Velma Evans cried the day she got the news: You have breast cancer. Then, she was grateful. Grateful that it had come when she was 73 years old and had already raised 7 children, had 13 thriving grandchildren, and was doting on 4 great-grandchildren.
At that point in her life, she was ready and able to devote her time and attention to healing.
Evans had a healthy outlook on life and a history of clear mammograms, which made the diagnosis unexpected. Yet she wasn’t about to ask, “Why me?”
“Sure, I cried that first day,” says Evans, “but I wasn’t going to let it get to me. I knew who was going to take care of me. I had worked for Community Hospital for four years, and I had been a patient there when I had pneumonia. I had seen both sides of the organization. It’s hard to put into words, but I can’t say enough about CHOMP. I had skilled, friendly, compassionate people taking care of me. I was never just a number; they let me know I mattered.”
Community Hospital treats hundreds of patients with cancer each year, providing a personalized, multidisciplinary approach that has been recognized twice with the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.
“Our goal is to provide compassionate care and to meet the needs of the patient and the family,” says Julie Giguere, supervisor of Radiation Oncology. “We have many services that go beyond the essential clinical treatment, such as access to a dietitian, social workers, financial counselors, a transportation program, a lending library, and many support groups. We want patients to be able to focus on themselves and their
Evans was able to do that, relying on her family, friends, and faith.
“Chemo wasn’t fun,” she says, “but I thank God the medicine was there to help me heal, and that the hospital staff was there to get me through it. I did lose my hair, but I never worried about that because I’ve always been
one for hats.”
After Evans finished radiation therapy, she took part in a Radiation Oncology department rite of passage: With the staff who had cared for her gathered round, she rang a bell to commemorate the end of her treatment.
“I had promised myself I wouldn’t cry,” she says. “But I did. I had gotten so used to going up there; these people became like family. I knew I would miss them. But I also knew it was time to move forward.”
Nearly two years later, Evans has put the cancer diagnosis, the surgery, the radiation, and the chemotherapy behind her. She turned 75 in April and looks forward to celebrating her 57th wedding anniversary with husband Robert Evans in August. She also looks forward to working in her garden.
“Everyone has their sanctuary, their place to go, whether it’s their typewriter, the kitchen table or, in my case, my garden,” she says.
“I have a sense of peace when I go out there; it is my other place of healing and gratitude. And it rewards me with the beauty of the blossom.”