HealthSmart

A hub for Marshall Medical Centers events and information.

Christmas tree at OR SOUTH
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Christmas tree

Fri, Nov 5, 2021 at 10:35 AM

Breast Cancer Awareness at OR South

To passersby, it looks like Christmas has come a bit early outside the operating room (OR) at Marshall Medical South where a beautiful 10-foot tall, pink-ornamented Christmas tree stands greeting patients as they prepare for surgery. Why is this tree up so early you ask? This is no ordinary Christmas tree, but instead, a loving reminder to all who see it of the significance of October being recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

To passersby, it looks like Christmas has come a bit early outside the operating room (OR) at Marshall Medical South where a beautiful 10-foot tall, pink-ornamented Christmas tree stands greeting patients as they prepare for surgery. Why is this tree up so early you ask? This is no ordinary Christmas tree, but instead, a loving reminder to all who see it of the significance of October being recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Every year we put up a Christmas tree to add cheer to the OR department” OR director Jonathan Smith stated “this year Brenda asked if she could be in charge of getting everything together early and making it all pink in honor of the month and all it means to her.” Brenda Whitlock, lead certified surgical tech at South, loves Christmas and always enjoys decorating the tree at Marshall Medical South. But this year in particular she wanted the tree to come with a special message of hope and encouragement. “This year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so the month of October holds new meaning for me” Brenda stated. Thankfully Brenda came through her treatments with flying colors early this summer and is back at work. She credits her recovery to God and the treatment she received at the Marshall Cancer Care Center, as well as support from her friends, family and coworkers. “The doctors and staff at the cancer center are just fantastic; they would help you through anything! And the people I work with, they ARE my family and walked through this with me, every step of the way. If you don’t have support, you don’t make it” Brenda said. Brenda and the whole OR staff wish for this tree to symbolize hope and also encourage people to take their health seriously and get screened regularly.

To make her dream Christmas tree a reality, Brenda teamed up with OR secretary Matt Sims, who is also a cancer survivor. “I was 27 years old when I received my cancer diagnosis so I know firsthand the importance of paying close attention to your health.” Brenda collected donations from hospital staff, physicians and paid a fair bit out of pocket to purchase the decorations. Much time and care was put into buying and painting the many ornaments that adorn the lovely pink tree. “We spent a lot of time shopping and then stayed up until midnight one Saturday to make sure everything was ready before we put the tree up.” Matt recalled. They also flocked the tree themselves, to give it the perfect snowy finish.

One very important part of the tree’s decor is the lanterns that adorn it. Each lantern is inscribed with the name of someone who has battled cancer. Amber White, OR charge nurse at South, knows full well the significance of these lanterns. Her sister Amy passed away in 2017 after her own valiant fight with breast cancer. “The tree is a fitting tribute and an important reminder of the importance of receiving regular mammograms” Amber stated. Amber and her family have contributed greatly in the cause of raising funds for both the Marshall Cancer Care Center and the Mammography Assistance Program (MAP) that provides mammograms for women who may not be able to afford them, all in memory of her sister, Amy.

The impact that this tree is making will not end when this year does. The staff has decided that next year the tree will move to the lobby of the Women’s Center at South. Patients and guests will have the opportunity to purchase an ornament that can be inscribed with the name of a loved one affected by cancer or just a word of encouragement. These ornaments will be placed on the tree as a message of love and hope to all who see it. And the money raised from the purchase of the ornaments will provide funds for the MAP program, assisting countless women in our community. As we head into the holiday season, it is vital to remember how important our health is and to prioritize taking prevention seriously for ourselves and for our loved ones.