When Margaret Yost received a call from her cancer doctor one evening last fall, her husband, Bob, answered the phone and said to her, “you’ll want to take this call.”
Not knowing what to expect, Yost spoke with cancer specialist Dr. Lowell B. Anthony who had called to let her know UK HealthCare marketing officials would be contacting her the following day and that he wanted to make sure she knew the call was legitimate.
What followed were conversations with marketing officials about Yost sharing publicly her experience of being diagnosed and treated for two separate cancers within only a few short months.
Despite encouragement from her husband and son, Tim, she decided “I am not going to do this because I am not a public speaker.”
Then, her cousin, Shelia Cawood of Lexington called to offer encouragement to do the project, saying Yost should agree to the campaign for her aunts Effie Coldiron and Marie Howard who lost their battles with cancer.
“She pushed the right button,” recalled Yost.
Yost remembers well the cold October day she actually traveled to Lexington to shoot the photographs, video and other items for the marketing package. Since that day and completion of the project, she has appeared on the sides of buses in Lexington, television commercials, magazine ads, online ads, cinema commercials and billboards.
Also, Yost tells her story firsthand through a YouTube video which can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0M2Dje_xwQ&feature=youtu.be.
“No one wants to be told they have cancer,” said Yost. “When you have been told twice and you have two separate cancers, you think you have been handed a death sentence. But after you talk to your doctors, it is not that way. They give you hope.”
Her story at UK began in 2012 when she underwent successful surgery for breast cancer at the UK Markey Cancer Center and then completed 32 rounds of radiation through commutes from Harlan to Corbin five days each week, many of which were by herself before she returned to work for the rest of the day.
Yost smiled as she recalled nurses being excited the day her lumpectomy results were shared with her, noting that it was at the lowest end of the 1-10 scale for which doctors base decisions on whether to treat the patient with chemotherapy.
“The nurses were so excited. They said they had never been able to hear the doctor to say that to anyone,” said Yost. “At the time it was the lowest for patients treated at the UK cancer center.”
Some months later, she said she began to feel ill, losing her appetite and weight at an unhealthy rate. Her primary care doctor encouraged her to return to UK immediately through the emergency department. A liver scan revealed a few spots. She was referred to medical oncologist Dr. Edward H. Romond who ordered various tests. Romond, consulting with Anthony, who is a gastrointestinal and colorectal cancer specialist and chief of medical oncology at UK, diagnosed her with a very rare carcinoid tumor. Carcinoid tumors are slow growing and usually go undetected. Symptoms are vague and doctors often misdiagnose the condition.
The tumors occur more often in women and normally in people over the age of 60.
Last August, surgical oncologist Dr. Ching-Wei D. Tzeng performed a five-hour surgery to remove her gallbladder and part of her liver, small intestine and lymph nodes near her colon.
She smiles when telling about asking the doctor a few days later if she could go shopping and he allowed her to do so if “I felt well enough.”
Yost’s presentation in the marketing campaign assures patients and future patients that she was beyond satisfied with her care.
“They were all so, so professional in every aspect, the people; the phone calls, all of it,” she said. “But then that is what UK and Markey are… I couldn’t do what they do. I am so blessed. They did not give up on me. The past year has gone by so fast, but they didn’t stop. They refused to stop.”
Bob Yost agrees, saying she has had a “remarkable recovery. They weren’t going to give up on her.”
Yost has recently retired from her job and is enjoying spending as much time as possible with her granddaughter, Clarissa, 4. She said the most difficult part of the cancer treatments was “being away from her, not being able to hold her, to pick her up.”
Yost says maintaining a positive attitude is important. “I won’t say I didn’t fight depression during this. My family, my church, prayers, my faith in God got me through each day one day at a time.”
Jan Taylor, director of communication and advertising for UK HealthCare, said story’s such as Yost’s surface when her department puts out the word that they are looking for a great story.
“Margaret’s story just surfaced that way. It kind of came to me through someone else here in marketing,” said Taylor, noting patient confidentiality limits what can be shared with her. She said the possibilities include the patient’s personality, something interesting about their care,
Taylor said the challenge is to identify the means for reaching potential patients in today’s world, but noted strategies must be “diverse and very scattered.” The promotion has to be pretty much everywhere to reach all of today’s consumer and that they must “be very smart about our advertising dollars.”
Taylor also recalled the campaign was actually recorded on a cold snowy day, but it was planned in such a way that it appeared to be a warm day. Yost was filmed “enjoying the calm of my porch” while she sipped coffee.
“We feel like people who are thinking about health care want to hear from other patients,” said Taylor, saying the decision to record patients stories for online avenues and for about a five-minute interview available on YouTube.
“To me, our main goal is to get people to the interview so they can hear the patient telling their own story,” said Taylor.
She said the most advertising dollars are spent within a 30-mile radius of Lexington, and that allows the commercials to air in the rural areas served by the Lexington television stations.
Yost will return to for scheduled checkups in June.
“This was an experience for someone who didn’t like to have her picture made or be in front of a lot of people. I didn’t want to embarrass my family or Harlan. It was an honor to be chosen,” she said.