as an award-winning journalist at the Rocky Mountain News and at an online health policy news site before joining UCHealth in 2017.

Katie and her husband, Cyrus — a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer — have three adult children and love spending time in the Colorado mountains and traveling around the world.