Evacuating during chemotherapy

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 12:32 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - At the start of hurricane season, residents are often encouraged to get a game plan and stock up on supplies. But for the ICU Director at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, the only thing she wanted was to make sure she had a place to continue her chemotherapy treatments.

“Well in the beginning I have to admit, I’m human and I was very overwhelmed and in shock.”

Denise Collet has been a nurse for decades, so she knows the inside of a hospital, but she never expected to one day become a patient.

“The only thing I ever had was back pain from working in the yard. You know? So I kinda thought it was that, from doing weekend work. But typically that goes away in two or three days after you kind of stretch it out. Well, it didn’t and I had a slight cough from the seasonal coughing that I usually get in the fall. And I couldn’t get over that cough.”

After a blood test and a bone marrow sample, Denise was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in the fall of 2017. As Hurricane Laura barreled towards Louisiana, Denise says continuing chemotherapy was a top priority.

“The priorities of your material things go out the window. And your priority is your health. So, I’m not a storm chaser, I was a chemochaser.”

In a matter of days her oncologist, Dr. Broussard, secured a place at Mary Bird Perkins Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center under the care of Dr. Kellie Scmeeckle.

Dr. Scmeeckle says, “Dr. Broussard and I went to medical school together and did our internal medicine and oncology training together. I was thrilled to be able to help. We’ve also able to help some other patients from Lake Charles.”

They picked up Denise’s treatment right where she left off. But those treatments are now taking place as a piece of her mind and heart lie in Lake Charles.

“You know, you lost the shingles, bare wood, had a roof leak, and drywall damage bubbling up on the paint. Things like that, the gutters, the outside stuff. But I’m so blessed because so many people lost everything."

With the help of family, Denise is handling most of her home repairs and insurance claims from Baton Rouge.

“I have a plethora of friends who have offered to help, so I call them and ask if they can go by the house, and can you meet this adjuster, can you do this and that, and can you call me. So just the coordination of friends and support has made all the difference in the world.”

There’s still a lot of work to do, but Denise says she’s grateful for a chance to continue her treatment knowing that so many were not.

“I’ve felt blessed and ever so grateful for how things have moved seamlessly. I was impressed.”

Dr. Scmeeckle says it’s the help from Denise’s support system that allows her treatment to work properly, “There’s already so many personal stressors involved in going through a natural disaster like that. And then when you’re dealing with your own residence, family members, and insurance companies there are so many stressors from an emotional and physical standpoint. And so having a health issue on top of that is even more. We know that stress can affect your health so we wanted to try to make that transition as seamless as possible for Denise.”

For now, Denise will continue treatment in Baton Rouge until she can safely return to SWLA and continue her treatment on a regular basis.

As for the clean up effort, her SWLA neighbors and loved ones are continuing to help one another through these times of despair and working to keep the faith for the better days that are still ahead, “I thank God every day in my Journal for making this happen. I praise, and honor, and adore him every day for this. How many people would this not happen to? So I know he has his arms around me. I know I’m protected.”

Denise says her numbers are looking good right now and wants to encourage other cancer patients who evacuated to ask their new physicians questions about treatment and protocols if there’s anything they don’t understand.

Copyright 2020 KPLC. All rights reserved.