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AdventHealth, Baylor Scott & White celebrate cancer survivors


Cove Leader-Press


AdventHealth Central Texas teamed up with the Baylor Scott and White Health Cancer Center to celebrate National Cancer Survivor Day, Monday from 10 a.m. until 11 a.m.

The event celebrated and honored cancer survivors while simultaneously offering support and inspiration to those currently fighting their own battles with cancer.

Rob Howe, Director for Hematology and Oncology, said that they’ve held an event for cancer survivors since around 2017.

“It’s to celebrate these survivors who have been through so much and have such inspiring stories to share,” said Howe.

The event, which was free and open to the community, featured talks from oncologist doctors from both facilities as well as survivor testimonials. Survivors talked about their vulnerabilities and their triumphs. They shared their arduous journeys and talked about the tears they shed and how they were inspired to keep fighting throughout their unique ordeals.

Vicki Wilson had a benign brain tumor removed in the past and is currently undergoing treatment with Dr. Nguyen for breast cancer. She called Dr. Nguyen an amazing doctor but admitted that the breast cancer treatments have been very hard on her.

“This just takes you down and down,” said Wilson though she was very positive about her outcome. “It’s just life,” said Wilson. “Just fix it and keep going.”

Wilson said that her cancer was not found with a mammogram but rather with the self-check that doctors recommend doing regularly between mammograms, so Wilson encourages others to make sure that they are doing their own self-checks to improve their own chances of potentially catching cancer early.

Wilson said that, during her first diagnosis, she got her master’s degree and became a music teacher for Meadows Elementary School in Killeen.

“The doctor says to stay home, but I need my kids,” said Wilson about continuing to teach at the elementary school. She said that the students help her get through each day saying that they are so positive that it helps her to stay positive as well.”

Tommy Blanton is a survivor of lung and brain cancer. He went through 17 rounds of radiation over the course of two years. He said that his last round put him in the hospital for 25 days. In July, Blanton will be three years cancer free. He said that he is so thankful to his doctor, to Jesus, and to his wife, Nancy, “for taking such good care of me.”

He said that he thought it was great that the hospital hosts events like the one on Monday to help support those who are undergoing their own battles.

To those people, Blanton says, “Don’t give up!” He also encouraged them to find a great support group because that can make all the difference.

Tavia Sanders was diagnosed with an invasive ductal carcinoma and a ductal carcinoma in situ in March 2023. Since then, she has undergone a double mastectomy and 17 radiation treatments. She said that she still has three more to go, but she has her three kids and her husband of 17 years to help support her.

“Many vitals, pokes, exams, appointments, surgeries, and scans, and I am still alive, fighting the good fight with only three more treatments left,” said Sanders. “There is hope.”

Sanders admitted that it has been hard. She lost all her hair, her taste buds hurt, and everything she ate made her sick. She said that her body was weak and her brain was foggy, she cried a lot, but she knew she had to fight.

“Years ago, cancer was a deadly disease,” said Sanders. “Now, there’s been so much research and it’s gotten so much better. It’s not as scary as it was before. Now there’s hope.”

Dr. Derrick Nguyen, an oncology doctor at the hospital, talked about his own battle with cancer. Dr. Nguyen was diagnosed in 2007 with Stage 4 Lymphoma. He was told at the time that he would only have 8-10 years to live. He did have a relapse in 2009/2010, but he has been cancer-free since 2010.

“Going through this helps me to be able to be more empathetic towards others,” said Dr. Nguyen. “It’s not easy. It’s tough. There’s a lot of ups and downs.”

He added that as technology continues to improve, the prognosis is better and there are more and more people who are able to be cured.

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