Our Stories

As a breast cancer survivor, Cynthia Pearce understands how short and precious life can be. Shortly after her chemo port (a small device implanted under the skin to allow easy access to the bloodstream) was removed following chemotherapy treatment, Pearce fashioned the medi­cal device into a one-of-a-kind necklace that she often wears in celebration of life after cancer.

A Survivor's Gift

“When you’re first diagnosed with cancer, you never have a day where it doesn’t hit you that the disease can take your life,” said Pearce, 73. “After five years in remission, I don’t think about it every single day anymore. But when I wear this port necklace, I think about the importance of my survival and how every single day is a gift — and that gift is wonderful.”  Diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in November 2008, Pearce was told by the first oncologist who evaluated her that she would only survive six months to a year. Seeking a second opinion, Pearce found a “positive and forward-thinking” attitude in Martha Jefferson oncologist Dr. Rob Pritchard, who had a plan for fighting her disease. Pearce underwent a course of treatment that included radiation, six months of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy.

Grateful for the kind, compassionate care she received from Pritchard, along with radiation oncologist Dr. Sylvia Hendrix and the team of nurses at Martha Jefferson’s Infusion Center, Pearce and her husband, Paul, have become faithful supporters of the hospital. Recognized for their generosity as 2013 and 2014 members of the Martha Jefferson President’s Circle, the Ivy residents have provided important philanthropic support for the educational and profes¬sional development needs of nurses working at Martha Jefferson’s Infusion Center and for the hospital’s Palliative Care program.

“The medical staff at Martha Jefferson saved my life — what more could I ask for?” said Cynthia, who also emphasizes the importance of a good sense of humor; her smart, funny and thoughtful husband; and a supportive family — including sons Stuart and Steve, their wives, and five wonderful grandchildren — to her successful recovery and healing. “Martha Jefferson’s a wonderful and caring hospital. As Paul and I approached my treatments, instead of being frightened, we looked forward to each appointment because finally — after so many tests and trying to figure out where the cancer started — there was relief that something was being done to fight this disease. And the nurses in the Infusion Center were so dedicated to the patients. They keep an eye on you and check on you every few minutes to make sure you feel OK and that the medicine is being administered correctly. They were very careful and very caring.”

Though Pearce never had to use Palliative Care services during her treatments, she and Paul believe the program is an important element of Martha Jefferson’s Caring Tradition. The couple has shown enthusiastic support for Palliative Care, which is funded significantly by philanthropy. “We wanted to put our money where it would be most useful,” said Paul, who retired as a pilot for Delta Airlines. “It sounded like a good idea to contribute to Palliative Care, and we both may need it someday. Giving to this program seemed like a great way to help people in our community as they face a life-changing illness.”

The Pearces also support Martha Jefferson and other charitable organizations with their time. Cynthia has volunteered in the Orthopaedics Unit at the hospital, and the couple has volunteered together to help out at the springtime Martha Jefferson fund raising race.

In addition to their volunteer work, the Pearces are avid travelers, recalling their visit to the Netherlands to see the tulips in bloom and sailing on the Queen Mary luxury ocean liner. Other trips have taken them to such far-flung destinations as New Zealand and Antarctica. Cynthia and Paul also enjoy taking excursions in their Airstream travel trailer and have visited all 50 U.S. states and many national and state parks, sometimes helping out with work projects to prepare park sites for summer visitors. And while their travels have taken them across the globe, the Pearces love the mountains of Virginia and Charlottesville’s vibrant community.

“We have been so blessed with an absolutely wonderful life, despite the cancer, that we want to give back whenever and however we can,” Cynthia said. “We also volunteer because we enjoy being with people, and we feel it’s just important to do whatever you can to help others. We want to do all we can to support Martha Jefferson because it’s such an important institution for this community. The hospital is in good hands, with strong leadership and a medical team that really cares about the patient experience.”


500 Martha Jefferson Drive
Charlottesville, Virginia 22911
Phone: (434) 654-8258
Fax: (434) 654-7316





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