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Jeannie Broyles has dealt with cancer for the past three years, going in and out of hospitals, but also relying on a home away from home.
Broyles was diagnosed Christmas Eve 2006 with multiple myeloma, a blood-borne cancer of plasma cells which erodes the bones, “making honeycomb of the bones” as her husband, John, said.
Jeannie was originally treated for osteoporosis, but once the pain become too much to bear, Jeannie returned to her doctor for a blood test. The Broyles had originally planned to travel to see their daughter for the holidays, but their doctor insisted she come in for blood work.
“That’s when we realized something was not exactly right,” Jeannie said.
After her diagnosis, Jeannie stayed at St. Elizabeth South in Edgewood before being sent home because she was “too old” for treatment. After a battery of tests, Jeannie was declared strong enough to under go an otologist stem cell transplant.
“It’s not the stem cell research that everyone’s upset about because you use your own stem cells,” John said. “She underwent chemotherapy treatments, as it kills everything in your body, good and bad. They collect the stem cells and put them back in, minus the cancer cells.”
Jeannie faced the tough decision of undergoing treatment, which might not work, or suffering with the disease. Her decision came down to the quality of the life she had left.
“The most frightening part was how many warnings there were,” Jeannie said. “It might not work at all, it could kill you or it might not be the right thing. It was a chance we had to take. But we decided that we have just so much time and did I want to be writhing on a bed or have the chance to do well?
“We made the choice and it’s about quality of life,” Jeannie said. “It’s in the stars how long you have and the will of God. At our age, you wonder how long you have anyway, but I’m grateful for every day and every year.”
Jeannie’s cancer is incurable, but was treatable as she continues to grow stronger. But she still has to undergo Zometa treatments, chemotherapy treatments through an IV, once a month as a preventive treatment.
“They never told me the word remission,” Jeannie said. “It’s treatable, but not curable. It will always lurk in the background.”
During Jeannie’s first stay in the hospital, John slept on the floor, resting on a mattress provided by Gary Swick, their minister at Williamstown Christian. When they started to talk about the transplant, John was able to stay at the American Cancer Society Musekamp Family Hope Lodge in Cincinnati, a cost-free, temporary “home away from home” for cancer patients and their caregivers at a time when they need it most.
The Hope Lodge is funded by donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and funds raised by events such as Relay for Life. It helps individuals who are undergoing treatment for cancer and reduces the amount of travel for caregivers while saving the cost of a hotel room while their loved ones fight cancer.
“It was as close to being at home when you’re away from home,” John said. “It was a psychological boost. After a whole day at the hospital, it was nice to go into the kitchen and get something to eat.”
An added benefit of staying at Hope Lodge was a connection to people going through the same struggles that they dealt with everyday.
“They were supportive because they were going through the same situation,” Jeannie said. “It was good for me to be with other people who were always supportive.”
Because of her chemotherapy, Jeannie lost her hair, but at Hope Lodge, she was able to cope with her loss as another patient and a staff member helped her.
“I cried when I looked at myself when I lost my hair,” Jeannie said. “One of the woman there dragged out wigs and it was nice and fun. It was a help not to have that naked head showing. They did everything they could to make you comfortable. It was as nice as it possibly could be.
“Hope is the word,” Jeannie said. “Everyone was helpful and it was a hopeful place. It was a good experience. It was bad that we had to be there, but it was a good experience with caring people.”