Cancer Information Specialist
Class of 1995
By Kortni Kurata
Anneke Geballe Geel is a Cancer Information Specialist for the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. She works at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She consults with patients and their family members by phone, e-mail and even instant messaging. She helps cancer patients deal with their diagnoses and symptoms, seek cancer treatment options, seek financial help or participate in clinical trials. Her assistance is a very important part of their health and well-being.
She believes in these words: “Knowledge is power”. Talking to a diverse group of people and being able to help them understand how to cope with being ill satisfies her. Her services are free to all cancer patients. Anneke has traveled to places such as Barrow, Alaska to do cancer prevention radio shows. Some of the questions she asks her clients include: “What kind of cancer do you have? What treatments have you had so far? What has the doctor(s) said about your situation? What kind of information are you looking for today? What did your doctor say about your symptoms?”
Surprisingly, Anneke actually had no intention of ever working in the medical field. She formerly worked for a Christian non-profit agency doing campus ministry at colleges. She really loved this job, but after several years realized she wanted to become a counselor. She went back to school at the University of Washington and got her Master’s in Social Work in 2005. A friend already working for the National Cancer Institute encouraged Anneke to apply.
Although her job may seem perfect, there are several downsides to this job. She has to have some of the same conversations over and over, particularly when giving referrals. Also, people are often very angry because of their loved one’s diagnosis and sometimes direct this anger at her. She really dislikes having to give bad news, like that their loved one is not likely to live more than a year or that a certain treatment is not proven scientifically and might actually do more harm than good.
Anneke graduated from Waiakea High School in 1995. She said that attending Waiakea High gave her the opportunity to be around a variety of people. Unfortunately, she experienced racism while a student, perceivably because she is white and has red hair. Over time she learned to move past the cruel treatment of some students and developed her own sense of self-respect. She credits growing up in Hawaii as well as her years at WHS with helping her learn to communicate with people of different communication styles. In retrospect, she mentions these good friends who helped her: Jenara Stadler, Leah Mleynek, Nani Heggland, Rory Kinoshita, Karen Bader, Erika Hartle-Schutte, Eisa Colton and Jennifer Webster.
English was the subject that really prepared Anneke for her job. The courses she took at WHS trained her to communicate quickly and efficiently what she was thinking and feeling. Mrs. Laura Tavares taught her how to study and understand the English textbook, while Mr. Scott Roberts taught her the structure for writing a proper essay or research paper and putting her thoughts down on paper.
She loved calculus with Mr. Jay Chow and it shaped her thinking of the world. He motivated her to work hard, do well, and to be organized. She appreciated that he also gave credit for effort and not just the correct answers. Mrs. Francine Pearson’s photography classes and encouraged her to continue to use her creative skills. She has photographed 15 weddings as well as many other events and creates a unique calendar each year using her own photographs.
Anneke married Peter Geel in 2005. Peter is originally form South Africa, but grew up in New Jersey. He works at a church as a youth and family ministries director not far from their apartment in Seattle. Anneke is very close to her parents, Tom and Carole Geballe who still live in Hilo, and to her brother Matt and his wife Rebecca, who live in Atlanta. Currently, she is very happy living in Seattle where she is near most of her extended family.