Becca Kelly grew up surrounded and nurtured by family and friends and lakes and mountains and weekends spent in the outdoors.
“I just love looking at the beauty my God has created for us to enjoy,” she says. “I like camping with a big crowd of family and friends. It’s a great time to be together bonding and spending time away from everyday life.”
It turned out to be just the support system she needed when diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma last year. She was 27.
It started out as a strep diagnosis that grew progressively debilitating. Her energy faded. She couldn’t breathe. An eight-hour day at the day care where she worked sent her straight to bed.
“I was so weak I would have to sit on my bed to dry my hair,” Kelly says. “My mom said, ‘We’re taking you to the University of Tennessee Medical Center to see what’s going on.”
After an x-ray, then a CT scan, the emergency doctor delivered the news: a mass had been spotted on her right lung.
“I just lost it right then and there,” Kelly says.
All she could think of was a boy in their community who had died of cancer at the age of 12.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to die yet,” she says.
She was admitted to the hospital for four days for more testing. Released on Friday, she saw an oncologist on Monday, had a port placed on Wednesday and started chemotherapy the following week.
What followed were weeks of misery as Kelly underwent chemotherapy treatment, follow-up booster shots to encourage the growth of healthy, white blood cells—“it makes you feel like you have the flu,” she says—and only two days a week where she felt good enough to be up.
Through it all was Kelly’s “faith in God and my support system here at home,” she says. Her aunt and uncle moved in with the family to care for Kelly so her parents could continue working. Her church supplied love and prayers. And when it came time for her to receive proton therapy at Provision Proton Therapy Center—recommended because of the damage conventional radiation could do to surrounding healthy heart and breast tissue—she felt like she’d come home.
“As soon as we walked in I fell in love with the whole place,”
Kelly says. After meeting with the doctor, care coordinator and the financial services manager, she was approved for treatment at Provision.
“I was thanking God. I was like, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be,” she says.
“The people there at Provision are simply so amazing. They make you feel so welcome. And Dr. Matt (Ladra) and his nurse, Jennifer, I just love.”
As she continues to recover her strength, Kelly looks forward to more time hiking in her adopted mountains, returning to school and ultimately opening her own childcare center.
She is also planning an outdoor wedding for the fall.
“I love the burst of colors, the crisp cool air—and the beauty to behold is amazing!” she says. “I’m very blessed. This is one of my favorite songs: ‘I am blessed every day that I live, I am blessed. When I get up in the morning till I lay my head to rest, I am blessed.’”