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Real VIPs

POSTED September 30, 2011 9:46 p.m.

Today I had the honor of meeting some impressive VIPs and I don’t think I will ever forget the time we spent together.  They were patients at Emanuel Cancer Center.  As I tell you about some of them, I’m going to use fake names because of patient privacy, but they were anything but phony.  These were real men and women involved in a major battle for life. 

First I met “Sally.”  She was a jovial lady who openly shared that her breasts went on a mutiny—so they were both surgically removed.  Sally shared that she had battled breast cancer a few years ago, and was cancer-free for two and a half years.  But, cancer decided to rear its ugly head again and so she was at Emanuel Cancer Center today for another chemotherapy treatment.   We had a little show and tell time—she shared this beautiful piece of cross stitch that she was working on.  It helps her pass the time as the chemo drips into her body for several hours at a time.

I also met “Sharokina.”   She had just arrived for what was about to be her first-ever chemo treatment.  Shar was really nervous and rightfully so; the unknown is so intimidating.  I’m so happy that I saw her again, a few hours later. Shar was sitting in a recliner in the infusion therapy room, IV inserted, and the juice of hope was flowing through her veins.  She even cracked a smile as we chatted. 

And then there was “June.”  June was probably in her 70s and was about as petite as a prima ballerina.  She was wearing a bright white derby-style hat to cover the missing hair that had dropped from her scalp; a result of the radiation treatments to her head.  But she was so joyful.  I was really moved as Derek, our radiation tech, held out his arm to escort her to the steel-vaulted treatment room, as if they were prom dates.

“Mary” was another brave lady who I had the pleasure of meeting. She had something really big to celebrate.  Today was her last radiation treatment.  Woo hoo!  As she scooted her body off the linear accelerator table, our Cancer Center staff was there to greet her. They were singing out loud, clapping for her, and presented her with a yellow Mylar balloon that said, “You did it!” 

Since I work in the Administrative Center at Emanuel, I don’t often get to see our clinical providers in action.  Today was an extremely proud moment.  I witnessed lives being saved—right before my eyes.  I tip my hat to every one of the men and women who serve as care providers at Emanuel.

As I sat later in the day, recalling every hopeful face that I witnessed today, I couldn’t help but think that in 2006, there was no Emanuel Cancer Center.  In those days, Sally, Mary, Shar and June would have had to travel out of town to receive chemo and radiation.  Imagine adding the hassle of travel to your battle for life.  Praise God that Emanuel Cancer Center opened in 2007.

Another praise — in 2009, our community successfully completed a three-year fund drive for the $4.5 million Bill and Elsie Ahlem Cancer Endowment.  On behalf of my new friends, Sally, Mary, Shar and June, I thank you. 

My mind fast forwarded.  I started wondering about the real people I may meet a few years from now—as they are recovering from open heart surgery performed in our soon-to-be built cardiac operating suites.  You see, right now we are entering week five of a six-week fund drive to raise $1 million to advance Emanuel’s new cardiovascular services program.  Our goal is to raise $5 million in five years toward the $10.5 million cardiac services program.  And just as they do at Emanuel Cancer Center, we’ll be saving lives every day in those new operating suites.  We’re saving lives now—in a remodeled operating room and our new Cardiac Cath and Interventional Lab.

Friends, our new cardiac program is for real people—similar to the people I met today who are living a normal life, and then out of nowhere, comes a life-threatening illness.  Just as you cannot fake a life-threatening illness, we cannot pretend that we don’t need your financial support for our new cardiovascular services program. Please phone 664-5180 to pledge for life.

— Pennie Rorex is a member and volunteer for Legacy Circle of Emanuel.

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