Until a couple of years ago, Donna Lindsey was always the one taking care of others. Her husband, who has suffered numerous heart attacks. Her mother, who recently suffered from a stroke. Then she found herself facing a diagnosis of her own: breast cancer. And just eight months after undergoing a lumpectomy, it came back with a vengeance, invading both breasts plus her lymph nodes. “I was never sick before this,” said Donna.
Life was complicated in other ways too. She was going through a divorce, she did not have reliable housing, and Ms. Lindsey was her mother’s only caregiver, all as she faced additional surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment for what was now a stage 4 disease.
Donna connected with Provision CARES Proton Therapy through a friend, whose niece works as a care coordinator at the Knoxville proton therapy center, who in turn called Donna. Donna says that care coordinator phone call helped her sort through issues that had been keeping her from the tests and care she needed to arrange, and Provision arranged appointments on her behalf to meet with specialists at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Tennessee Cancer Specialists, and the proton therapy center as quickly as possible.
“Every day, for weeks, somebody called me from that facility,” said Donna. “Do you know how impressive that is? And the kindness. They were so sincere. I hadn’t even told them I was going to go there.” She ultimately became a Provision patient, receiving both chemotherapy and proton therapy at the Provision cancer center campus.
Through the process, the Provision team learned that Ms. Lindsey was living in a 24-foot motorhome without running water. Donna’s care team suggested she allow them to sign her up for the Caring Plate, a service of the Provision CARES Foundation. In partnership with the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee, the foundation provides daily, healthy meals for cancer patients and their families living in the Knoxville area. At first Donna dismissed the suggestion, saying, “I don’t want to take it away from somebody else,” adding, “They were already helping me so much.” Eventually she was too sick to protest any longer. “Sometimes I was just too sick, lying in my camper, I couldn’t even unlatch the door to say thank you,” Ms. Lindsey said. “If I wasn’t able to fill out the menu, they would call to take my order over the phone. A couple of days I couldn’t get the frozen packs out into the cooler. They would call and say, ‘We wanted to make sure you’re ok.’”
One day, after learning about the lack of access to running water in her home, a Caring Plate volunteer brought several cases of water to her. On another day, Donna came home from an appointment to find a bouquet of flowers on her cooler, courtesy of Random Acts of Flowers, which also partners with the Provision CARES Foundation.“They were a lifesaver—I wouldn’t have had meals if it wasn’t for them,” she said. “They saw what I needed more than I did. I’ve never been treated like this in any facility I’ve ever been to.”
“Donna is the exact type of person the Caring Plate program was designed to help,” says Les Fout, director of Provision CARES Foundation. “A cancer diagnosis affects every aspect of a patient’s life. We are here to help make that journey a little easier.”