|By TIM THORNBERRY
BOAZ, Ky. — Upon talking to LaDonna Thurston, one would sense her love of life and family, her faith and all she becomes involved in; but most would never guess that she has just come through a battle with cancer. But indeed the Graves County resident has been through the ordeal of a double mastectomy to rid the disease that was detected in July 2005.
Two days after she and husband Todd returned home from a Kentucky Farm Bureau Young Farmer event, a group they have been affiliated with since 1996, she learned that she had breast cancer. In early July, after discovering a knot, Thurston consulted a friend’s mother and her brother-in-law, who is a physician’s assistant before making an appointment to be examined.
“I had my first surgery, a lumpectomy, on Aug. 2 and a second one on Aug. 9 to get the rest of the cancer and then I started with chemotherapy treatments,” she said. “I had my down days then. After the first treatment, I felt pretty sick and after the second one, my hair fell out and that really bothered me.”
In March 2006, Thurston underwent the double mastectomy to help ensure the cancer would not come back.
While she obviously had to go through all the medical procedures herself, Thurston’s network of friends, family and co-workers made the journey with her - including her Farm Bureau family. Word spread quickly through Farm Bureau and members of the Kentucky Farm Bureau Young Farmer Committee, on which the Thurstons had served since 2002, and they immediately began planning ways to show their support.
An auction was added to the agenda at the recent Young Farmer’s Annual Conference in Louisville to raise money for breast cancer research in honor of Thurston.
“Every year the Young Farmers pick a charity to raise money for during our leadership conference,” said Jay McCants, director of the Young Farmer program.
“Breast cancer indiscriminately affects people all across the country. When it affected one of our own, it made us stop and think. This effort was to support LaDonna and it shows the heart of Farm Bureau and the heart of farmers.”
Approximately 20 items were donated for the auction by the various Farm Bureau districts and other concerned members. Several items were purchased at well above “retail” rates, but the item raising the most money was a pedal tractor donated by Jay Coleman, the president of the Barren County Farm Bureau and a cancer survivor himself.
The tractor was originally purchased by the Meade County young farmers contingent for $525, then donated back to the auction and re-purchased by the Hardin County young farmers for $475.
By the end of the event, $8,220 had been raised through auction proceeds including matching funds from the Kentucky Farm Bureau Federation - for the American Cancer Society. The conference where the auction was held was the first meeting the Thurstons had missed since 1997.
“It’s amazing that people would go the extra mile for someone that lives so far away,” said Thurston. “It surprised me so much. A lot of prayers went up for me. My family and husband have been awesome and my friends from work have kept me going.”
Thurston works as an aide at the Graves County Middle School.
While a devastating disease like cancer can take a heavy toll on its sufferers and their families, LaDonna Thurston has emerged stronger because of her battle.
“There were no pity parties from my friends or family,” she said.
“I feel good now and because of my surgery, there is a 98 percent chance the cancer won’t come back. I tell people who are facing the same thing to keep their heads up and pray a lot and they’ll get through it.
Thurston put her ordeal in perspective when she said, “With my faith and salvation in God, I will be victorious over this disease, whether it will be on earth or in heaven, and I will be the winner.”
This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.