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Miracle keeps Linda alive

By John Estridge, Editor

Brookville resident Linda Runyon can breathe and enjoy life today because of a miracle that started five years ago.

In April 2013, Linda had been sent home from an area hospital with a death sentence. Fighting colon cancer, doctors told Linda she had about two months to live.

However, a series of interlocking incidents brought Linda and her husband, Robert Runyon, to Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Zion, Ill.

And today she is healthy, happy and five years free of the cancer that nearly took her life.

According to Linda, her saga began about one year prior to her diagnosis. She was having digestive problems, and her gall bladder was removed. It did not help anything.

“I had been sick all the time,” Linda said. “I felt tired all the time. I didn't want to eat. I felt nauseous. Nothing tasted good. I wanted to sleep all the time, but I couldn't sleep because I felt too bad to sleep.”

In April 2013, Linda made an appointment with a doctor. The general practitioner felt something in her stomach. He ordered a CAT scan. She was also sent to a surgeon. The surgeon took one look at the CAT scan and told her to go directly to the hospital.

“He said 'no packing a bag, no going home, you go straight to the hospital,'” Linda said.

She was there a week before a surgeon at the hospital did exploratory surgery. After the surgery, the surgeon told Robert there was nothing to be done for Linda. She remained in the hospital for three weeks. During that time, she received a colostomy and an ileostomy.

They went home and were joined by David, a son and his wife, Lotchi. They helped care for Linda. Another son, Andrew, who is a flight attendant, came to visit in early May 2013. He arrived about 8 or 9 p.m. They all went to sit on the front porch. However, Linda tired easily and felt bad. Thus, she went to bed even though she wanted to talk to everyone.

Andrew followed Linda into the house. The television had been left on. And Andrew saw a commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. He immediately initiated a call to CTCA.

It took some time. David took over the phone for Andrew. Linda made it to the doorway of the kitchen to listen to what was going on.

CTCA paid for train tickets for Robert and Linda to come to Chicago. From the Chicago Union Train Station, CTCA sent a car to pick them up and take them to the facility located in Zion, Ill., which is 50 miles north of Chicago.

The hospital also offered to provide the Runyons meals and lodging during the first trip.

“I stood there and said 'that's where I want to go,'” Linda said. “They didn't even know I was standing there. It was arranged at that time.”

Before she left for Zion, she had a follow-up appointment with her surgeon. When he found out she was going to CTCA, he begged her not to go. She never found out why, but she wanted to take the chance and get someone else to look at her case. She felt she had nothing to lose.

She arrived at the Zion hospital around May 7 or 8, 2013.

Linda was in very bad shape at that time. She could barely walk and was using a walker. When she arrived at the Zion, Ill., CTCA, they immediately admitted her.

“Her heart was beating too fast,” Robert said of Linda's arrival at the Zion hospital. “Her kidneys were shutting down. Her electrolytes were all messed up.”

Immediately, Linda was seen by a kidney specialist. That doctor said Linda was extremely dehydrated. She put Linda on fluid and told the Runyons if Linda's kidneys started functioning, Linda would not have to go on dialysis.

Linda's kidneys began to function, and she did not need to go on dialysis. They, then, started Linda on chemo treatments, starting on May 23, 2013, which is also Linda's birthday.

“I didn't mind doing the chemo because they had given me hope,” Linda said. “Nobody else had given me hope. They were giving me hope, and yes, we can do this.”

The surgeon, Harold Huss, met with the family and scheduled surgery for September 2013. He told the family he could take out her cancer and do away with the colostomy and ileostomy.

“It came down exactly the way he said,” Robert said.

In mid-August, they stopped the chemo, and on Sept. 18, 2013, Dr. Huss performed the 12-hour surgery on the colon cancer.

“(Huss) told Bob he got all the cancer,” Linda said. “Once I woke up from the surgery, and they told me they got it all, I said to myself 'I got it whipped.' I knew I had to go through chemo and all, but that was a piece of cake compared to what I'd been through.”

Linda and Robert went for a follow-up appointment with Huss one month later. He told them the cancer was gone. According to Linda, subsequent blood tests proved there was no cancer.

Following her surgery recuperation, Linda underwent more chemo treatments. She took those through May 2014. Then, on Aug. 11, 2014, they reversed her ileostomy, the final event in her situation as the colostomy had already been reversed.

While she went to the Zion hospital, Linda and Robert said the treatment is a full-body treatment which includes diet, vitamins and herbs. Linda said it was also very spiritual. People would gather together and pray. The spontaneous prayers sometimes took place in hallways, in rooms and other places.

“I like that,” Robert said.

During their travels to Zion, Linda received free train tickets to Chicago. Robert had to pay his way, but he was allowed to stay with Linda in a sleeper compartment in case he had to do anything with her colostomy or ileostomy.

They had to leave from the Connersville train station at 3:46 a.m., to head toward Zion.

Now, Linda is able to eat what she wants; however, she has put herself on a diet. She does not eat sugar when possible. She also cut out nitrites and she severely cut down on red meat. She walks 10,000 steps per day, and she takes herbs and vitamins. When she received her cancer diagnosis, Linda was 61. She is 66 today.

Recently, she returned to Zion, Ill., and the CTCA for her five-year, cancer-free celebration. She added her autographed leaf to the survivor's brass tree.

“That was one of her goals, to get her name on a tree,” Robert said.

“I picked up their literature (the first time she went to the Zion hospital) and read about the tree and about them planting a tree if I last five years,” Linda said. “I thought to myself 'I want to be on that tree. I want to get my name on that tree. I want that tree planted for me.' That was my goal to make it five years. I told David that and I told Bob that. And they just looked at me. I knew this (cancer) was bad. It was really bad, but I told myself 'I'm going to make it.' I guess I was just positive.”

Linda believes from the television commercial on the night she had to go back to bed to her five-year celebration has been a miracle of God. She also said the five years that were added to her life have been very good years.

“It meant that I got to be alive longer, enjoy things more and see my grandchildren grow,” Linda said. “I had a new grandchild since then. It means a lot that I'm still alive.

“If we had listened to the people here, I would not be alive right now,” she continued. “I wouldn't be seeing this. It is just amazing to be alive.”