Bell signals end of radiation treatment

October 2, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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On Aug. 23, Evelyn Taylor rang the bell at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at Butler Health System at their radiation facility to signal the end of her treatment.

There's a bell that rings when life and hope meet.

On Aug. 23, Evelyn Taylor rang the UMPC Hillman Cancer Center bell at Butler Health System's radiation facility at Benbrook Medical Center.

“There was just a big burden (that) was left off you,” Taylor said.

Taylor said doctors found her lump through her regularly scheduled mammogram in December.

“It was stage one, and it wasn't very big,” the Butler woman said. “They caught it early.”

Taylor said the lump's removal was the easiest part. It was the complications along the way that took a toll on her spirit.

Taylor had a lumpectomy in February, but during her four strong treatments with chemotherapy, drainage of her wound became an issue.

She said each time a complication would arise, it set back or stalled her progress in other areas of treatment.

After rounds of chemotherapy, Taylor went through 20 treatments of radiation at the facility on Technology Drive, again peppered with small but detrimental setbacks.

“It just wipes you out,” Evelyn said.

It was Taylor's last round of radiation that she rang the bell, and now she said the only thing left ahead is the removal of her port, a small medical implant that makes chemotherapy injections simpler.

“That was the best thing because then you don't have to get poked and prodded all the time,” she said.

Taylor said she sees her surgeon again in October to evaluate if the port is ready to come out.

Until then, Taylor said she has still been processing everything she's been through.

“The emotions, oh my gosh. They're still there,” she said. “Sometimes you just didn't know why. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to cry it out because you've been through so much and you're body has been through so much.”

Taylor said what gave her strength are the people who surrounded her. She said she was fortunate to have many people in her corner.

Her mother, Jean, and her two sisters, Shirley and Roxanne, were also there for her. She said her friend, Diane, also brought her food after her chemo treatments.

“The thing that got me through it was my husband. My husband and my two daughters,” Taylor said. “I have three little grandchildren, too. They would send me little tests and stuff like that and that helps, too.”

But through it all, the person that fought the hardest alongside her and anchored her to life was the same man she has shared 50 years of marriage with.

“My husband was my rock. He helped me through a lot of stuff,” Evelyn said.

Floyd Taylor said his wife showed amazing strength through her fight with cancer. He struggled to see her suffer through the difficult forms of treatment the disease entails.

Evelyn Taylor

“It wasn't easy,” he said. “I hated to see her go through that. I kept telling her that if I could, I'd take it, but you can't do that.”

Floyd said he figured out early that staying positive was the best approach. When she cried, he went to her side and lent her his shoulder. If she wanted to talk about how she was feeling or about her options, he listened.

Floyd said one thing he tried never to do was panic.

“Panic doesn't help. It just makes things more stressful,” he said. “Just keep a cool head and stay supportive.”

Floyd said he has had health problems of his own over the years, and his wife has always been supportive of him. He said she deserved his support, and he gladly gave her whatever he could.

“We've both done a great job at taking care of each other,” Floyd said.

Floyd said he was thankful to all the other people that have supported her too, but he was also grateful to the staff at Butler Health System, who not only treated her but guided her with positivity.

“All the people that treated her were very upbeat,” Floyd said. “It's part of the job, but they didn't let whatever was going on in their personal lives affect their treatment of her.”

With a good prognosis on the port removal, the Taylors may be looking at another trip to Florida, where have stayed for many winters. They did not go last year, and they both said they missed that.

But returning to normal isn't really an option. Not when there's been so many major changes in their lives.

Now knowing what it takes to survive cancer, Evelyn said she feels equipped to help others with her story and her experience.

Evelyn said she would like to someday go to cancer support groups to share her story. She said she still has some emotional healing to go through, and others who are currently going through treatments may need someone to listen to them.

She said she hopes to bring a positive attitude to others in the same way many did for her.

“Keep the faith. Hopefully, everything will get better,” Evelyn said. “There's always a light at the end of that tunnel, and I hope people will find that. I did and I hope they do.”

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Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger

Nathan Bottiger graduated with a degree in journalism in 2015 from Pitt-Johnstown. A business reporter, he also covers Slippery Rock borough, township and school district.