, Corbin, KY

November 19, 2012

Corbin woman battles with lung cancer

The Times-Tribune

CORBIN — By Becky Killian, Editor

In 2008, Brenda Sue Gentry, of Corbin, had suffered about a year of flu-like symptoms and treatments for conditions ranging from strep to bronchitis.

When her symptoms worsened, Gentry had a CT scan that revealed the cause of her ongoing symptoms: lung cancer.

Certain that she was going to die, Gentry began to decide who should get her possessions, then one person made her change her attitude about her illness — her son, Derrick Felts, who was then 14 and needed his mother to take care of him.

At that moment, Gentry said she thought, “I’m not going to die. I’m not ready to leave.”

Now 47, Gentry continues her battle against the slow-moving cancer that required her to have surgeries in 2008 and 2010.

Four weeks after her first surgery, Gentry returned to her job as kitchen manager at Corbin High School, but her breathing worsened. Knowing that going on oxygen full-time would mean she couldn’t work, Gentry said she struggled with her breathing for a year and a half.

“That was one of the hardest things for me to do was to give my job up,” Gentry said.

After working since she was 13, Gentry took early retirement, and it felt like her whole world stopped. However, Gentry said she soon found other activities that kept her active, like sewing, drawing and writing, to keep her mind occupied. Her favorite by far though is the simple act of coloring.

“That is the most relaxing thing for me,” Gentry said, adding that her favorite crayon color is red.

In April 2011, Gentry began chemotherapy and she said she chose to have her treatments at Commonwealth Cancer Center in Corbin. The center had been recommended by her sister, Jean Liford, who had also been treated there during her fight with lung cancer.  

“That’s a wonderful place down there,” Gentry said about the center, adding she has been treated lovingly, respectfully and with great care there.

After 24 treatments, Gentry continues her chemotherapy, which is administered three days in a row every three weeks.

The treatments have caused Gentry some side effects, but for the most part she said she does “pretty good.”

One side effect is the treatments have caused Gentry to lose her hair twice throughout her treatment. The first time, Gentry said she was scared but her mother-in-law helped her through it by comforting her and reminding her of how pretty she is.

It’s support like that that leads Gentry to credit her family for the crucial support they have given her throughout her battle with cancer.

“It makes a difference when you’ve got a good support team,” Gentry said.

That team includes her husband, Darrell Gentry, her mom, Edna Simpson, her six sisters and her mother- and father-in-law.

Although her treatments do impact her energy level, Gentry said she still tries to remain as active as she can.

“Just because you’ve got cancer don’t mean you can’t live a normal life,” Gentry said.