In this blog, retired Navy Capt. Jean Scherrer, who is in hospice care with terminal ovarian cancer, discusses how Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor provides non-medical care to seriously wounded, ill and injured sailors – like her. This is her story.
I first heard about Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor during an interview with a Department of Veterans Affairs representative in late 2011. I had recently begun the VA disability process. I was preparing to medically retire from the Navy; it was something I didn’t really want to do. As I broke down in tears in the VA representative’s office, she offered to introduce me to a Navy Wounded Warrior non-medical care manager.
From that day forward, much of my stress was alleviated.
I have been battling ovarian cancer on and off for a decade. After I learned my illness was terminal, I transitioned out of the Navy. It was an extremely difficult time for my family and me. My Navy Wounded Warrior non-medical care manager, Lolita “Lollie” Merencillo, was a godsend.
I joined the Navy in 1986 as a Medical Service Corps officer. I had a very rewarding career. As a naval officer, I enjoyed opportunities and upward mobility that I couldn’t have found in civilian hospitals. During my most demanding and gratifying tour, I established the first joint-service blood donor center in Bethesda, Md.
But, despite my medical background and my professional accomplishments, the intricacies of my medical retirement from the Navy often confounded me. Lollie’s intervention made all the difference.
I previously thought Navy Wounded Warrior was a program for service members wounded in combat. I never realized enrollment was available to people with catastrophic injuries – such as shipboard and training accidents – or with serious illnesses, like me. I encourage any sailor who is wondering if he or she is eligible to reach out to the program and learn more. It is a tremendous service.
Lollie shared advice about my retirement. If I didn’t follow her instructions in a timely manner, I got reminder phone calls and emails. She stayed on me, and it paid off. I never heard of anyone getting his or her benefits as quickly as I did. Military pay issues, Social Security benefits, and retirement pay – she tackled it all. Everything she touched was perfect. I would arrive at her office in tears and overwhelmed by the weight of my worries. I usually left with a smile on my face, feeling calm and confident.
In late 2012, I retired from the Navy. I am now in hospice. Lollie still checks on me. She’s always ready with an ear to listen. Throughout my battle with cancer, I have received amazing medical care. But Lollie, more than anyone, helped me beyond words. Her support has given me great peace of mind, and that was the best medicine I could have received. She is an angel.