by Michele DeVinney
Although Joel Saunders sought medical attention as soon as he found a lump in his neck in February 2009, it was almost six months before a diagnosis of cancer was made. Surgeries and difficult treatments followed, with perhaps the most difficult challenge coming from the interferon treatment recommended to attack the cancer. Discovered to be a rare melanoma – which appeared in his body rather than from a skin source – a PET scan discovered that despite the interferon and radiation treatment, the tumors had spread to his brain, leaving Joel and his wife Kimberly fearing the worst.
Kimberly, Joel’s sturdy caretaker in illness, fortuitously looked up the Mayo Clinic online and was thrilled when a trip to Rochester, Minnesota, was recommended. While the news they got while there wasn’t always good – and the trips back and forth from Fort Wayne were financially and emotionally depleting – Kimberly now feels blessed to have found the caring, competent staff of professionals at the Mayo Clinic and Hospital as well as the strength and support she, Joel, and their daughter have found from family, friends, and their church. They also found another important friend at Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.
“My sister had had breast cancer, and her advocate was Brandon so she suggested we go there,” says Kimberly. “Cancer Services provided us with $500 to help with medical expenses. Our co-pay for the Keppra alone was $100 a month, so that was a tremendous blessing. But Brandon has been the biggest blessing of all, and Cancer Services has given us so much. The massages for both Joel and for me as his caretaker, the exercise classes which have helped Joel regain his strength, and just knowing that, should there come a time when we need a wheelchair or a hospital bed for home, it will be made available to us has given me such peace of mind.”
While the Saunders faith and their gratitude for the help they’ve received through the Mayo Clinic Hospital and Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana have helped them through some very difficult times in the last two years, it was another act of kindness that provided great joy and wonderful family memories.
“Brandon submitted our name to the Allen County Christmas Bureau in August 2009, and with all of the bills we had mounting, we really had no thoughts of a big Christmas celebration. But they provided us with so many wonderful gifts and tags with our names on them. Our daughter got a bicycle! We were all like kids that day, and it was so emotionally uplifting. We’re just so grateful, so thankful for everything Brandon and Cancer Services have done for us.”