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October 6, 2011 Issue

“Don’t wait”
Jeff Hospital leads battle
Woman murdered, ex-husband charged

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“Don’t wait”

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

“Do it. Don’t wait.”

That is the urgent message that breast cancer survivor, Jan Marsh, has for all women when it comes to mammograms and self-exams. Marsh has six first cousins who have had breast cancer and an aunt who died six months before she found out that she was up for the same battle that has plagued so many of her loved ones.

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A year ago, this week, while in the shower, Marsh began to do a self-exam, when she found a lump. Before that time, she said at times it felt as if hot water was being poured over her body and she would begin to get tired. Marsh’s doctor said it could have been a sign of the cancer.

“I had not had a mammogram in about two to three years,” Marsh sheepishly admitted. “When my doctor asked about it, he said we needed to get one scheduled. But before we got it scheduled, I got in the shower one morning and found a lump.”

Marsh had cysts in her breasts in the past, but this lump did feel different. Though she thought it was just another cyst, she knew she needed to get it checked.



Marsh visited Abbot Easterlin at Physicians Health Group in Wadley, where he checked the lump and sent her to Jefferson Hospital for a mammogram and sonogram the same day.

“Two weeks later, on Oct. 15, my birthday, he called to talk about the results,” she said.

The results showed a sign of cancerfication and a biopsy was scheduled for the following week at the Women’s Center at University Hospital in Augusta. After the biopsy, the doctor at University told her everything seemed to look good and not cancerous.

“He gave me a good report,” Marsh said, adding that two weeks later she received the news, that it was in fact, breast cancer.

Where do you begin
The original lump that Marsh found in her breast was not cancer, but the mammogram and sonogram found cancer in another area of her breast.

“My doctor told me that maybe it was a sign to get checked,” Marsh said.

After the confirmation of cancer, Marsh said her mind began to race with questions, worries and doubts of what it meant for her.

“You hear all the horror stories,” she said, questioning, “Is it a death sentence or will it be simple. You really have a lot of different emotions. You don’t know what to tell people. Will I have to wear a wig? Will I have to stop working? But do work through it. Work as much as you can.”

Marsh still had to tell her family, so on her birthday weekend, when everyone was around, she gathered them on the porch. She looked into the eyes of her husband, Terrell, and two sons, Jason and Shawn Henderson, knowing she was going to have to utter words no woman wants to say.

“I told them what was going on,” she remembered. “They were asking questions, like how big it was, what the treatment is or what the doctor would say?”

On Oct. 19, Marsh saw a surgeon to schedule a lumpectomy. After the lumpectomy, doctors told her there was no guarantee that they got it all, but it seemed to still be encapsulated and had not spread.

Testing in the lymph nodes doctors removed did not show signs of cancer either, but it did leave her with a pink bracelet she will have to wear the rest of her life. The pink piece of plastic is to let emergency personnel know that she cannot have an IV in that arm because of the removal.

Doctors told Marsh the cancer was very aggressive, but was caught before it could even form into the first stage.

“It was like half of a stage,” she said. “They were surprised that I caught it.”

Surrounded
Marsh was no stranger to breast cancer in her family, she knew the consequences of being diagnosed.

“Every cancer is different,” she said. “My doctor said not to listen to the horror stories. Everyone is different and the cancer affects them in different ways.”

Her thoughts were to stay upbeat, even when she was at her worst, not being able to get out of bed or even eating for 10 days, Marsh’s family and friends enveloped her in love and support, something each patient needs.

“I stayed very upbeat,” she said. “We tried to laugh and joke around a lot. But I did worry, and I tried not to let my family know I worried cause it would upset them more.”

One person that never left her side and kept a vigil for her recovery was her husband, Terrell.

“He was more worried than me the whole time,” Marsh laughed. “We both tried to have a positive outlook. The doctor said it was the reason I did as well as I did.”

Even after the lumpectomy, Marsh was not out of the woods yet; one of the most painful parts of the cancer treatment was four treatments of chemotherapy every three weeks. Her first chemo treatment was on a Thursday, followed by a shot on Friday to boost her blood cells.

She was back at her job at Fulghums in Wadley that Monday, working a half day, then on Tuesday all day, but by Wednesday she began to get fatigued and only worked a half day.

“When I got home that Wednesday I was tired,” she said.

The next treatment allowed Marsh to come back the following Wednesday, but the next had her out all week. She said it progressively got worse. She was hot, cold and tired, and her body changed in other ways with her skin drying out, as well as her nails turning brown and breaking. She battled a sore throat, that still afflicts her to this day, and would have sores in her mouth after treatments.

Chemotherapy also took her ability to eat, and her hair.

“I lost all my hair and gained weight because of the steroids,” she said. “The nausea was terrible. One week I could eat and drink and it would be so good and the next week, nothing. The last treatment, I wouldn’t eat or drink more than a tablespoon of water for 10 days.”

But through it all her family, friends, work family and church continued to support Marsh, never letting her give up.

“They didn’t talk about it that much, but they were all very, very supportive,” she said. “Fulghums was so supportive, they called and checked on me when I was out or had treatments. They sent food to the house. They were awesome.”

Marsh also thanked her church, and pastor Hardy Owens at First Baptist in Louisville, who also called and sent food.

And one of her sons, as well as a coworker, showed solidarity against this disease with Marsh, they both shaved their heads.

“At first I went and got it cut real short,” Marsh said. “Then when it began to come out in clumps, me and my son went together to get our heads shaved. And a guy here at work shaved his head too.”

Under construction
Marsh has finished her chemotherapy treatments, and because of a decision between her and her doctor to have a double mastectomy, radiation was not needed.

“Before all this, I had already talked about a breast reduction, they were big,” Marsh joked. “When the doctor said they could do that, I thought, ‘Well, I guess I get the size I want now.’”

The removal surgery for both breasts was done on March 25, where doctors at the Women’s Center at University Hospital removed all the breast tissue and inserted stretchers.

“I’m still going through reconstruction now,” Marsh said.

The stretchers are filled with a saline solution, at first every week, then every two weeks and finally every three weeks. Then the stretchers are removed and different implants are inserted for a more natural, softer breast.

Marsh’s stretchers will be removed on Nov. 4, but she is still expecting four more surgeries in the reconstruction process.

She still goes to the doctor every three months for the first two years for cancer markers, to show if there is any reoccurrence.

“They do PET scans over the whole body to show if cancer is anywhere,” Marsh explained.

If there is no signs of cancer for two years, then she will visit the doctor every six months for another two years, and still if no sign, once a year.

She has lasting scars, fatigue and memory problems associated with various treatments and surgeries, but through it all, cancer could never take her spirit.




Jeff Hospital leads battle

Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Jefferson Hospital, and especially its radiology department, is using the month of October to remind the women of the importance of mammograms and self-breast exams.

Throughout the month of October, the department will have a drawing for the ladies who have had mammograms throughout the week.

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“We will do two drawings a week on Friday,” Radiology Supervisor Sue Stevens said. “Each lady will receive a gift bag with gift certificates from merchants around the area. This helps us to promote breast cancer awareness. We encourage all women to not forget to have a mammogram and try to stress how important it is to do self-breast exams.”

Jefferson Hospital also sold T-shirts, that will come in shortly, that displays a design by hospital personnel.

“We take the money from that to help a patient that has breast cancer,” she said.

Also on Friday, Oct. 14, will be spirit day, and everyone at the hospital can wear their favorite team attire for a $3 donation, which will also benefit a patient with breast cancer.

The hospital offers mammograms, additional views and ultra sounds for breast cancer patients.

“If their doctor still thinks they need further exams, they will make an appointment with a specialist,” Stevens explained. “We get a report if they have a biopsy done and we find out if it is positive or negative.”

Stevens said the hospital gives between 1,100 to 1,150 mammograms annually. Stevens said women have to be at least 35 to have a base line mammogram.

“After the age of 40, they recommend a mammogram every year,” Stevens explained. “Women really need to have them after they are 40 each year, because your breast changes. The radiologist compares the previous year’s mammogram with this year’s, so they can tell if there is any change in breast tissue. Sometimes it changes and nothing is wrong. It helps them see if something is there this year that was not there the last.”

Stevens said that though women may have mammograms done at different facilities, Jefferson Hospital will request a copy of the previous year’s film, as well as others requesting the same of them.

While self-exams are encouraged once a month, micro calcifications, which can lead to cancer, cannot be felt, but can be detected through a mammogram.

“A mammogram can pick it up two years earlier before it can be felt,” she said.

Mammograms also identify lumps or knots that do not feel normal to the touch, which may not be cancer, but are questionable.

While many women are scared of mammograms, or believe they are uncomfortable, Stevens said she believes many forget to have a mammogram.

“A lot of women think this is uncomfortable, but it doesn’t last that long,” she said. “A lot of women dread it, but I think a lot of women just forget. It is easy to let it go by, but it is just not good to do that. You never know.”

Jefferson Hospital sends out cards to remind women each year that their next exam should be scheduled. The hospital also offers literature on how to properly do a self-exam.

“When a woman goes in for her annual check up, hopefully her doctor will do a breast exam,” Stevens said. “Women really need to request a breast exam if they use a general practitioner.

“We just really want women to realize that breast cancer, if caught early, is so highly treatable in this day and time,” Stevens encouraged. “Doctors are always trying to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat it. The way they treat breast cancer now is different than five years ago, and we are continuing to find more effective ways to prevent, treat and detect it. Women just need to learn the facts and realize that breast cancer doesn’t always mean an end.”

Stevens said it is proven that mammograms are the best test to find breast cancer early.




Woman murdered, ex-husband charged

By Kelsey Stein and Garth Snow
Morris News Service

The Glascock County woman who died after she was shot then dragged down a rural road Thursday night had previously sought protection against the man charged with her murder.

According to court records, Jennifer Lynn Wells, as she was known at the time, obtained a temporary protective order against Ricky Charles Wells while her divorce petition was pending. Records show the couple had a son, now age 5. Jennifer Wells also had a daughter, now age 11.

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In her 2009 petition, Jennifer Wells wrote that Ricky Wells had left harassing messages on her cell phone, followed her and raced his motor in front of her home, frightening her children.

“I have heard Ricky state that he needed to shoot exwife,” she wrote.

She claimed that he had three misdemeanor violence charges in the five years leading up to her request for protection.

The divorce was finalized on July 10, 2009.

Ricky Wells, 43, of the 900 block of Hobbs Mill Road in Dearing, and Tina Ann Wells, 40, of the 1200 block of Davis Circle in Boneville, are still being held at the McDuffie County Law Enforcement Center in Thomson.

According to court records, Tina Ann Wells was formerly Tina Ann Davis. She and William Glenn Wells, the uncle of Ricky Wells, were married Jan. 21, 1994. William Glenn Wells died June 27, 2000.

The two McDuffie County residents have been charged with the murder of Jennifer Kitchens Wells, 36, of the 3000 block of Anthony Lane in Gibson.

According to an incident report, on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 29, McDuffie County deputies Jeff Norton and Alan Baldwin were dispatched to the area of the Happy Valley Store on Wrens Highway in reference to a disturbance and shots fired. The report came in at 10:19 p.m.

While en route to the scene, dispatch informed the officers that two vehicles that were at the store during the disturbance had left and were headed toward Warren County. Upon arriving at the store at 10:26 p.m., Norton remained on the scene, while Baldwin followed Happy Valley Road toward Warren County, the path the vehicles were said to have taken.

At this point, calls went out to agencies in neighboring Warren and Glascock counties, providing them with vehicle descriptions and advising them to be on the lookout.

According to the report, Baldwin noticed a trail of dark liquid, later identified as blood, on the roadway. The trail started in the store parking lot near Wrens Highway. Baldwin followed it several miles down Happy Valley Road.

At the store, Norton had located a significant amount of blood and other evidence.

Soon after, Glascock County units discovered what they thought were the vehicles involved. They requested a McDuffie County unit to meet them at Purvis School Road at Highway 80 in Warren County, about 5 miles west of the Happy Valley Store.

Baldwin arrived on the scene at 11:32 p.m. A Glascock County deputy led Baldwin to a body, later determined to be that of Jennifer Kitchens Wells, lying in the grass on the side of the roadway. An Emergency Medical Technician had performed a check for vital signs and found none.

The officers secured the scene and awaited the arrival of agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. Special Agent Pat Morgan was the first GBI agent on the scene.

Morgan said the GBI cannot complete an incident report yet, as the investigation is still in progress.

“We’re still doing interviews, still processing evidence and awaiting the results of the autopsy,” he said.

Because the crime extended into three counties, the first determination was where to proceed, said Dennis Sanders, district attorney for the Toombs Judicial Circuit.

He met with McDuffie County Sheriff Logan Marshall, Warren County Sheriff Joe Peebles and Glascock County Sheriff Dean Couch. Together, they decided to proceed in McDuffie County, as it appeared the crime was committed primarily in that area.

Marshall will lead the ongoing investigation with assistance from the GBI and in cooperation with the Georgia State Patrol and the Warren and Glascock county sheriff’s offices.

There are aspects of the case they might need to follow up in each county, Morgan said.

“We have taken warrants out on them for murder,” he said. “But just because we have people in jail doesn’t mean we stop working the case.”

Marshall said the victims were questioned Friday and are currently being held without bond.

Sanders said he will be in regular contact with the investigators and the crime lab as they accumulate and analyze evidence pertaining to the case. He said everyone involved has ensured the investigation is as thorough as possible.

“Because of the fast response time and coordination between law enforcement agencies, a lot of evidence was seized,” he said. “We’ll be able to answer a lot of questions that possibly would not have been answered had there been a delay.”

Right now, their responsibility is to seize any evidence that could have a bearing on the case and then turn it over to experts who can make scientific conclusions.

“The most important thing is to make sure we haven’t missed any piece of evidence,” he said. “That is vital.”

Sanders said one of the best doctors in the state is working on the autopsy, which he expects to be as thorough as the other aspects of the investigation.

Warren County Coroner Paul Lowe said Monday that although it “does appear that she was first shot and then dragged,” nothing will be confirmed until an autopsy is completed.

The autopsy, which Lowe said is currently in process, is taking place at the GBI Crime Laboratory in Atlanta.

"Hopefully we’ll know something soon, but it’s going to take several days to complete it,” he said. “There’s a lot of testing that’s got to be done, and it’s just going to take time. This is a very complex case, not just cut and dried.”

Sanders said once evidentiary conclusions have been reached, there will be an initial hearing. He said the district attorney’s office will make legal arguments urging that the suspects be held without bond. A judge must deny bond based on legal grounds, like the likelihood the suspects will abscond.

Curtis Funeral Home in Thomson will handle funeral services for Jennifer Wells. On Monday, a funeral home spokesman said arrangements cannot be made until they hear from the crime lab after the autopsy is finished.

Residents in the area of the store reacted in shock after the crime.

Rob and Sabrina Thomas stopped at the store early Friday evening.

“Sickening,” Rob Thomas said when asked to describe the crime.

“I could not imagine someone doing something like that,” Sabrina Thomas said.

She said they live near a section of the road that was closed until late Friday morning as deputies recovered evidence. She said her father heard the news that someone had been killed, and had called her to make sure the Thomases were safe.

Rob Thomas said the crime was hard to believe. “Cold-blooded is one thing,” he said. “But the cruelty. You’d never think that in this country.”

The victim lived with her two children in a mobile home community along Beech Tree Acres Road in nearby Gibson.

“She was a good neighbor,” said Tony Radford. “She kept to her herself and took care of her two children. She was always home.”




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