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Cancer Center can be 'right here, right now,' Pardee says

Rachel Wilingham speaks during the kickoff of a $6 million capital campaign for Pardee Hospital. Rachel Wilingham speaks during the kickoff of a $6 million capital campaign for Pardee Hospital.

Marcia Caserio asked cancer patients and cancer survivors to stand up, then asked all to stand who had been caregivers, then asked all to stand who had lost a loved one or a close friend to cancer.


“Is there anyone here who is not standing?” she asked.
There wasn’t.
“Cancer is important to all of us because when it touches one of us it touches all of us,” she said.
Thus Caserio set the tone for Pardee Hospital Foundation’s campaign to raise $6 million for a new comprehensive cancer center, operating room upgrades and an endowment fund.
Caserio, cochair of the campaign, appealed to the audience of 175 people in Bo Thomas Auditorium at BRCC to join the effort to pay for a comprehensive cancer center that will provide cutting edge technology, research and training opportunities and a consolidation location for diagnostic services, treatment and healing. Right now 500 new patients each year arrive at the offices of cancer doctors affiliated with Pardee Hospital. In five years that number of expected to grow to 700.
The patients’ care and treatment is not some other place, some other time; it’s “right here, right now” – the campaign’s tag line.
The other co-chair of the campaign, retired oncologist Bill Medina, announced that the foundation had already received pledges covering $1.7 million. Money raised in the capital campaign will go towards the Comprehensive Cancer Center, full implementation of the Operating Room Integration Program and the creation of an endowment to support long-term expansion of programs and services.
Rachel Willingham, a North Henderson High School teacher, stole the show with her account of being treated for breast cancer — twice — and the lessons that her cancer battle had brought. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, when her children were ages 4 to 13.
“It’s fitting that the campaign is called ‘Right here. Right now,’” she said, “because when you’re diagnosed that’s how you live. You can’t really think too far ahead because you don’t really know if you’re going to have a far ahead. You live right here, right now.”
All of the family learned lessons from her cancer battle and gained valuable life experiences. Her oldest son, when she asked what he had learned, “did not hesitate,” she said. “He said, ‘how to be humble, how to ask for help.’ Look at the opportunities that I had to teach my kids about life that I would never have had.”
She praised her team of doctors — her cancer surgeon, Dr. Thomas Eisenhauer, and her oncologist, Dr. Jim Radford — her cancer nurse and other medical personnel who cared for her. She wanted treatment close to home, she said, and got the care that saved her life without traveling for hours.
When she got her first breast cancer diagnosis, her husband was “very angry,” she said. “He said, ‘What am I doing to do if you die?’ ‘I don’t know. If I die it’s not my problem.’”
He could not take chemo for her, nor radiation, nor vomit for her, nor cry for her. “You can be there for me,” she said.
Dr. Medina, who had the misfortune to follow Rachel’s remarks, observed that she was a living example of a cancer patient who enters a cancer journey and somehow emerges out the other side a stronger and better person.
“Rachel’s story,” he said, “is why we’re here tonight.”