As far back as she can remember, Tracy Curry has faced cancer head on. Her grandmother died from the disease and a few years later, she watched her mother win a battle with breast cancer; but by 2008, Curry and her family had enough.
“It’s a cause that’s always been so close to our hearts,” Curry said. “My husband and I talked endlessly about how there needed to be more cancer services in Lebanon, so we decided it was time to help.” A generous donation by the Curry family brought the 3,000 square-foot Curry Cancer Center to fruition in February 2008. “We got cards and calls from people who were so happy it opened. I knew it in my heart, but it was really great to finally hear and see how much people needed it.”
“That generous gift from the Curry family made it possible for countless local families to avoid a daily trip to Springfield for treatment,” said Kenneth Howe, chairman of the Mercy Hospital Lebanon Board of Directors. Patients immediately noticed the center’s inviting atmosphere, complete with treatment chairs, colorful exam rooms and more than a dozen dedicated Mercy co-workers.
“The people there are the warmest, most caring and compassionate people you’ll ever meet,” said Curry. And she would know; she ended up needing their services. “It’s kind of ironic. That fall, I’d just gotten my salon up and running in Lebanon when I found a lump. I was able to get into the center very quickly for a mammogram and before I knew it, I was undergoing surgery for breast cancer.” Curry had a lumpectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. “It was an eye-opening experience, especially after seeing it from the eyes of a donor.”
Curry, now 52, returns to the center every year for regular mammograms. “I’ve been very aware of the importance of regular checkups,” she said. “Just a couple of minutes can really save your life.” Her latest trip was in late July 2014, but for a much different reason. The center’s new victory bell, which will be used by patients to symbolize a winning battle over cancer, has been named in her honor.
“It was a total surprise,” Curry recalled. “When the folks at Mercy Foundation called and asked if I was okay with that, I said, ‘absolutely!’” Curry was even asked to give the symbolic first ring. “I started bawling. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. I’m just honored and happy at the same time.” However, due to illness, Curry was unable to attend the bell-ringing and dedication on July 29. Another ally in the fight against cancer – 15-year-old Alee Becker, organizer of the Peace Love Cure 5K – rang the bell in her honor.
Years after the center opened, the Curry family’s generosity continues to heal and inspire. “We’ve seen Lebanon continue to give from the heart,” said Karen Simpson-Neasby, vice president of Mercy Health Foundation. “From fundraisers at Joel E. Barber C-5 Schools, to Alee Becker’s Peace, Love, Cure 5K, to gifts in memory of loves ones, it’s been quite an outpouring.”
Curry hopes the bell will help ring in a new era of awareness. “I’m excited for everyone to have that feeling of being finished with treatment after such a difficult journey,” Curry said. “I know how that feels. Ring it as hard as you can.”
Mercy Hospital Lebanon’s Curry Cancer Center, located at 100 Hospital Dr., offers Lebanon-area patients and their families high quality cancer care combined with educational, emotional and spiritual support. For more information on the center, call (417) 533-6469. To learn how to help cancer patients, you can reach Simpson-Neasby at (417) 533-6192.