We see nearly 2,000 guests and families over the course of a year who are enduring serious medical challenges. We witness as many ways to respond, heal, and overcome. Sometimes, the coping experience is self-contained, unencumbered by the weight of life’s prior traumas. In other cases, we are not always aware of, nor able to comprehend, broader histories that accompany our guests as they deal with current medical crises.
Lana Earney lives in Foresthill, population 1,500. At an elevation of 3,200 feet in the Sierra Nevada foothills, it is often above the snowline. The community’s signature Foresthill Bridge is the fourth highest by deck height in the United States. I offer it as a symbol – when guests like Lana agree to share their stories with us, they invite us to cross the bridge that ties their today to their yesterday.
Less than one year ago, a routine mammogram and subsequent biopsy returned a “positive” result. She was immediately referred to UC Davis Medical Center. Lana recalls the days following the breast cancer diagnosis as sleepless and emotional. She made questionable purchases, including a new truck. The oncology surgeon wanted to perform surgery to remove the small stage-two mass but was forced to delay it four to six weeks so that Lana and an endocrinologist could improve her diabetes readings. Surgery was finally scheduled for November 13, 2018.
The post-surgery medications made Lana feel panicky. In the ensuing weeks, the surgery site was drained three times of fluid and blood clots before a drain tube was installed. Radiation was next up in the treatment plan but appointments could not be scheduled until the drain site healed. It was about this point on the calendar when her home’s proximity to the snowline began to influence events. To fully appreciate how requires a quick trip across the bridge to yesteryear.
In 2000, Lana was driving on Interstate 80 near Newcastle. The ill-advised actions of another driver caused a serious chain reaction accident, during which her vehicle was forced underneath a big rig truck. The impact threw Lana into a horizontal position just before the roof of her vehicle was sheared off. As the chain reaction ended, her vehicle was freed from the big rig and came to rest along the roadway. In the immediate throes of a severe concussion, she looked up and thought to herself, “Wow, there is blue sky in heaven.” For a very long time, Lana could not drive a car on the freeway and to this day becomes anxious when anywhere near a big rig. She avoids driving at night and in inclement weather. The panicky feeling is summoned too easily. Which brings us back to today and the snowline.
Her radiation program was planned to last four weeks. Lana discussed her need to avoid the daily commute between UC Davis and Foresthill with a social worker, at one point stating, “I guess I’ll just sleep in my truck.” The social worker said there was no need; she would refer Lana to Kiwanis Family House.
As of this writing, Lana has called Kiwanis Family House her home for nearly a month, supported financially by the American Cancer Society. Her radiation program is nearing its end as a foot of snow blankets Foresthill. “I am amazed at what you all do here at Kiwanis Family House,” says Lana. “Because of you, I have not had to miss my appointments.” Lana speaks fondly of the entire staff but is particularly appreciative of Jodi Adams. “Jodi has been absolutely wonderful.”
Lana will return to her Foresthill home very soon. Chances are that bridge to the past is also a bridge forward.