Justin's Cancer Story
“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.”