Selected patient stories from the New Face of Cancer Care website.
Eight years after her diagnosis, lung cancer survivor Tomma Hargraves is training to become a lay navigator with UNC Lineberger, giving back to the hospital that she credits with saving her life.
Leading an active life can help women treated for breast cancer live longer and healthier lives. Just ask Sherdinia Thompson-Dunn of Carrboro, NC. Thompson-Dunn, a 1967 graduate of UNC, found some pleasant surprises when she began a self-directed walking program in October 2013 following treatment for breast cancer.
In 2011, Tricia Prestia was wearing a lot of hats. A wife, a mother and a busy women’s health nurse practitioner in Cary, Tricia drew on her training and experience as a cytologist - the person who studies cellular changes that may indicate cancer - in her nursing practice.
Jim MacDonald used music to share his cancer experience. He co-wrote the song titled “Every Day is Christmas,” describing his two-week stay at the North Carolina Cancer Hospital, shortly after he was diagnosed.
When Dr. Lori Hunter defended her dissertation in 2000 at Syracuse University, no one on her committee knew that she was receiving chemotherapy for a second recurrence of breast cancer, now at Stage 4 and spread to her lungs, ribs and tibia.
Graphic and jewelry designer, Nancy Raasch of Chapel Hill accommodates her cancer and lives a full life. She explains, “I always say I have cancer on Thursdays since I go to clinic on Thursdays.” The rest of her time is spent making jewelry, gardening, reading, cooking and walking her dog.
Amber Vance, a young-adult cancer survivor living in Raleigh, is making a difference.
Kay Tyndall’s sixth grade social studies classes learned about more than current events. They watched their courageous teacher undergo treatment for bladder cancer.
Most cancer patients jump up and down after finishing therapy, but Richard Westin did much more. He jumped out of an airplane on a skydive to celebrate completing his chemo and radiation therapies and now jumps into water taking scuba diving lessons.
Blues musician Bill McCulloch talks about the best part of music: “It’s those rare little moments when everything comes together musically and the group creates something greater than the parts.” Not unlike a musical group, a team of UNC Lineberger cancer specialists came together and successfully treated Bill, or “Slim” as he prefers to be called, for a head-and-neck cancer.
Daniel Fischler remembers the call. “When a doctor calls you at 10:30 on a Friday night, it’s not going to be good news.” He had undergone an MRI for a herniated disc, but when the test revealed a shadow on his left bowel, a CT was ordered. Then came the call from his doctor. “He told me that it was very likely a tumor. I was knocked out, shocked by the bad news.”
When UNC student Michael McAtee’s GPA plummeted from a cumulative 3.7 to a 1.2, he tried to explain to his academic advisors that something was amiss.
Katerina Gmitter characterizes her breast cancer experience: “Treatment ends, your hair grows back, your eyebrows grow back, but it changes you forever.” Katerina was diagnosed at 32, four months after giving birth to her daughter.
When Debra Holmes lost her hair during chemotherapy, she explained it to her two grandchildren, ages five and nine, in a novel way that she felt they could understand. “I told them that what I was taking was like a super drug and it was so powerful I lost my hair.”
When Katy Sims enters the first-year class at the UNC School of Medicine this fall, she will already have extensive medical experience. Her decision to become a doctor came as she was undergoing treatment for Ewing sarcoma, a type of childhood cancer.
Tonya Williams of Charlotte is the lucky 13th child in her family. When she needed a match for her bone marrow transplant, all of her brothers and sisters were tested, and the last two brothers were matches.
Heather Miller said of her breast cancer diagnosis, “I gave cancer my tears for one night, but after that I decided that cancer was not taking any more from me or from my family.” She adopted the slogan “Fightin’ Feisty” as she prepared to do battle with the disease.