After 25 years of faithfully submitting to her annual mammogram, Jean Aikens had never received dreaded news, although her sister’s breast cancer diagnosis 20 years before had definitely put the possibility on her radar. But between one breast cancer screening and the next, a 3 cm tumor had formed, and all of a sudden Jean found herself facing a biopsy, then surgery and radiation treatment. Upon first hearing the news, “I had a real meltdown,” she said. “But after I got through that first day, I turned it over to God, and I think I’ve done pretty good at leaving it with Him.”
The 79-year-old survivor was referred to Provision CARES Proton Therapy in lieu of conventional radiation by her surgeon, Dr. George Webber, at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center. As an asthma sufferer, she says, the treatment may help spare her lungs from damage caused by conventional radiation, which is not as precise as proton therapy.
She and her husband, Thomas, left their home in Pikeville, Tennessee, and rented a small house in Knoxville, where Mrs. Aikens received four weeks of proton therapy treatment. Her daughter, Tina Nail, has joined them for much of that time, and the couple’s two grandsons spent fall break seeking the sights of Knoxville.
Jean’s daughter said, “I told my mom, this is not her journey alone.” Jean says it’s all about faith and family. Her daughterTina, along with her church family, as well as her adopted Provision CARES family, have supported Jean through her cancer journey, she said. She especially appreciates the care of the Provision patient services director Elizabeth, and from Miranda, Provision’s medical social worker, as well as from hospitality coordinators Sharon and Amber.
“I’m very fortunate to get treatment here,” said Mrs. Aikens. “I feel God’s blessed me and I give Him all the praise for all the blessings He’s given me.”
The Aikens made Knoxville a home away from home during their month-long stay. They got acquainted with a neighbor, who brought food over, took them on a tour of downtown and gave Thomas the job of trimming his hedge when he complained of missing the daily work on his small farm back home—“I can’t stand sitting around,” said Mr. Aikens.
They also managed to have some fun along the way. Jean and Tina insisted Thomas tag along to the outlet malls in Pigeon Forge. During a trip to the Knoxville Zoo, Jean even rode on a camel with her grandson.“The only thing about that” she said, “is that it was too short of a ride.”