'To whom much is given much is expected': Former cancer patient of Dr. Lavigne carrying out late brother's wishes
Cancer survivors often come out the other side of the fight with a renewed purpose. This was definitely true for Tammy Schroder, former patient of Dr. Ruth Lavigne, Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) Radiation Oncologist. This purpose inspired her brother, Bob Guthier, who was losing his own fight with cancer, to do as she had done.
Schroder began seeing Dr. Lavigne in 2013 for radiation treatments for breast cancer, back when her practice was still in Cincinnati. "When I initially met Tammy, I was struck with her sensitivity and empathy toward the patients around her," said Dr. Lavigne. "She has such a giving spirit, and tremendous faith."
Soon after, Dr. Lavigne informed Schroder that she and her husband, Dr. Brad Collett, were moving their practice to Pikeville. She explained that the instances of breast and lung cancers were high in this area and she felt like they could do the most good with their skills and treatment abilities.
"Dr. Lavigne and Dr. Collett are the heroes in this story," Schroder expressed. "They are the ones who gave up their life in the city to move to Pikeville to serve more patients."
Schroder visits Pikeville twice a year for her check-ups with Dr. Lavigne. Each time she visits, she brings gifts for the radiation oncology patients of PMC, primarily with breast cancer.
"While having cancer you are given a platform," Schroder explained. "And I just felt that I am blessed with so many friends and family, that they would join in my efforts to help cancer patients in Pikeville. So I just ask and people give."
The first time Schroder and her friends visited, they brought food. She made a simple request on Facebook and people in her community began bringing things to her home. "I compared it to the story in the Bible of the loaves and the fishes," Schroder said. "The food just multiplied on my porch."
"The fact that she and her friends give so selflessly to others, and the work they pour into the giving, speaks volumes," said Dr. Lavigne.
Now when they visit, they bring lovely handbags filled with items that Schroder knows first-hand are beneficial to breast cancer patients. "These gifts mean so very much to patients at such a critical time in their lives," Dr. Lavigne expressed. "Their impact can't be described in words, only by the looks on their faces."
The bags Schroder and her friends have put together are filled with personal care items, lotion, soap, body wash, a blanket, a hat, etc.
This act of generosity and kindness inspired her brother to request that she continue her work and not forget about the men fighting cancer. After her brother's death, Schroder and the close friends who had been helping with her efforts at PMC started the Bobby G. Memorial Fund.
"We asked in lieu of flowers, for donations to the Bobby G. Memorial Fund," said Schroder. "To date we have had $10,000 donated! With my brothers passing and his wishes to help send donations, it is a beautiful way to honor his legacy," said Schroder.
All of those close to him were encouraged to donate to this fund so that these friends could purchase Walmart gift cards to be added to the gifts given to PMC's radiation oncology patients. Dr. Lavigne and Dr. Collett use their own discretion to determine need to distribute the gift cards to their patients.
"The money will be used to support Dr. Lavigne and Dr. Collett as long as they are in Pikeville," Schroder said. This group of ladies met with the doctors on their last visit to Pikeville to find out what the needs of their male patients might be. More specialized gifts for men will be delivered on their next trip.
"This is not about me," said Schroder. "I had so much wonderful support during my cancer and I just wanted to give back. To whom much is given much is expected."
"Tammy has begun a movement of goodness, supported by her friends and the wishes of her brother at his own end-of-life due to cancer," Dr. Lavigne concluded. "We could not be more grateful to each and every one of them."