Linda's Cancer Story
Close-to-Home Care Means Quality Time with Those You Love
Cancer changes things — from the way you feel and the way you look, to the appointments on your calendar.
That was the case for Linda Wittenback, whose cancer journey started like many — with an annual mammogram detecting a suspicious spot. Doctors’ visits and chemotherapy soon filled Linda’s schedule, and she feels lucky that she was able to receive advanced care in the familiar hills of southeastern Kentucky, instead of in a bustling metropolis.
As soon as an ultrasound identified the spot, Linda’s providers wanted a biopsy. “I was in terrible shape,” she said. The technician didn’t think they had any available slots that day, so the impending biopsy was hanging over Linda’s head.
Luckily, Joyce Brown, nurse navigator for the Cancer Center at Baptist Health Corbin, had other plans.
“Joyce has had breast cancer twice and thyroid cancer,” Linda said. “She said, ‘I want you and [your husband] Robert to get some lunch. Come back and we’ll do the biopsy this afternoon.”
After cancer was confirmed, Linda called on a Friday afternoon to schedule an appointment with general surgeon Barbara Michna, MD. It was originally set up for the following Wednesday, but the office called back and offered an appointment that very afternoon.
Linda was a candidate for an advanced treatment, MammoSite® 5-day targeted radiation therapy, which is offered in Lexington. Once again, she got an appointment right away. “It was just five days of treatment, and you’re done,” Linda said.
Throughout 16 weeks of chemotherapy, Linda was able to spend quality time with her aging father, husband, two daughters and three grandchildren. One hot afternoon while sitting on her father’s deck, Linda slipped off the cap that covered her bald head.
“He told me I had the prettiest shaped head,” said Linda, remembering her “daddy,” who later passed away at the age of 92.
The Cancer Center in Corbin was a relief for Linda, who could pop over for treatment and be home within 10 minutes. She didn’t have to battle I-75 traffic. She didn’t have to worry she might miss an appointment due to a car accident or road construction. She didn’t spend afternoons cooped up in a car, but rather in the comfort of her home.
The best part of this extra time is the way Linda used it — often helping others. When she felt good, Linda, a retired seamstress, sewed heart-shaped pillows for other cancer patients “so they could tuck it up under their arms,” or hats for patients who had lost their hair. She even knitted 14 Christmas stockings for her family while undergoing radiation.
In addition to spending time with family and doing needlework, Linda has an appetite for the outdoors. She loves deer hunting, fishing on Laurel Lake and gardening, especially white sweet potatoes. It’s something her father loved, too.
Linda is now cancer free and active in a cancer support group that meets at the hospital. Recently, Baptist Health Corbin presented her with the Brenda McKeehan Celebration of Life award, in honor of her courage in the face of adversity.
“Brenda was a nurse at Baptist who fought cancer for 30 years,” says Linda. “She worked throughout each bout with cancer and still took care of her patients. That was an honor to receive that.”