There’s a reason hospitality coordinator Sharon Bishop is a favorite with Provision patients: She’s walked in their shoes.
In 2006, Bishop was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.
Sharon has had a bi-lateral mastectomy, chemotherapy and conventional radiation—a treatment regimen that lasted five years. The chemotherapy caused cancer to develop in her uterus, requiring a radical hysterectomy. And the radiation left scars on her heart, requiring long-term follow-ups with specialists.
“Honestly, I’m never done,” Bishop says.
She was 42, with two teenage sons. And as she fought for her life, two sisters also were diagnosed with breast cancer.
Through it all, however, she maintained a positive spirit—joking with her sister about applying mascara to three remaining eyelashes so she could flirt with an officer should she get pulled over—and channeling her experience into a story of support she shared with others. Bishop has been involved with cancer support groups and had lots of one-on-one connection with cancer patients as a mastectomy fitter at Thompson Cancer Survival Center, the University of Tennessee Medical Center and Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. She also serves on the steering committee for the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” initiative and is a member of the Young Survivors Coalition.
Bishop discovered Provision when her friend, Talbott Paynter, came to work here and encouraged her to apply. Her job lets her to get to know patients, offering a sympathetic ear and her own experience with cancer.
“When I started working here, I spent more time in the lobby than behind the desk,” she says.
Graduating patients get hugs from Bishop. Many confide in her their struggles and even medical issues they’re experiencing through the treatment. Patients often mention her when listing the things they appreciate about the Provision Center for Proton Therapy.
Her daily motivation comes from a picture on her bedroom dresser. It’s a black and white photo, snapped by her older son as she, hairless and weak, prays with her younger son in the midst of her battle with breast cancer. The image keeps her focused on why she comesto work here.
“Everyone that walks through that door, they matter to me,” she says. “I know what they’re going through.”