Cancer Hits and Heals Close to Home

 The battle with cancer starts at home, and it takes its toll on everyone. It’s not a disease that affects only one person, it infiltrates the seams of family, the routines of daily life, and you can feel its effects throughout the community. 

A few months ago, Joel “Rusty” Byrd thought he was getting an upper respiratory infection so he went to the doctor. His doctors noticed something unusual, gave him a CT scan and diagnosed him with stage two squamous cell carcinoma. This would be Byrd’s second battle with cancer. 

The staff at Wake Forest Baptist Health Cancer Center - Lexington quickly put a plan together to start Byrd off with radiation and chemotherapy. 

“They let me know what I was going to be going through, and if I didn’t complete the full treatment then the cancer would come back with a vengeance,” he said. “It scared me, but everything they told me throughout this process was exactly how I felt about it. They didn’t plant a seed of negativity—they knew.” 

This was not an easy battle for Byrd and his family. His wife, Tina, took a leave from work so she could take care of her husband. “Tina kept me going,” he said. “There were days I would talk to the nurses, and they’d take me to the side and say ‘this has been tough, we’ve done a lot to your body. You can’t expect this to be better overnight,’ and this reassured me that I was on the right path.” 

The staff at Cancer Center – Lexington did everything they could to lift his spirits.

“They kept reassuring me, ‘Rusty you’re going to get better and you’re going to feel better.’ I would take a Bon Jovi CD in there, and they’d play it for me. I would listen to that while I was taking my radiation every day.”

The close relationships that are formed between patients, doctors and nurses are evident at Cancer Center – Lexington.

“You could tell he was a little bit anxious to start therapy,” said Jody Brown, a nurse at the Cancer Center. “But you could also tell he was determined to get through it, and his wife was totally on board to do whatever she needed to do.”

Byrd is currently in remission after his treatment and care at Cancer Center – Lexington and staff will continue to work closely with him and his family to monitor his health in the months and years ahead.

Importance of Care Close to Home

When you or a loved one are battling cancer, the last thing you want to worry about is where treatment will be provided, and Cancer Center - Lexington provides world class care with the convenience of being close to home. Most patients live less than 10 minutes away from the clinic “so if they need us they can just come right in,” said Dr. Katherine Ansley, Director Hematology & Oncology at Cancer Center - Lexington. “Knowing that your loved one is receiving quality care close to home can bring comfort.” 

Not only is the Cancer Center – Lexington close to home for many patients, but it also offers the world-class resources of an academic medical center. “We are part of Wake Forest Baptist’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Winston-Salem,” Ansley said. “So, we are able to bring that expertise to our patients here in Lexington, along with opportunities to participate in clinical trials that otherwise wouldn’t be available to patients.”  

Your Community Is Where You Are Treated

Dr. Ansley did her fellowship at Wake Forest Baptist Health and fell in love with the area.  She decided to stay in the area and has found herself at the Cancer Center since August of 2017. 

“I trained at the Winston-Salem campus and remain connected with everyone there,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know the primary care doctors here—the medical community in Lexington is very close knit.”

This is a benefit to the patients because there is a clear communication path and treatment plan from the very beginning between your primary care doctor and oncologist.   

“Dr. Ansley was the one I saw most of the time, and I would recommend her to anybody,” Byrd said. “She’s got a bedside manner that just makes you feel comfortable from the first day.” 

From the outside-in there’s a different small town feel about the Cancer Center.

“When a doctor pulls up beside you, grabs your hands, and looks you in your eyes, you don’t feel like a number,” Byrd said. “They were never quick to just run in and run out—they took as much time as I needed and answered any questions I had.” 

At the end of the day, receiving care close to home has several benefits, but the people that you surround yourself with during this process really make the difference.

“For us it’s not a job—it’s a passion,” Ansley said. “We all feel like it’s a calling and we so appreciate the opportunity to play a small role in these patients’ lives.”

“When patients like Rusty are able to come and get their chemo and radiation treatments, and on the last day of their treatment get to ring that bell, it’s the sound of victory.”