Faith, family and community: Woman keeps positive outlook while battling cancer

Published 10:15 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

COOLEEMEE – Paula Campbell was a busy woman.

As a pre-school teacher at Unity Presbyterian in Woodleaf, a mother and grandmother of eight, and volunteer work as food pantry director and secretary at First Baptist here, her time was filled.

But she was tired.

Really tired.

She had noticed the feeling for a while, but late last summer told her doctor that something had to be done. She didn’t have the energy to complete every day chores.

Doctors first suspected her heart, but a blood test revealed low counts, and she was put in the hospital for a transfusion.

Then the diagnosis: MDS, myelodysplastic syndrome. Blood cells in her blood marrow were abnormal.

That was in September, and her life has been a whirlwind of doctor visits and treatments ever since. This month, she is having a bone marrow biopsy; followed by either another round of chemo treatments or a bone marrow transplant.

The transplant is the only “cure,” and that only works part of the time. It will require weeks of isolation and care.

A donor has been located, and Campbell can’t help but think about how special a person must be to go through what a donor has to do for another person – another person that don’t even know.

Still, she has a positive attitude.

“When I first heard the diagnosis, I was relieved because I finally knew what was making me so exhausted,” she said. “But I was a little bit scared, too.”

Then, she turned to her faith.

“God’s got this. Whatever will happen is in his hands. I’m taking it day to day. I think it’s harder on my kids than it is on me.

“I’m gonna be OK and get through it. There’s a lot in front of me, but it is going to be OK.”

Sure, she has tough days, but a positive attitude helps her get through, she said.

“I’m really close to God, so that’s what is going to get me through this.”

She is also humbled by support from the community, and in her own words, is learning how to accept help.

A breakfast to raise money for her care will be held Saturday morning.

“It makes you feel super that people really care enough to do what they’re doing,” she said.