Tonisha's Letter

Dear Mark and All the River listeners;

This is Althea, the Breast Cancer Nurse Navigator at the Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute at Memorial Health. Please let me introduce you to Tonisha, who at 31 years old, being a single mother with a 13-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, finds herself dealing with breast cancer.  When you think about all the roles you have in life (mother, daughter, sister, niece, cousin, friend) being a cancer patient is usually not one of those roles that you ever think of. And, especially not at 31 years old! From all the interaction I have had with Tonisha she tells me that one of the most frightening aspects of being a cancer patient is all the information you are given and expected to use to help you participate in the decisions that have to be made about your care. So, Tonisha told me that I had to add “student” to the list now because she is learning all about breast cancer. She is trying to adapt to this new role in the best and fastest way possible.

Tonisha received the life-altering diagnoses this past fall. She tells me that the day her doctor told her that she had breast cancer was the day that brought fear of the unknown into her life. To say she was numb from the shock of the diagnosis wouldn’t give the feelings that she had justice. She told me that her mind simply shut down! She knew that she needed to get going on taking care of the cancer since she has two children who are depending on her for their care but for the life of her she couldn’t garner the strength nor the resources that she needed to get started. Simply getting from Douglas Georgia up to Savannah to see the surgeon became a terrible nightmare.  To add to her situation, she is unemployed and not able to work while she is receiving treatment.  This was when she learned that she needed the help of others in order to fight the cancer.   

Tonisha had the necessary surgery the beginning of October, she now requires radiation therapy and chemotherapy treatments. Because Tonisha lives in Douglas Georgia – 2 ½ hours away from Savannah, it became apparent that Tonisha wouldn’t be able to make the trip every day for 6 weeks while she was receiving these treatments. In total her treatments will take a few months to complete. So, as Tonisha’s Nurse Navigator I worked closely with Mary, the Social Worker, to arrange temporary housing for her to stay in Savannah during this time period. We have also arranged transportation to and from the Anderson Cancer Institute to her temporary apartment so that she can receive the treatments that she needs. Tonisha will need assistance with purchasing food and, perhaps, a few Christmas presents for her children. Her daughter would really love a cellphone while her son has his heart set on a PlayStation 4 Slim.

Tonisha tells me that she really misses her children. She misses their company, their laughter and their screaming. She worries about their welfare. What are they doing? How are they handling her being away from them?  She doesn’t have anyone who could drive her to see her children on the weekends when she doesn’t have a treatment session scheduled and no one who could drive the children to Savannah to see her. She’s thankful for the ability to stay connected on Facetime but sometimes leaves her saddened when she wonders what’s gonna take place with this cancer?

With all of this happening Tonisha remains excited about Christmas and her ability to participate in the Christmas Wish Program. Her wish is to be back with her children just as soon as the cancer treatments have been completed and to be able to watch her children grow up.  

I would like to thank you for your generosity towards Tonisha and her family.  I hope you share with me the hope that Tonisha and her family experience many, many more Christmases to come.

Althea, RN
Nurse Navigator
Memorial Health
Curtis and Elizabeth Anderson Cancer Institute


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