Cancer Patient's Dying Wish Becomes a Reality
Read Karrey Britt, LJWorld, complete story here.
More than 200 people packed Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s main lobby late Friday afternoon to pay tribute to former patient Jamie Barkes Pursley.
There were laughs and many tears. It was a bittersweet occasion.
One year ago on March 29, 2011, Jamie Barkes Pursley died at age 35 after a five-year battle with breast cancer.
Just weeks before she died, she looked her closest friends in the eyes and told them she wanted to renovate the infusion rooms in LMH’s Oncology Center, where she had spent many hours receiving treatment. She wanted them to look and feel less like a hospital and more like a place of refuge.
In August, her friends Aimee Jackson and Kelli Alldredge started an organization called “Jamie’s Wish,” where they put together a plan to raise money for the renovation project, setting a fundraising goal of $100,000.
They reached their goal in November and even surpassed it, raising $140,000 with the help of more than 300 donors, big and small.
On Friday, Jamie’s wish came true. There was a dedication program, ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house at the refurbished center.
“It has been unbelievable journey,” Jackson said. “I think Jamie would just be so pleased with the people who are here in support of her wish.”
Among those in attendance were Jamie’s husband, Aaron, and their 6-year-old daughter, Kayden, and Jamie’s parents, Dave and Kathy Barkes, of Tecumseh. Those who knew her said she never complained about the cancer.
“I remember when she was first diagnosed,” her mother said, teary-eyed.
“I don’t remember exactly what I said but something like, ‘I wish it wasn’t you,’ and her reply was, ‘Why not me?’ She said she was OK with it.”
Jamie’s oncologist Dr. Sherri Soule was among nine people who spoke during the program. She said it didn’t take more than five minutes for her to realize just how special Jamie was.
“I say this often about all of my patients, but I truly felt lucky to be caring for Jamie,” she said. “At her visits here, Jamie’s thoughts were almost always about someone else. She didn’t dwell on self pity.”
Soule said she immediately clicked with Jamie because they were close in age and had daughters who were about the same age. They talked about cancer some, but mostly their conversations were about school, travel, iPads, kids and shopping.
“Everyone who knew Jamie knows the kind of conversation I am talking about,” Soule said, and the crowd laughed.
Soule said Jaime will be touching the lives of many others for years to come. The Oncology Center serves about 600 new patients each year and administers about 18,000 treatments.
“Jamie’s wish was to take an experience that is often anything but pleasant and make it better. With the help of her friends, she has done that. The bad times can be really hard here but the good times keep all of us going,” Soule said. “This afternoon is one of the good times.”
Lawrence resident Julie Cowdin wiped away tears during the program as she heard stories about Jamie — her cancer big sister.
At age 43, Cowdin is fighting breast cancer for the second time, and it has metastasized. She said she knew Jamie because they often had chemotherapy treatments at the same time and would check on one another.
“She would always ask if I needed anything. I will always remember that,” she said.
Cowdin said thanks to Jamie’s wish she’s now receiving treatments in a more home-like atmosphere.
“Everything has changed from the floor up. They are beautiful and very soothing. The chairs are amazing. They are big and comfortable and they are pretty, unlike the other ones. They were kind of ugly,” she said laughing.