A special tribute…

Posted by on Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

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This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared in Vibrant Life Magazine.

Patty sits in the waiting room chair, hair still boyish thanks to a recent round of chemo, divorced shortly before her diagnosis, mother of two young boys.

She is telling me about her experience with breast cancer. The surprising news. Juggling work and single motherhood. Her eyes spill, not with tears of sorrow or bitterness but thankfulness.

“I’m very independent, but I’ve had to learn to depend on friends and family. Cancer has helped me allow other people into my life,” she says. “Cancer has shown me the power of prayer. Cancer has taught me how to appreciate every single day.”

I would not have guessed, when I started my new job at a cancer treatment center earlier this year, that it would be such a happy place.

Each day patients, in various stages of illness, come to receive the therapy they hope will save their lives. None of them would choose to be here. And yet, again and again they express their gratitude for the simple gifts life brings.

Bob with esophageal cancer speaks of his daughter-in-law, who faithfully took him to daily appointments. Dennis, a prostate cancer patient visiting the center from out of town, is grateful for the employees who make sure his stay is as comfortable as possible and accommodate needed trips back home. Toni is grateful for the doctors and therapists who made her daughter laugh during treatment for a brain tumor. Melvin is simply glad to have his wife, treated for breast cancer earlier this year, alive and well.

Sharon, who works the front desk, is a stage 3 breast cancer survivor—and has the battle scars of a mastectomy, hysterectomy and radiation damage to her heart and lungs to prove it.

Still, she says, “If I had to choose between having cancer and not having cancer, I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t let the little things bother me. I’m a more caring person. I don’t worry about the future. I appreciate what I have right now.”

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you,” writes Sarah Ban Breathnack in her book, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy.

Indeed. Scientific research shows gratitude, and in particular the repetitive practice of it, improves a sense of well-being, relieves depression and other mental health disorders, improves sleep, lowers blood pressure—all contributors to better physical and mental health.

Thankfulness is linked to spiritual well-being too.

One study showed that gratitude served as a connecting factor between those who were spiritually inclined and also experienced positive impacts on their health. Another study from the Journal of Religion and Health bears the title: “Spirituality and positive psychology go hand in hand…”

At Provision, thankfulness is typically couched in faith. It’s not that patients haven’t done their share of questioning, been through dark days, wondered “why me?” It’s that, somehow, in that journey of their greatest fears they’ve found peace in not having all the answers, in being grateful for the moment, in trusting God with the rest.

As author Ann Voskamp writes, “When I give thanks for the seemingly microscopic, I make a place for God to grow within me.”

 

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Breast cancer patient finds support at Provision

Posted by on Sunday, November 22nd, 2015

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After 25 years of faithfully submitting to her annual mammogram, Jean Aikens had never gotten the dreaded call, although her sister’s breast cancer diagnosis 20 years before had definitely put the possibility on her radar.

But between one breast cancer screening and the next, a 3 cm tumor had formed, and all of a sudden Aikens found herself facing a biopsy, then surgery and radiation treatment.

Upon first hearing the news, “I had a real meltdown,” she says. “But after I got through that first day, I turned it over to God, and I think I’ve done pretty good at leaving it with Him.”

The 79-year-old survivor was referred to Provision Center for Proton Therapy in lieu of conventional radiation by her surgeon, Dr. George Webber, at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. As an asthma sufferer, she says, the treatment will help spare her lungs from damage caused by conventional radiation, which is much less precise than proton therapy.

She and her husband, Thomas, left their home in Pikeville, Tenn., and rented a small house in Knoxville, where Aikens received four weeks of proton therapy treatment. Her daughter has joined them for much of that  time, and the couple’s two grandsons spent fall break seeking the sights of Knoxville.

“I told my mom, this is not her journey alone,” says Tina Nail.

Faith and family—Tina plus her church family as well as her adopted Provision family—have supported Aikens through her cancer journey, she says. She especially appreciates the care of patient services director Elizabeth Vanzo, social worker Miranda Cantwell and hospitality coordinators Sharon Hall and Amber Elkins.

“I’m very fortunate to get treatment here,” she says. “I feel God’s blessed me and I give Him all the praise for all the blessings He’s given me.”

The Aikens made Knoxville a home away from home during their month-long stay. They got acquainted with a neighbor, who brought food over, took them on a tour of downtown and gave Thomas the job of trimming his hedge when he complained of missing the daily work on his small farm back home—“I can’t stand sitting around,” he says.

They also managed to have some fun along the way. The two women drug Thomas to the outlet malls in Pigeon Forge. And, during a trip to the Knoxville Zoo, Jean rode camel with her grandson.

“The only thing,” she says, “it was too short of a ride.”

This story and other profiles about Provision patients can be found on ProtonStories.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Stick with simple, proven add-ons to a healthy diet

Posted by on Friday, November 13th, 2015

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There’s nothing like a cancer diagnosis to put a spotlight on personal health, and many people find themselves turning to supplements as a magic cure for their ills.

Be careful, says Provision Health and Performance Center nutritionist Casey Coffey, who has tangled with patients’ long lists of vitamins and natural remedies. One website offers a list of  “20 herbs that can help fight cancer,” while a laundry list of vitamin and mineral supplements promise to deliver good health via capsule and pill.

Coffey’s list of truly beneficial supplements is pretty short. The most important thing is to start with a clean, healthy, nutritionally-complete diet plan, she says—then use supplementation sparingly. She spoke on the subject at a recent patient talk at the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.

“You can’t out-supplement a bad diet,” Coffey told attendees.

However, a few spices and supplements can truly make a difference in overall health. Coffey recommends the following:

• Garlic: A virtual storehouse of vitamins and minerals, garlic helps boost immunity, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, aid brain function and help detoxify the body

• Ginger: Shown by research to aid in digestion, relieve nausea, reduce pain and inflammation, it also contains a laundry list of vitamins and minerals.

• Hot chili peppers: Can boost metabolism, particularly for those who aren’t accustomed to a spicy diet, alleviate pain and aid in dermatologic conditions. There is also some indication they may help prevent prostate cancer.

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