My Story

Whether celebrating a birth or treating an illness, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System recognizes that each patient has a unique story to tell. Our My Story campaign allows patients an opportunity to tell their story. Hear, first-hand, from our patients about how we’ve changed their lives.

If you would like to share your story, please submit your story here.


Cancer  •  Cardiology  •  Family Medicine  •  Orthopaedics  •  Rehabilitation  •  Wellness Center  •  Wound Care  •  All 


How do you feel when you learn that someone close to you has been diagnosed with cancer? Most of us are flooded with empathy and a desire to help, but do not know where to start or what to expect.

Fortunately, Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center located in Boone, NC, serves as a refuge for individuals diagnosed with cancer. Bettie Bond is one of those individuals who found joy and beauty in all circumstances, even breast cancer.

Roots

An idea shared between young doctors serving as medics during World War II led Bettie’s father, Dr. Robert Bateman, and his colleagues to open a clinic in Somerset, Kentucky after the war. Dr. Bateman would marry, have four children, and go on to serve as Somerset and Danville’s adored "baby doctor" (OB-GYN) for many years.

As a child, Bettie enjoyed weekend trips with her siblings to the movie theatre in downtown Somerset. “Mother would give each of us a quarter, which was enough to purchase a movie ticket, a bag of popcorn and a Sugar Daddy candy bar. We had a blast and I lost all of my baby teeth to that Sugar Daddy! I know it also gave my mother a much needed break.”

Unfortunately, Bettie’s mother died from ovarian cancer in 1984. Bettie can still remember hearing her mother cry out in pain on the day of her death; a memory that still haunts her to this day.

The pursuit of higher education eventually led Bettie and her husband, John, to start their academic careers together at Appalachian State University in 1971. For 25 years, John taught as a professor of mycology and she taught history. The couple quickly fell in love with the High Country and today they remain active in community projects.

Detection

In May 2015, Bettie and her good friend Mary made their annual “shopping and mammogram” trip to Winston Salem, NC. “Although we both know that we can get our mammograms done in Boone, being able to go off the mountain to shop has made this annual screening something we have come to look forward to doing together. However, that year was different, that year I was diagnosed with breast cancer.”

As the nurse began to outline treatment options available in Winston Salem, Bettie fought back memories of her mother’s painful chemotherapy treatments.

“No,” she said, while politely interrupting the nurse. “I appreciate your help, but I would like to take care of this at home. The nurse flashed an understanding smile and said, ‘well of course, you have a great hospital and cancer center in Boone.’”

The nurse transferred Bettie’s medical records to her physician, Dr. John Palmer, at the Davant Medical Clinic in Blowing Rock, NC. Dr. Palmer confirmed the results and suggested that she meet with a specialist, Dr. Paul Dagher, at Watauga Surgical Group in Boone, NC.

After reviewing her case at Watauga Medical Center’s weekly tumor board meeting, Dr. Dagher recommended surgery, followed by chemotherapy at Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center.

Treatment

“I have to be honest, there was nothing to my surgery,” she said with a grin. "I only had to spend one night in the hospital and I felt no pain afterward.”

A few weeks later, Bettie started her chemotherapy treatments at the Cancer Center or as she likes to refer to it, “the Spa.”

“They pamper you,” she said, referring to the nurses and volunteers in the infusion room. “All I had to do was sit back in the treatment chair and catch up on my New Yorker. From there, the nurses hooked me up for treatment, covered me with a warm blanket and brought me lunch. The best part was that I never had a sick day as a result of chemotherapy. I credit that in large part to my meticulous Medical Oncologist, Dr. Anna Sobol.”

Radiance

According to Bettie, the hardest part of the whole treatment process was losing her hair. To help patients and their families cope with the emotional and physical toll of treatment or post-treatment, the Cancer Center offers a wide variety of classes for cancer survivors including the Radiance program, yoga, nutrition, lymphedema prevention and management, meditation, and a walking group.

One day, Bettie took part in a Radiance class by accident. “I just thought I had walked into a party,” she joked. “I remember meeting a handful of delightfully brave women, who were all losing their hair, eyebrows or fingernails as a result of treatment. Angie Shoemake, the Cancer Center’s social worker, brought in a ton of war paint [makeup] for us to learn how to address the cosmetic side effects of chemotherapy.”

The Radiance program is led by licensed estheticians and cosmetologists who volunteer their time to provide skin therapy, makeup tips and head coverings from the Cancer Center’s wig boutique. Assisting women to cope with the physical side effects of cancer treatments was originally an American Cancer Society initiative started more than 25 years ago. The Cancer Center’s localized adaptation, Radiance, has restored courage, beauty and dignity for hundreds of High Country cancer survivors.

“Angie taught me a lot more than just how to tie a turban around my head,” said Bettie. “She invited me into a special space reserved for women who know just what I am going through. And let me tell you something else, these women are fun. We laughed and cried and laughed some more. This wonderful group of ladies could find joy and beauty in everything.”

In spring of 2017, after her surgery and six months of chemotherapy, Bettie was considered cancer free.

“I am so appreciative for this hospital, this cancer center and most importantly modern medicine,” she said. “When I think about my mother and how far healthcare has come since her passing, I truly believe modern medicine is what saved my life.”

 

Have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Or, for that matter, marveled at how “good” people respond in times of crisis? Much can be learned from those who choose to rephrase the question above to why not me? Shirley Ellison, 60, of Deep Gap, NC, is one of those good people and her story will inspire you to see every new trial as an opportunity.

Ellison grew up in a farm house that her father built in Sugar Grove, NC. As a child, she attended Bethel Elementary School with her four siblings while her parents worked diligently to keep food on the table.

Corrie Freeman, a fourth grade teacher at Hardin Park Elementary School, taught more than reading and arithmetic to her class this year.

Can you recall what first attracted you to the mountains of North Carolina? For generations, community staples like Appalachian State University, Grandfather Mountain and Tweetsie Railroad have welcomed visitors in search of education, adventure, family entertainment and nowadays healing. Thanks to The Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s new post-acute care center in Blowing Rock, NC visitors have started planning what is referred to as “Medical Tourism” trips to the High Country. Caron Baker Wike is one such visitor.

As a young boy in Morgantown, West Virginia, Michael Fields can clearly remember the afternoon he walked home from school to discover a delivery man carrying a mystery box into his parent’s home.

After hearing that his health was in jeopardy a few months ago, Justin Weltz will graduate this spring with a Thrive “degree” in improved fitness from the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center and a Master’s degree in English from Appalachian State University.

According to Randall Burkett, 63, the best part about attending Watauga High School was meeting a sweet girl named Donna Winebarger in study hall. Although she required some extra convincing, the two exchanged vows 43 years ago and have never looked back. Today, their passions include spending time with their son and daughter-in-law and serving their church through a variety of ways including singing in the choir.

Lorraine Alls lives her life by a simple code, “If you have it, you give it.” As a child, the New Jersey native saw this creed personified in her parents, who taught that you never see someone go without.

Longtime Boone resident Roger Harwood, 72, is looking forward to getting back in his garden after undergoing a successful aneurysm repair procedure at Watauga Medical Center.