In Nov. 26 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Tamara Stephens has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
Despite her father, Darell Whittle, being diagnosed with lung cancer back in June, it was what happened to him in September that has impacted both their lives even more.
On September 8, Whittle, a former construction worker, was saved after professing his belief in Christ to her during a telephone call.
"When he called and told me he made profession, he said he felt like the weight of the world was off of him," she said.
It was a huge burden lifted off her shoulders as well as she worried about where her father might end up otherwise.
"I have to say, I can't think of (his cancer) as a negative thing because the most positive thing in the world has come out of it," she said. "He just looked at life differently ... we don't know what it is like until we're faced with it."
Stephens, who is her father's caregiver, said she sees him at least three times a week, doing various household chores for him at his Eli home and taking him to doctor appointments and chemotherapy visits.
"I just went into a robotic mode," Stephens, a teacher at Salem Elementary, said when she found out about her father's cancer. "That became my top priority. I went from ballgames and shuffling around my kids to wondering what my next steps with dad were going to be."
"At the beginning he got a little depressed, but he's through that now," she said.
Whittle gets many of his treatments at the Commonwealth Cancer Center in Russell Springs under Dr. Emmanuel Nidhiry.
"It is so handy having them so close to home," Stephens said of the center. "They couldn't be better there. Everyone in that office is wonderful ... and he doesn't mind going."
On June 23rd he also had a nearly six hour surgery at the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital to remove the top left lobe of his lung, where the mass was located.
She said her father's treatments have continued to work and he is now cancer-free, the doctors say.
"He's already planning on horse riding in the spring," she said. "The chemo really hasn't been what we expected at all."
Stephens said her father continued to be active, despite the treatments lagging him down at times, and that his outlook on life changed when he learned of his sickness.
"One thing that has come out of this is we sure are getting to spend a lot of time together," she said.
Whittle also has a sister, Vern Rose, who brings him several meals each day, Stephens said.
"Without her, I don't know what I would do," Stephens, who is an only child, said. "I don't know how I could work and take him food every day, so she's a big help."
Personally, Stephens said she took the news hard when she first found out about her father's cancer.
"I didn't know the severity of it at the beginning," he said. She said he had been ill with pneumonia earlier this year and when the doctors x-rayed his chest for that, they found the mass.
Then the doctor visits and treatments began and weeks turned into months.
Since all this has gone down with Stephens and her father, they have both become acquainted with the local American Cancer Society group who oversee the annual Relay For Life event each summer.
"I can't say enough good about them," she said. "They are so hospitable."
She also said she could tell the past few months had been hard on her children, Garret and Chandra, and her husband, Sheldon.
"For two or three months I was with my dad a lot," she said. "They handled it well because they are older but they knew they had to since I was an only child."
She said Sheldon had been wonderful to help out as well.
"If there is something I can't miss at school, he has to fill in," she said. "He's been great."
So when they all get together this holiday weekend, Stephens said there will be plenty of blessings to count, and her father's health and salvation will definitely be one of them.