As Bernice Edwards walked toward Dr. Charles Montgomery Tuesday in the lobby of Cancer Care at Premier Health Complex, she smiled, stuck out her arm and gave him a warm hug. When she emerged from the embrace, the Maben woman wiped her moist eyes with a tissue.
“I wouldn”t trade him for anybody,” Edwards said.
The encounter was much different than the first time the pair met, when Edwards, then 65, suffered from leukemia and was told she might only have a few weeks to live. Six years and countless chemotherapy treatments later, however, Edwards” leukemia is in remission and she is alive and well.
“They didn”t think I was going to make it, but Dr. Montgomery didn”t give up on me,” Edwards said.
Edwards was one of about 100 cancer survivors who attended a celebration Tuesday at Cancer Care to honor those who have fought the disease. More than 300 people attended the event, including survivors” friends and family members, local business leaders and health professionals.
For Montgomery, seeing Edwards and the other cancer survivors, some of whom he treated, was a rewarding experience.
“You develop a special bond with people you see and that bond can last a long time,” Montgomery said. “Even patients who haven”t survived, a lot of times their family members will come back to visit because it”s such a special bond.”
The ceremony Tuesday also celebrated the opening of Cancer Care, which has been in business since November at the corner of Stark Road and Highway 182.
Cancer Care is a comprehensive cancer treatment facility. It houses clinics for medical oncology, which are provided by Hematology and Oncology Associates of Tupelo, as well as radiation therapy services, supplied by Radiation Oncology of North Mississippi.
Faculty and students at Mississippi State University also can utilize the advanced technology, equipment and professional medical expertise at Cancer Care to advance their learning and research initiatives.
Hematology and Oncology Associates, which includes Dr. Montgomery, Dr. Julian Hill, Dr. Andrew Kellum, Dr. Christopher Croot, Dr. David Morris and Dr. Naumann Moazzam, provides a full range of services, including chemotherapy and other cancer and blood disorder treatments.
Dr. Bert Duncan and Dr. Ray Reed, of Radiation Oncology of North Mississippi, provide radiation therapy at the new facility.
Radiation therapy benefits nearly half of all cancer patients — either alone or in combination with other treatments, such as surgery or chemotherapy. Radiation therapy uses specialized equipment called a linear accelerator to deliver focused, high-energy radiation to damage or kill cancer cells and to inhibit further growth of cancer.
“Cancer services are something we are bringing to this community that are offered in other communities, but generally they are 40 or 50 miles away,” said Jim Schaefer, executive director of Cancer Care. “Obviously when you have cancer, driving is very, very important. Nobody wants to go through radiation treatment or chemotherapy treatment and sit in a car an hour-and-a-half each way. It”s much better to have it closer to home. We are very pleased to bring these services to the community.”