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October 4, 2012 Issue

Angie’s bump in the road
Flu shots available locally
Transit available for patients

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Angie’s bump in the road

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

“This was my bump in the road,” Angie Wren said of her battle with breast cancer. “That’s what it’s been.”

Angie first began getting mammograms when she turned 40. In March 2011, the road for her breast cancer journey was already being laid out for her. She had a mammogram, but as the technician finished, she reminded Angie that if she got a letter needing more views, to not be alarmed. This was normal for Angie, who said that she was often asked to return for more views.

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“I got the letter with the results about two weeks later and it said more views were needed.” Angie explained how she gave her situation to God before she even pulled in her driveway. “Before I let fear enter my head, I prayed to God to give me the strength that I needed to get through whatever was in store and to give me a peace about it. My God is an awesome God because he did exactly what I asked.”

Angie had regularly scheduled mammograms and would even try to check for lumps herself.

“They say when you feel it, you will know it,” Angie laughed. “But I said I have so many lumps and bumps how would I know if it was a lump or not.”

Angie has fought with fibroid cysts for years, with her doctor telling her to cut caffeine from her diet.

“Even if I felt some of this before, I would say, I was drinking tea again,” she said. “I would justify any lumps or soreness with that.”

But Angie did feel the situation was a little odd because a coworker had found a lump the same day and was upset. She was asking Angie if she should make an appointment or wait until her next appointment to let them check the lump.

“Not having a clue I had the news in my mailbox that I did,” she said. “I advised her to call her doctor and ask what would be better. She got the same response that I did the next day, the office was closed for the Master’s. We both had to wait until Monday to see what to do.”

Angie’s husband, Barry, walked in that afternoon to pick up his mail on the counter, but lingered at Angie’s pile.

“As we sat in the swing that night, I asked him did he look at the letter,” Angie said. “His response was, ‘No.’ I then proceeded to tell him what it had in it and explained that I may have breast cancer. We talked about what it all meant for a while.”

Early that Monday morning, Angie contacted her doctor’s office, where an appointment for another mammogram was made on April 22, 2011.

“That was a hard two weeks but I continued to pray for strength and peace and received that,” she said. “I had my down moments but my biggest fear at this time was telling my son, Bailey.”

As April 22 arrived, Angie and Barry arrived at Brown Radiology early, where he asked to pray before they went inside.

“Of course, I wanted all the prayer I could get,” she said.

The mammogram was not conclusive enough for doctors, so a sonogram was also performed. Still concerned the doctor told Angie she needed a biopsy.

“There wasn’t a lot of talking on that ride home that day,” Angie remembered. “I think from the beginning, in my heart, I knew it would end up being cancer, but God continued to give me the peace that I asked for. The fear was still there that I had to tell Bailey and everyone else.”

Before the biopsy, Angie needed to tell her families of what lay ahead. Easter weekend was coming and that would be a time for her to tell everyone at their family gatherings. She could not wait two day to tell her mother, Elizabeth Cobb, so she visited her.

“She took the news pretty good, a lot better than I expected but I think I really shocked her.”

Next was telling her son. She picked Bailey up from school, and took him to Helen Clark Memorial Park.

“I told him that I may have cancer and had been having tests done and had to have a biopsy, all this through lots of tears,” Angie cried. “I had been so worried about telling him but should have known my little trooper would handle it well.”

She was shocked when his first reaction was asking about one of her nephew’s ballgame that night.

“Telling everyone was hard,” Angie said. “We are a very close family on both sides and I did not want everyone to worry because I knew that no matter what God was going to take care of me.”

An appointment for her biopsy was made with Dr. Karen Yeh, her surgeon.

“Again we were early and Barry and I had prayer before going to meet her.”

Angie’s doctor felt that after reading the report and seeing the mammogram and sonogram images, she did not see what she should to think Angie had cancer. She had a biopsy done. She received her results on May 5, 2011, the same day as her coworker.

“All this time, I had been trying to help her keep it together and give her advice and she never knew all that she was telling me was helping me because she was always one step ahead of me in the process,” Angie said.

Both were diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, a rare, but very aggressive cancer. Angie’s was stage 1 and her coworker’s stage 2.

"I’ve always said chop them both off,” Angie laughed. “But my husband felt if I woke up and both were gone, I would lose it.”

Surgery was set up for Angie to remove the cancer on May 25, 2011. Barry and Bailey were with her, and Bailey was dropped off to his coach for a baseball game that evening.

“A fellow player had searched all day for pink armbands for the team to wear,” Angie said, astonished. “He wasn’t able to find any but found pink socks and cut them up so each team member would have a strip to wear in my honor since I would not be able to attend. That was one of the sweetest things that I think anyone ever did for me.”

Memorial Day weekend was coming and a nephew’s graduation, Angie never stopped and rested in a camper the day after surgery at Ridge Road Campground.

Angie soon began chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Her first chemotherapy treatment was on June 30, she had four treatments, and 33 days of radiation. She took her treatment, came home, climbed in their truck that was already hooked to the camper to take them to Ridge Road again.

“God is good because I feared being really sick in the camper but my only effects of chemo was being really tired and I had no appetite. I was never sick.”

The day after her second chemotherapy treatment, she lost her job to budget cuts.

“To me, that was more devastating than being diagnosed with cancer,” Angie feared.

She worried about her insurance coverage, but the company could not cut her off as long as she paid the cover fee.

“The doctors and office workers were so compassionate,” Angie said. “It amazed me they were just so compassionate. She said you take care of yourself. Do not worry if we are paid or not. Take care of you.”

In a bag given to her by her doctor with several books and pamphlets about breast cancer, Angie found out that she would begin to lose her hair between the seventh and 21st days of having chemotherapy. Her hair before was sandy brown with blonde highlights and straight. Now her hair has grown back salt and pepper with curls. She wore baseball caps and even ordered a wig to hide her balding scalp.

“We picked up the wig on the way to Myrtle Beach,” Angie said of another family vacation. “Everyone thought it looked beautiful on me and insisted that I keep it on. While all I wanted was my ball cap back.

“We stopped for lunch and ate. I went to the bathroom to wash my hands after eating and looked in the mirror and almost died. The bangs were where my hairline should have been if I had hair there to see it.

“I adjusted it again and went to the car. I told Barry that I could not believe that they could let me sit in there with that wig half on my head. His response was that he noticed it looked odd but thought the salon lady had just cut the bangs too short when she trimmed them. I took the wig off and put my ball cap back on.”

Finally all of Angie’s hair was gone.

“I was always told I looked like my mama, but at one point, I was putting makeup on my daddy every morning,” she laughed.

She spent much of her summer on the couch, with her son not going to the pool, because he knew the heat would drain her. Her last treatment was on Sept. 1, 2011, which was another holiday weekend, which she spent most of in the camper resting at Ridge Road.

“But all bad things do come to an end, right after my last chemo treatment, I became a grandmother,” Angie smiled.

Her stepdaughter, Ashley and her husband, Tim, had Angie’s first grandchild, Lane Thomas Watkins, on Sept. 11, 2011.

“It is one of the happiest moments a parent gets,” Angie said. “He helped me through many low points just by knowing that he was on the way and being able to be around to see his birth.”

She finished her radiation on Dec. 7, 2011, with her plans being to rest until the first of 2012 and then begin looking for a job.

“Well, a couple of weeks after finishing all the treatments, I saw an ad in the paper for a position in the clerk of court,” Angie said. “I had worked for the county for 16 years, 12 years ago in the tax assessor’s office mainly working with deeds and the transfer of property. I knew that I was qualified because of my experience in the assessor’s office. God again took care of me and opened this door for me. I started working on Feb. 15.”

Since that time, Angie has slowly recovered, with her doctors telling her it would take time to get her full energy back.

“If it comes back, God took care of me then and He will now,” Angie said. “Without my faith in God, my very supportive husband, family, friends and the most wonderful group of doctors and their staff that anyone could ask for, I do not know where I would be right now.

“I do encourage every woman to make sure they get their yearly mammogram. I have had mine since my doctor first recommended them after the age of 40, but I could have skipped them and things would have been a lot worse before my cancer was found.”




Flu shots available locally

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The time to receive a flu shot is here, with area health departments, doctors’ offices and even pharmacies offering the shot to citizens.

At area health departments, shots are $25 unless the patient has Medicare, Medicaid or is a state health benefit plan member with insurance from United Health Care and Cigna. The departments accept cash, checks and credit cards. To make an appointment in Jefferson County, call (478) 625-3716 or for Glascock County, call (706) 598-2061.


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The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine each year, and people should be vaccinated against influenza as soon as the flu vaccine becomes available in their community. The CDC said the influenza season is unpredictable and can begin as early as October.

“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu,” a CDC representative said. “Flu vaccine is produced by private manufacturers, so availability depends on when production is completed. If everything goes as indicated by manufacturers, shipments are likely to begin in August and continue throughout September and October until all vaccine is distributed. Doctors and nurses are encouraged to begin vaccinating their patients as soon as flu vaccine is available in their areas, even as early as August.”

The CDC said a flu vaccine is needed every year because flu viruses are constantly changing.

“It’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year,” the CDC representative said. “The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with the flu viruses as they change.

“Also, multiple studies conducted over different seasons and across vaccine types and influenza virus subtypes have shown that the body’s immunity to influenza viruses (acquired either through natural infection or vaccination) declines over time. Getting vaccinated each year provides the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.”

If someone gets the flu virus, the CDC said there are drugs that can treat the illness. They are called antiviral drugs and can make the illness milder and help the patient feel better faster. They can also prevent serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia.

“Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways,” the representative said. “Although epidemics of flu happen every year, the timing, severity and length of the epidemic depends on many factors, including what influenza viruses are spreading, whether they match the viruses in the vaccine and how many people get the vaccine.”

The CDC said the timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May. The CDC said the 2011-2012 season began late and was relatively mild compared with previous seasons.

Talk to a doctor or nurse for more information on what flu vaccine options are best.

All persons aged 6 months and older are recommended to get a yearly flu vaccine.

-Protection of persons at higher risk for influenza-related complications should continue to be a focus of vaccination efforts as providers and programs transition to routine vaccination of all persons aged 6 months and older.

When vaccine supply is limited, vaccination efforts should focus on delivering vaccination to persons who:

-are aged 6 months through 4 years (59 months) or are aged 50 years and older;

-have chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension), renal, hepatic, neurologic, hematologic, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus);

-are immunosuppressed (including immunosuppression caused by medications or by human immunodeficiency virus);

-are or will be pregnant during the influenza season;

-are aged 6 months through 18 years and receiving long-term aspirin therapy and who therefore might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection;

-are residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;

-are American Indians/Alaska Natives;

-are morbidly obese (body-mass index is 40 or greater);

-are health-care personnel;

-are household contacts and caregivers of children aged younger than 5 years and adults aged 50 years and older, with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children aged younger than 6 months; and;

-are household contacts and caregivers of persons with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from influenza.

The CDC recommends the following groups should not receive the flu shot (TIV):

-People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs. People who have had a mild reaction to egg—that is, one which only involved hives—may receive TIV with additional precautions. Make sure the healthcare provider knows about any allergic reactions.

-People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine.

-People with a history of Guillain’ Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. Tell your doctor if you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.

-People under 65 years of age should not receive the high-dose flu shot.

-People who are under 18 years old or over 64 years old should not receive the intradermal flu shot. If you are sick with a fever when you go to get your flu shot, you should talk to your doctor or nurse about getting your shot at a later date. However, you can get a flu shot at the same time you have a respiratory illness without fever or if you have another mild illness.

The CDC recommends that the following groups should not receive the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV):

-Adults 50 years of age and older or children from 6 through 23 months of age. (Children younger than 6 months should not get either influenza vaccine.)

-People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs. People who have had a mild reaction to egg—that is, one which only involved hives—may receive TIV (not LAIV) with additional precautions. Make sure your healthcare provider knows about any allergic reactions.

-People who have had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past.

-People with asthma and children younger than 5 years with one or more episodes of wheezing within the past year.

-Pregnant women.

-Anyone with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as seizure disorders or cerebral palsy) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems.

-Anyone with a weakened immune system.

-Anyone in close contact with someone whose immune system is so weak they require care in a protected environment (such as a bone marrow transplant unit). Close contacts of other people with a weakened immune system (such as those with HIV) may receive LAIV. Healthcare personnel in neonatal intensive care units or oncology clinics may receive LAIV.

-Children or adolescents on long-term aspirin treatment.

-People with a history of Guillain’ Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. Tell your doctor if you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.

-Anyone with a nasal condition serious enough to make breathing difficult, such as a very stuffy nose, should get the flu shot instead.




Transit available for patients

By Carol McLeod

Although Jefferson County Transit provides round trip rides throughout the county, such as driving people to the Senior Center in Louisville or to the grocery store, it also takes people to their doctors’ visits and for a variety of treatment, including for cancer.

Sylvia Cobb, the transit director, said this week the Cancer Society used to help with the cost of transporting patients for their cancer treatments.

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“They paid so much a mile,” she said, adding that it’s been about six or seven years since the Cancer Society did that.

“We charge $15 round trip,” she said.

The office used to provide services every weekday; but, Cobb said with the recent budget adjustments, services are offered only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“We mostly go to Augusta. We go out to Doctors Hospital; and, we cover all over Augusta,” she said.

The department has a total of seven vans and offers rides several times a day to Wadley and Wrens; but, only one van goes to Augusta.

“When we go, we just go one time a day. We try to have them not make their appointments before 8:30 a.m. and not after 1 p.m.,” she said.

Passengers are supposed to be able to get on and off the bus without assistance, Cobb said.

“For anyone who needs assistance, they have to arrange for someone to accompany them,” she said.

The director said if someone has an attendant, the attendant pays half price; but, if someone brings a friend, the friend pays the same rate.

“If a mother is taking a child, we don’t charge for the mother. We charge for the child,” she said.

Cobb said all of the drivers have had CPR training. The department sends a cell phone with the driver. When the patient is ready to be picked up, he or she calls and notifies the driver.

Cobb said there is not really any eligibility requirement. People who are not county residents may use the transit service; but, they have to able to be picked up and returned to a site inside the county. They must pay the same rate as citizens, she said.

“We take cash and checks,” Cobb said.

Cobb said sometimes people drive to the transit office located at the Jefferson County Multipurpose Complex, what used to be the old armory, on Highway 24 West in Louisville.

Anyone who needs a ride may contact transit by calling (478) 625-8518, Monday through Friday. Cobb said reservations should be made by 2 p.m. a day in advance.

“We try to leave Augusta by 3 p.m.,” she said. “If someone goes but has another ride back, they still pay $15.”

Cobb said they provide curb service. Citizens may be picked up at home and will be returned there, she said.







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