Until a couple of years ago, Donna Lindsey was always the one taking care of others. Her husband, who has suffered numerous heart attacks. Her mother, who recently suffered from a stroke.
Then she got the diagnosis: breast cancer. And just eight months after undergoing a lumpectomy, it came back with a vengeance—invading both breasts plus her lymph nodes.
“I was never sick before this,” she says.
Life was complicated in other ways too. She was going through a divorce, she did not have reliable housing, and Lindsey was her mother’s only caregiver—all as she faced additional surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment for what was now a stage 4 disease.
After failing to get any call-backs about follow-up testing from her current healthcare providers, she connected with Provision through a friend whose niece, Samantha Kirk, works as care coordinator at the proton therapy center. Kirk called Lindsey, helped sort out the issues keeping her from the tests and care she needed and set her up to meet with specialists at the Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center, Tennessee Cancer Specialists and the proton center as quickly as possible.
“Every day, for weeks, somebody called me from that facility,” Lindsey says. “Do you know how impressive that is? And the kindness. They were so sincere. I hadn’t even told them I was going to go there.”
She ultimately became Provision patient, receiving chemotherapy and proton therapy at the Dowell Springs campus.
Through the process, staff learned of Lindsey’s living situation—she was camped out in a 24-foot motorhome without running water. She learned about the Caring Plate, a service of the Provision CARES Foundation, through Kirk. In partnership with the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee, the foundation provides daily, healthy meals for cancer patients and their families living in the Knoxville area. Lindsey dismissed the suggestion.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to take it away from somebody else,’” she says. “They were already helping me so much.”
Eventually, she says, one of her nurses signed Lindsey up without her knowledge. As it turned out, The Caring Plate helped see her through some very dark days.
“Sometimes I was just too sick, lying in my camper, I couldn’t even unlatch the door to say thank you,” she says. “If I wasn’t able to fill out the menu, they would call to take my order over the phone. A couple of days I couldn’t get the frozen packs out into the cooler. They would call and say, ‘We wanted to make sure you’re ok.’”
One day, after learning of her waterless plight, a Caring Plate volunteer brought several cases of water. Another day, Lindsey came home from an appointment to find a bouquet of flowers on her cooler, courtesy of Random Acts of Flowers, which also partners with the Provision CARES Foundation.
“They were a lifesaver—I wouldn’t have had meals if it wasn’t for them,” she says. “They saw what I needed more than I did. I’ve never been treated like this in any facility I’ve ever been to.”
“Donna is the exact type of person the Caring Plate program was designed to help,” says Les Fout, director of Provision CARES Foundation. “A cancer diagnosis affects every aspect of a patient’s life. We are here to help make that journey a little easier.”
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