David and Willa Burnley of Lebanon, Tennessee just celebrated 63 beautiful years of marriage. With big smiles on their faces, they tell stories about their four children, seven grandchildren and 12 greatgrandchildren. To talk with them, you would never know they are fighting the greatest battle of their lives....again.
In 2008, David was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. His doctor referred him to Sarah Cannon Cancer Center in Nashville, where he was told if he followed their treatment program he would have a 50% chance of survival. After three months of chemotherapy and radiation, his doctors determined he was ready for surgery. Though it was a long and arduous recovery, the surgery was successful and David was declared cancer free!
Unfortunately, this was not the end of the Burnleys’ journey with this dreaded disease. In May of 2014, David went for his yearly physical and a tumor was found in his lung. Because of the location of the tumor, surgery was not a possibility. The bad news continued when David’s doctors explained to him that he was very close to the maximum amount of chemotherapy and radiation that his body could tolerate in a lifetime.
While undergoing this second round of treatment, the Burnleys decided to attend the Survivor Breakfast provided by the Lebanon chapter of Relay for Life. At this event, David met Tonyia Watson, Director of Patient Assistance for Sherry’s Run and the two struck up a conversation about cancer and life. “We heard about Sherry’s Run every year, but never realized the money was helping people right here in our community,” says Burnley.
David told Tonyia about the first round of cancer and how it had depleted their retirement and savings accounts. Now they faced a second round of medical bills and the nest egg they had counted on was almost gone. Tonyia explained to the Burnleys that Sherry’s Run exists for people just like them. “We are so thankful for the opportunity to assist people like David and Willa. They are the reason that so many people want to support Sherry’s Run,” says Watson.
For several months, Sherry’s Run has been assisting the Burnleys with grocery cards. “The grocery cards give us the freedom to buy healthier foods,” says Willa. “It is such a relief to know we can buy the gas we need to get to his appointments without worrying about our other bills. Sherry’s Run is the finest thing we have in Lebanon, and it’s the best thing that’s happened to us since we moved here 17 years ago.”
The small amount of treatment David was able to have has successfully shrunk the tumor by 65% and the doctors are pleased with his x-rays. The journey has been a difficult one for David, but you would never know it. With a chuckle he describes the vegetable soup and cornbread his precious wife, Willa, prepares for him every morning because that is all his stomach can tolerate.
He has lost a lot of weight and the couple has had to stop the traveling they love so much, but it is with thankful and positive spirits that they describe how loving the Lebanon community has been towards them. Members of many different churches have brought food, offered prayers, sat with them in the hospital and even assisted with work around their home. The Burnleys have hope because of the love shown by this community.