Justin's Cancer Story

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- [Justin] We hike all the time,
and we kayak all the time.

And when you're out in the woods,
or on a stream, or whatever,

that's charging your battery.
So we met at Panera.

I started there when I was 16.
We were happy. We were having a good time.

I thought I was the healthiest I'd ever
been. I felt a lump before.

But 20 years old, what's a lump?
We were kind of at home one night,

and I was like, "Man,
something is just not right."

And so we go to the hospital.
The ER doctor gets me in and says,

"Let's do a CAT scan." Take my blood,
do the CAT scan, and they say, "Listen,

your lymph nodes are swollen around your
stomach. My general practitioner,

who's in the Baptist network,
his nurse practitioner called me and said,

"Hey, we saw that you had a CAT scan.
We just want to check you out, you know,

see how you're doing," and she felt the
lump. And she's like, "What's that?"

and I was like,
"Oh, yeah. Nothing."

And then she says, "Well, how long
has that been there?"

I said, "I don't know. A while. You know,
a year or whatever. Maybe two."

And she's like, "Well, not to frighten
you, but I'd like to have a biopsy."

And so then it was just
like a whirlwind of information.

"Hey, you have stage III nodular
sclerosing Hodgkin's lymphoma.

We need to talk about where
to go from here," and we're just like,

"Really?" Like, this is
happening to me right now?

Is this really happening?
You know?

- [Dr. Hicks] Justin was
a soldier through it,

and he got through it,
did very, very well.

- [Angela] A large part of what I do is
meeting them where they are and connecting

them with what they need.
Baptist Cancer Center,

it's a multidisciplinary approach.
If there's some need,

then we have
somebody to fill the need.

- You have more than just your doctor
considering this. You have your doctor

along with his colleagues,
and the radiologists,

and the pathologists,
and the radiation oncologist,

not just one, where we
all look at things together

and we come to conclusions
of what's best for your care.

- [Kelly] I love to be able to provide,
not only medical care,

but emotional care as well.
The fact that we do see the same patients

once a week, twice a week,
you get to know all of these patients.

- This is about a healing that goes beyond
the current disease. It's about wellness.

This is about
bringing wholeness

to a person who's had
a great challenge in their life.

- You know, every day after chemo,
I came straight home.

I didn't have to go to a hotel.
I didn't have to go out to eat.

You know, it was a controlled environment
because I was so close to home.

Your support group is everything.
You know, people asking you

how you're doing, or getting you something
you need, or just being there to talk

to you or support you, makes all
the difference in the world.

At Baptist Health Lexington,
the quality of the care was amazing.

I mean, I literally could not
have asked for more.

- I think people coming to cancer care
should expect compassion,

but I also think they should just as much
expect cutting-edge research,

cutting-edge competence
in the skill of the surgeons and

the radiation oncologists,
the medical oncologists,

the nutritionists, physical therapists,
all of the holistic approaches

that we take.
Not everybody has family.

Not everybody has a social network,
but everybody has us.

- To face your
mortality in your 20s,

it kind of puts things
into perspective, right?

Be happy for what you got.
Get busy living.

“When you’re at home, you’re happier.”

Justin Evans was 28 when he was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Today, he attributes a successful cancer journey to his mindset and the comprehensive care he received at Baptist Health Lexington.

One night, Justin thought his appendix had ruptured, so his wife took him to the Emergency Department. The doctors ruled out appendicitis, determining he had swollen lymph nodes.

During a follow-up visit, Justin’s general practitioner noticed a lump under his collar bone that Justin had ignored for a few years.

“At that age, you don’t think about lumps,” Justin said. “You think about girls and graduating college.”

Within 30 minutes of receiving the biopsy results, Justin was in the office of Lee Hicks, MD, an oncologist with Baptist Health Lexington. He began chemotherapy two days later. “Total time — one week before I started chemo,” Justin said.

“When I first got diagnosed, friends and family members wanted me to go to Cleveland Clinic and Houston,” he said. “When I met with my oncologist, Dr. Hicks, and he said, ‘Listen, here’s your treatment. It works. God willing with this treatment, you’re going to be fine,’ I knew he was going to take care of me. I wanted to stay here at Baptist.”

Justin said he was ready for the battle with the help of his trusted network, which included a multidisciplinary team of caregivers dedicated to treating the whole patient — body and mind.

At the outset of treatment, he was paired with a social worker who also happened to be his childhood babysitter, Angie Pennington.

“Baptist, in its infinite wisdom, puts a social worker in the chemo ward,” Justin said. “Angie about lost it when I walked in.”

During chemotherapy, Justin never took a sick day. He said continuing his work as a general manager at Panera Bread and being around his co-workers helped him to cope. He’s grateful he didn’t have to file for short-term disability, which would have meant a 45% pay cut.

“Being at work took my mind off of it,” he said. “At home, I would have melted away in my sorrow.”

Besides the benefit of being able to continue working at one of Panera’s busiest locations, receiving treatment close to home allowed Justin to rely on a vast support system. He had previously graduated from a local high school, Lafayette, and attended the University of Kentucky.

“Hundreds of people had my back whenever I needed it,” said Justin, adding that his wife, brothers and parents — and the nurses at Baptist — were especially supportive. “I always had someone with me and in the waiting room while I had chemo.”

An added bonus was that Justin lives just a five-minute drive from the hospital.

“As soon as treatment was over, I didn’t have to drive or fly home, and I wasn’t in a hotel room,” he said.

Justin said being in the safety of his own home also helped him avoid germ exposure, which was important because his immune system was compromised by the treatment.

“Your mental state is a huge part of fighting cancer,” he says. “When you’re at home, you’re happier. Your mind controls a lot more than you think.”

Mindset is something Justin cares about deeply, which is why he’s signed up for a peer-to-peer support group piloted at Baptist Health Lexington. It offers an outlet for cancer patients to share experiences in a positive environment.

“You can’t understand what it feels like physically and emotionally until you’ve been through it,” he said. “Sometimes you need someone to say it’s going to be OK, and they want to hear your story.”

Talk to your primary care provider about cancer screenings that may be right for you.