Ward, a cancer survivor, now gives back

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, October 7, 2023

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For Barbara Ward, volunteering and giving back to the breast cancer survivor community is how she has turned something negative into a positive aspect of her life.

Ward said she volunteers to help other women going through a breast cancer diagnosis because she has been there and knows what they’re going through.

“The cancer diagnosis in itself is extremely scary. I think people need people around them that have been through it,” Ward said.

Ward is a four-year breast cancer survivor having been diagnosed in March 2019. She said she received the diagnosis just two days before her son’s wedding when she shared the news with her family. She said her family may have taken the news harder than she did.

“I tell everybody I had a good cry for a day and then I was over it and ready to move on. I’m not one to sit around and go, woe is me.” Ward said. “I did a lot of praying and got a lot of answers from the Lord. I fully trust that He knows what He’s doing and I got faith from Him, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.”

Ward said she was one of the first carry-over patients from the old clinic to the renovated Enoch Callaway Cancer Center at WellStar.  

“If you can say you had a good experience with cancer, I’ve had a great experience because the people in the cancer center and the hospital in the Women’s Center have all been wonderful,” Ward said.

Ward said the whole process from biopsies to the cancer removal to reconstruction was all completely painless.

“They take care of you at the cancer center. These people are top notch, and I volunteer at the cancer center now,” she said.

Ward said her biggest issues came after all of the surgery having to deal with hormone treatments. She said she had to take estrogen-blocking medication because her type of cancer feeds off of estrogen. She said the hormone therapy did a number on her body.

“A lot of people don’t understand that it’s not over when the patient is done with surgery. That’s basically when it starts because that’s when all the chemo, the radiation the hormone treatments and everything starts. That’s the tough part,” Ward said. “Luckily, I did not have to do the chemo and radiation because we found it so early.”

She said the cancer had been found early thanks to her puppy.

“We had just adopted a new puppy and the puppy actually found it. He kept sniffing at the exact spot where the cancer was. I’ve started fiddling around and sure enough, there was a lump,” Ward said, saying the cancer was confirmed after her next mammogram.

“That puppy is now a queen in my house,” Ward said.

Ward said she volunteers at the clinic down in the radiation area, where she does a little of everything. 

“I love working at the clinic. I do so much. I pretty much do everything in anything that the clinic needs,” Ward said. She said she runs things to and from the hospital, laminates things, pulls records and anything that the doctors or nurses need, but she loves to sit and talk to patients.

“If I see a patient come in and I can tell if they’re really upset or just not feeling good. I’ll go over there and sit and just kind of talk to them,” Ward said. “A lot of times that just makes them feel better to have somebody to come talk to them instead of having to sit there by themselves.”

Ward said that having cancer can make you feel lonely. Even though your family and friends can be tremendously supportive, cancer survivors can feel alone in their diagnosis, she explained.

Ward has also used her sewing skills to help breast cancer survivors. She said during the surgery recovery process, breast cancer survivors will often be given tubes to drain their surgery wounds. The drains are typically pinned underneath the patient’s shirts, which can pull down on them and make them uncomfortable and unsightly, so she came up with an alternative.

“I designed these little aprons that they can wear underneath their shirt. It’s got pockets to put the little drains under their shirt,” Ward said, saying she has given out countless drain aprons over the years.

“I think every person in LaGrange who has had breast cancer has gotten one of my aprons,” Ward.

Ward said her advice for cancer recovery is to continue doing what you love doing to keep a positive attitude, whether it’s spending time with loved ones, playing with a pet or in her case, sewing.