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Patient Stories

Having Cancer Really Put Things Into Perspective

While shaving one morning, Jimmie Combs found a lump on the side of his neck. Within two weeks, he was diagnosed with cancer of the tonsil and had two surgeries. Jimmie never smoked and doesn't drink, so the diagnosis came as a total surprise.

"The first thing I thought - like everyone else does - is that I'm going to die," says Jimmie. "Of course that's not true." But dealing with a cancer diagnosis and the treatment wasn't easy. Jimmie found help through St. Luke's Cancer Resource Center, which is staffed full time by oncology nurse Mary Ellen Bruenderman and helps support patients diagnosed with cancer and their families.

"I don't know how we would have made it without Mary Ellen," says Jimmie. "She helped with everything. We had her on speed dial." She helped him understand what to expect with treatment and how to cope, down to the details about how he'd feel at each stage. And she connected him to free resources. As part of his treatment, Jimmie had to undergo extensive radiation. It caused such bad blisters in his mouth that it was impossible to eat, so he had to have a feeding tube for a few weeks.

"My wife and I found out that even though we had health insurance, it didn't cover everything," says Jimmie. Nutritional supplements for his tube feedings, for example, were not covered, but the Cancer Resource Center helped connect him with a resource to get them for free.

"I hate that it had to happen, but having cancer really put things into perspective," says Jimmie. For one thing, Saturday is now "date day" for Jimmie and his wife, who make a point of spending every Saturday together.

For more information about cancer care at St. Luke's Hospital, please visit our Cancer Center section.