Two-time cancer survivor devotes time in remission to helping others in need
BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - When you or someone you love receives a cancer diagnosis, the last thing you should have to worry about is how you’re going to pay for treatment or even how you’re going to get to that treatment.
WVVA spoke to Charleston native, Brett Wilson, 50, a two-time cancer survivor who now spends her days helping others battling illnesses.
Wilson’s journey with cancer started when she was very young. In 1974, at the age of two, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and started receiving chemotherapy. After five years of this treatment, she went into remission only to relapse and be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of nine.
She blue-coded twice while receiving care.
After years of treatment and a childhood spent within the white walls of a hospital, Wilson says, when she finally went into remission for the last time at the age of 12, she didn’t know what was next.
“I left the hospital and they [doctors] were like, ‘Good luck to you. Go be normal,’ Wilson shared of her experience. “How does that work? I’ve spent eight years of my life in a hospital. Now, you’re expecting me just to go as if nothing happened and supposed to be able to integrate into society.”
Worst of all, Wilson says no one was there to help her and her family understand the struggles of cancer survivorship, in addition to helping with medical bills and other expenses.
She said this lack of knowledge about her future seriously impacted her health. She didn’t know that in her thirties she would have to have a pacemaker put in as a result of treatments she received decades before. She didn’t know that her gallbladder would become calcified because of her chemotherapy and need to be removed.
“No one was giving me any instruction, any education along the way...My mom was a master’s degree school teacher; my father was a master’s degree school teacher; my grandmother was a master’s degree school teacher, but none of them had a master’s degree in ‘you’ve been diagnosed with cancer.”
Wilson created a vision born from the thought that no person, no family should have to worry about having enough money and finding help over their battle with cancer. She wanted to create a place for both patients and survivors and offer them a lending hand that she didn’t receive.
“I said, ‘One day, I’m going to create a center and I’m going to help other people not go through the journey the way that we did.’”
Walking Miracles, a non-profit organization, was created in 2012. In a little over a decade, it has provided nearly 300 families in 37 counties with travel assistance, counseling services, and resources. Additionally, it has received more than $250,000 in donations to help fill the financial burdens left by cancer.
“The more resources, the more people we can hope and create a nice connection to be able to kind of serve more people and to give more money for travel assistance and gas and food and lodging costs,” Wilson shared.
In addition to helping cancer patients in West Virginia, Walking Miracles is now extending operations into Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, where Wilson hopes to help even more families.
Click here to learn more about Walking Miracles.
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