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Lovie Ward has been a patient at the Alton Memorial Hospital Cancer and Infusion Center for the past several months, and during that time a lot of treatment has happened. It just so happens that a large portion of that treatment has been administered by Lovie to other people.
An Alton resident, Lovie has been able to “ring the bell” near the exit to the office as a signal that her treatments are complete. But even as she returns for maintenance treatments, the staff and fellow patients – and their stomachs – eagerly anticipate that day.
“Lovie continually tries to help other patients feel better, even as she was going through treatments herself,” said Sherri Henson, manager of the Infusion Center. “She would sing to patients, bring treats for staff and patients, and is just very caring to everyone. She really connected with the other patients to help get them through their treatments.”
For Lovie, it comes naturally. She might know all the other Infusion Center patients as well as the staff does.
“I felt like my cancer was an assignment for me,” she said. “Due to the pandemic, patients couldn’t always take someone with them to their treatments. God gave me this condition so I could minister to these people. One man was so bad off that he felt like ending it all, but after talking with him I was glad to hear that he was feeling more encouraged.”
And then there are the snacks. Lovie loads up before arriving at the Infusion Center with bags full of containers with tasty items such as Greek salad and brownies. You don’t even have to return the containers to her.
“I get them all from the Dollar Store,” she said. “It’s just something I do to make the day a little brighter. Be good to people and they will be good to you. I also sing to them. ‘We all need somebody to lean on.’ The other patients say that often makes them feel more comfortable sitting in here.”
Lovie, 68, is now done with chemotherapy after a series of mammograms in late 2020 showed that she had stage 2 cancer in her left breast. Dr. Chris Aldridge, a surgeon on staff at Alton Memorial Hospital, performed a double mastectomy Feb. 9, 2021, and then Lovie started chemotherapy toward the end of March.
“My first regimen was every two weeks, every other Thursday for maybe three hours,” Lovie said. “I did that for two months, then I started going every week for 12 weeks.”
A bout with congestive heart failure interrupted the treatment for six weeks and she had a defibrillator put in Nov. 3. Lovie is doing well now with her heart – which certainly has a double meaning in her case.
“I’m batting 1,000,” she said. “You just have to know your limits for yourself. But helping other people is the least we can do. And the staff at the Infusion Center makes you want to do that. They are just the best group. We laugh together and pray together.”
Edna Earnheart of the Infusion Center can attest to that. Edna had a family situation recently, and Lovie was one of the first she talked with about it.
“Lovie prayed for me and it helped so much,” Earnheart said. “She is just a very special person. This whole place brightens up when she’s here.”
Lovie worked for more than 40 years in the insurance business at Millers Mutual in Alton. She and her husband, Lee, have been married 41 years and have two children and two grandchildren.
But her “unofficial” family spreads throughout the Infusion Center and beyond.
Pictured above: Lovie Ward (center) with her good friends at the AMH Cancer and Infusion Center.