For their 40th anniversary, the Barretts’ children sent them on a celebratory cruise. When the couple returned, they took care of some health tests. Fred went for a prostate biopsy and Cynthia for a colonoscopy. Fred’s tests came back positive. Within 10 days of his prostate cancer diagnosis, Cynthia received a diagnosis of her own—colon cancer. Neither was a stranger to cancer. Cynthia’s mother had colon cancer, and Fred had lost his mother and three sisters, all at relatively young ages. In those days, patients in eastern North Carolina had to travel up to 100 miles for treatments. Many never returned. “It's just been something that’s always been on my mind. If you get a diagnosis of cancer, it’s going to be horrific,” Fred said.
“To get a state-of-the-art cancer center here will mean that so many more people will be able to easily access something.” Cynthia Barrett
The day before Fred went for surgery, Cynthia began her chemotherapy. Because they’d found their cancers early, both responded well to care. But after four years of follow-up, Fred’s cancer returned. He came to the Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center facility for a series of 39 daily treatments. “The nurses and the practitioners…they become a part of your life. It gives you a lot of hope, a lot of confidence that you’re going to beat this and realize you’re not in this by yourself,” Fred said. Both are grateful Vidant Health was in their community. Unlike his family members before him, Fred was able to get routine follow-up care and treatments close to home.
Cynthia is optimistic about the impact the new cancer tower will have on people’s lives. “To get a state-of-the-art cancer center here will mean that so many more people will be able to easily access something.” Fred agrees.
Thanks to Vidant Health, his cancer experience resulted in a much better outcome than he’d expected. “We’re just fortunate that we’ve had the tremendous medical care and had a facility close enough to us that we could get this kind of treatment,” he said. A year after Fred completed his chemotherapy, the Barretts’ church sponsored a Relay for Life. Fred pledged to kiss a hog if they raised $3,000. They raised $8,500, and he made good on his promise. “You know, there’s a lot of fun with that,” he said, “but in the end, it got people involved, and we raised a lot of other money.”
Today, the Barretts continue to hold creative fundraising events such as community-wide yard sales. They focus their efforts on supporting patients and caregivers with everyday needs like transportation to treatments. “There are many, many things that surround trying to get treatment for a debilitating disease like cancer. So there’s a great need for money in many areas,” Fred said. Cynthia and Fred take pride in knowing that their experiences as patients, and their donations, have helped create an easier path for cancer patients like themselves.
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