This summer, we’re sharing with you personal stories of some of the bravest souls we know: our beloved patients. Each of them has bestowed upon us the privilege of being part of their journey to health and healing, and allowing us to be witness to their limitless courage and hope.
We recently sat down with one of these inspirational patients, Evans, GA resident Laurie Parkhurst. In 2004, at age 34, Laurie was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. After undergoing a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, she was cancer-free for five years. But in 2010, the cancer came back in her bones and lungs; in 2012 it was found in her brain. Now cancer lesions are in her liver. During the past 12 years, Laurie has been at AO Multispecialty Clinic for her surgeries and chemotherapy treatments.
If you were to judge by her warm smile and easy laugh, you’d probably never know that Laurie is facing a terminal cancer diagnosis. “What keeps me smiling and keeps me going is mostly my kids,” Laurie said. “I have two girls that are teenagers, and I just keep on going for them.” She added that she has terrific support from her church family.
Laurie is also thankful that her treatments have not worn her down as much as she thought they would. “A typical visit at Augusta Onocology: you come through the door and are immediately greeted by friendly faces. You sign in and take a seat and wait to be called for you blood work to be done. And they’re great in there – very gentle and it doesn’t hurt – and then you go and see the doctor and come up with a plan and talk about what’s going on.” Laurie smiled as she described how she has become friends with the nurses in the treatment area. “We talk about our kids… and sometimes you’ll see another patient you’ve gotten to know. It’s not all doom and gloom! It’s bright and shiny. You can sit out on the patio and get your chemo done if it’s a nice day.”
Of the chemotherapy room, Laurie added, “It’s not a sad place to come, it’s not a dreary place to come. They lift you up and they give you energy… They’re here to help and they go above and beyond to get you what you need.”
Laurie first met her physician Dr. Squires when she was first diagnosed. “He’s been more than a doctor since then to me, and to my whole family – he’s been a friend,” Laurie said. “He researches on my behalf all the time; I’m sure he loses sleep over my case. He’s just helped me through so many things, he’s come up with clinical trials for me to participate in, he has thought of different chemotherapy regimens we can try. New cancer treatments, brand new things, are coming out all the time, and we’re going to try it starting this week.” Laurie explained that Dr. Squires has been an advocate for her. She said, “At one point we had trouble with insurance paying for different chemotherapies, and he wrote letters to appeal on my behalf. He took time to spell everything out for them and go back and look at the records and find out what we did that had already been on these chemotherapies. And he was successful in the appeal, so I’m able to get the treatment that I need.”
Laurie added, “Over the years I’ve gotten phone calls from people who have been diagnosed with cancer – either family or their friends – and they don’t know what to do. They’re scared and don’t know where to go. So they’ll call to get some advice, and I’ll tell them, ‘You’ve got to go to AO Multispecialty Clinic because they’re just so nice there, and they welcome you with open arms. You feel comfortable from day one and they make it not a scary place.’