Linda Johnson and Hershey are an inseparable pair. Linda loves the miniature Chihuahua like her own, although he belongs to Linda’s cousin, Shelba George. Yet Linda could not have imagined that Hershey’s treasured companionship, the love of her cousin and the generous supporters of Tanner Medical Foundation would help her through one of the toughest trials in her life.
It was Dec. 31, 2015, and Johnson stood on the precipice of hope and promise for the New Year. That hope took an unimaginable detour for 62-year-old Johnson, when a series of mammograms yielded the final results — Linda had breast cancer.
“It was a shock. I cried,” Linda recalled upon hearing her diagnosis of Stage 1 cancer. She was grateful for the calm and caring demeanor of her doctors. She was also thankful that George, whom she refers to as her “sister” because of the close bond they share, was right by her side.
“I said, Linda, just thank God that you’re alive,” George said. “We’re going to put it in God’s hands. We’re going to make it. We’re going to be here for you.” Although Johnson had an initial time of fear, George said that her cousin possessed a steely resolve to fight through the situation and beat cancer.
“She just had the faith and said she’s giving it to God. That’s what she did,” said George. With Johnson’s mind made up and determination set, the next step was to figure out logistics that included chemotherapy, radiation treatments — and getting back and forth for each appointment. That was when Tanner came to the rescue.
“I’m on Medicaid and Medicare,” said Johnson. “I tried to get transportation help from them and they said I couldn’t do it, because I hadn’t used them in years.”
Concerned about the situation, she and George learned that Tanner provides transportation assistance for area cancer patients in need.
Through donations to Tanner Medical Foundation, local cancer patients who could not otherwise afford the trips back and forth to their medical appointments can qualify for transportation assistance. With community support, a serious, yet often invisible obstacle to cancer treatment is removed for those fighting cancer.
“They helped me get transportation back and forth until I could get all of this over with,” Johnson said. From February through August of this year, through chemotherapy, radiation and follow up, Tanner did just that.
Chemotherapy treatments for breast cancer patients can range three to six months, and radiation treatments can take days or weeks to complete. While many are aware of some of the challenges that face a cancer patient, few may consider the unexpected financial burden and the difficulty a patient may have getting to and from appointments on a daily basis. The toll is physical, mental, emotional and financial.
Despite her cousin’s desire to help, George’s work schedule and situations plaguing other family members kept them from being able to drive Johnson to her appointments each day. Tanner’s transportation assistance helped alleviate a burden for Johnson and her support circle. Instead of worrying about finding a ride, the family could focus on Johnson’s recovery.
The transportation service didn’t just ease the stress of getting to appointments. It offered support in a human way — of friendship, warmth and compassion. George watched the difference those relationships made in Johnson’s life.
“She loved the guy that came and picked her up,” George said. “She was ready to go every morning, waiting on him. They became friends.”
George also marveled at how Tanner’s oncology staff helped motivate Johnson to fight for her life. “They inspired her to want to do this treatment. They inspired her to want to get better.”
With the support she found at Tanner, Johnson began to focus on the joy of simple pleasure like walks with her beloved Hershey, finishing crossword puzzles and cooking comfort food like chicken and rice.
“I think it’s helped her focus on life more than what she was going through,” said George.
George believes that Johnson’s positive attitude, her faith and her support system at Tanner are part of the reason she has successfully completed her treatment today.
For them, Tanner is a place where a routine transportation ride can end up being a life-saving connection in more ways than one.
“I would like to thank Tanner for being there and letting me get to know them … we’re family,” said Johnson.
Contributions to Tanner Medical Foundation help make stories like Johnson’s possible. It’s a story where she gained more than health; she gained life, and she gained love.
Since launching in 2012, donations to Tanner Medical Foundation’s Cancer Transportation Fund has provided thousands of trips to and from their medical appointments for local cancer patients. To join in this life-saving work with a donation, please call Tanner Medical Foundation at 770.812.GIFT (4438) or make a secure online donation at www.TannerMedicalFoundation.org.