Cancer patient encourages others to fight

Published 9:24 pm Wednesday, April 19, 2017

While she fights cancer for the third time, a Suffolk woman is supporting other cancer patients with encouragement and gifts.

Phyllis Walker is 45 years old and has been fighting her cancer for five years. But even in the midst of her own battle, she finds time to brighten the lives of others who suffer from the debilitating effects of the disease and its treatments. When she is between treatments, she puts together gift bags for other cancer patients she meets in Suffolk.

The trunk of her car is filled with bags of useful supplies and heartwarming gifts for cancer patients.

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When she receives chemotherapy at the Virginia Oncology Office, she ready is to give a bag and talk to her fellow patients about their battles. Some are starting their first treatments.

“I see someone who looks like they’re getting chemo for the first time, and I talk to them,” Walker said. “I try to encourage them.”

Walker was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. After years of hospital treatment and remission, her breast cancer returned in 2015 and spread to her liver. She said her doctors did not give her good odds to survive the necessary procedures.

She defied those odds and kept fighting.

“Twice they didn’t think I would make it, but here I am,” she said.

The third diagnosis came in 2016. Her liver cancer had returned and spread to her lungs. The treatments continue to fatigue, dehydrate and sap her body of energy.

“You feel like the life has been sucked out of you,” she said.

But she refuses to give up, and she encourages other cancer patients to have the same attitude.

“Everybody wants to give up sometimes,” she said. “Even I want to give up sometimes.”

Her gift bags include journals and notebooks for patients to take notes as they visit doctors. Fuzzy socks help patients stay warm when the chemo treatment rooms are cold. There are also blankets for both the parents fighting cancer and their children.

“I tell them to give them to your children and tell them it has their hugs and kisses in it; it gives the children security,” she said.

She received 15 blankets as a donation from a local Five Below the day before Christmas. She said a friend of hers that volunteers at Virginia Oncology gave out 100 bags during the holiday season.

Walker has two others assisting with prayer shawls and T-shirts. She met one supporter at a breast cancer support group and the other through one of her gift bags. She said the prayer shawls are beautiful and popular with patients.

“I don’t have the energy, so I have other people help me with things,” she said.  “My energy is for my kids.”

Walker and her “wonderfully supportive” husband Jonathan will celebrate their 20th anniversary in May. They have two children, 10-year-old Josiah and 8-year-old Emily.

“My kids sleep with their prayer shawls,” Phyllis said.

She tells first-time cancer patient that if she can do it three times, they can it once. Some have called her an angel.

“God had wanted me to encourage these people — that’s the way I feel,” she said.

Prayer shawls, T-shirts, restaurant coupons, and other donations are encouraged to support her efforts. Email to find out more.