Donna Harris, 52 of Pikeville, was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in early December of 2018. It would take some time for her to learn how to live with it
She had been noticing for months that she was having an upset stomach, nausea and extreme fatigue. She visited her long-time physician, PMC Primary Care Physician, Jerry King, MD.
The blood work he ordered came back normal,
but she was getting worse so he ordered a CT scan. Based on the results, he determined that she needed a colonoscopy.
The cancer diagnosis was very difficult for Harris. The stress, fear and worry over her cancer was causing her health to deteriorate further.
“I had given up on life and I was making myself sicker with grief and anxiety,” Harris explained. “My outlook was very negative.”
Before surgery, she needed to take a chemo pill and undergo radiation treatments under the care of PMC Radiation Oncologist Ruth Lavigne, MD.
“I love Dr. Lavigne!” said Harris. “She immediately put me at ease and was there for me through everything.”
She underwent surgery in early summer and then began chemotherapy treatments, prescribed by PMC Medical Oncologist Mohamad Khasawneh, MD. She was impressed by Dr. Khasawneh and said that he explained every step of treatment to her and is very caring.
At one of her oncology appointments at the Leonard Lawson Cancer Center, she noticed a card in the lobby for something called the Art of Healing. She decided to check it out.
“From an early age, I have always loved art and painting,” said Harris. “One of the first thoughts after my diagnosis was that I wouldn’t be able to paint anymore.”
At the Art of Healing class, Harris met the Outreach Coordinator, Melissa Bentley. They became fast friends. Bentley invited her to the other cancer support classes offered at the Cancer Center, Look Good Feel Better and Cancer Support Group.
Harris says that these programs helped her learn to face cancer head on. Before coming to these classes she could not mention the word cancer and she did not like talking about her health. Now, she looks forward to coming to Cancer Center at every opportunity. She has made real friends who understand what she is going through and they help each other.
“I love going to the cancer center. This place gives me peace and comfort,” said Harris. “When I get better, and I believe now that I will, I want to help other patients with cancer. I believe that’s my new purpose.”
Harris was called back to church about a month before she was diagnosed with cancer. Her health hadn’t been great and she felt God pulling at her. “The love and support from my family and church have helped me to fight and get better.”