FAIRFIELD, Ohio — When Scott Murphy was a kid, he knew he could count on his big sister, Linda.
She took care of him when he was an infant and continued to babysit him as he got older.
So when Linda was diagnosed with uterine cancer decades later in 2019, he made sure she could count on him, too.
Murphy sat with her during each of her hours-long chemotherapy treatments and created activities to keep her mind off her diagnosis.
"I made her a bunch of booklets," he said. "Little trivia booklets with questions about Cincinnati and different movies she's seen, her favorite bands. So it's an activity book to kill some time when she was in chemo."
When other patients took notice, Murphy started bringing extra packets with activities that had more general appeal. He calls the work the A.C.T. Project, or "activities for chemo treatment." And even after Linda's treatments stopped, Murphy's A.C.T. Project continued. He has been bringing stacks of word finds and activity sheets to Mercy Health Fairfield Hospital every few months for the past two years.
"They have a lot of Cincinnati area trivia," said Murphy, 61. "Like, what are the famous singers from Cincinnati? What are some famous buildings or landmarks? And some history questions. And there's also a lot of trivia and word search and little games that occupy a little over two hours of their time."
The activities offer patients a "great opportunity" to occupy their time with something other than thinking about their treatment, said Robin Saxon, the nurse manager on the oncology floor at Mercy Health Fairfield Hospital.
"They're not thinking about the disease process and what's going on, the fact that this medication could be destroying good cells to take care of bad cells," Saxon said. "That's very stressful on a person. They get to where they're stressed just thinking about it, and it can cause them anxiety and even depression."
Having the activities that Murphy provides takes the patients' minds off all that, she said.
"We're so grateful that there's other people — other than us — that are thinking about our patients and their wellbeing," she said. "Whether it be mental or physical. And I think a lot of times this sort of activity can help them more mentally than you might think it would."
Doing his part to make treatment time easier
Linda, the sister who inspired it all, says the project is classic Scott.
"My brother's always kind of been a jokester," she said. "So you can always expect something unusual from him."
He also has always been loving and thoughtful, she said, and that shines through in the A.C.T. Project.
"The first time he brought a whole book, and he had it all bound with a clear cover. It was trivia things that interested me," she said. "One was about all the houses where we used to live. I still have all the books."
Murphy, a quality engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation who also works as a tour guide at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, has made specialized activities for other family members, too. He has a niece who was diagnosed with cancer and a nephew who is being treated for tumors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
"I'll put in whatever effort it takes because these are my family, my relatives. And it can grow to other people very easily," he said. "I want to make sure people are happy with the treatments they're getting and that time passes more easily for them."
Murphy is looking for contacts to expand the A.C.T. Project to other hospitals throughout the region, he said, and he would like to get some help with copying costs, too.
In the meantime, he has a message for anyone who's undergoing chemotherapy and struggling to look toward the future.
"Give yourself a goal that's achievable, beat whatever it is you're fighting medically and realize there are others to help you on that journey," he said. "And I hope that little things like this, small acts, will make a difference in your treatment and your care and your health."
For more information on the A.C.T. Project and how you can help, email Scott Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was originally published by Lucy May on Scripps station WCPO in Cincinnati.