Our honoree this year is a remarkable woman with a remarkable journey through cancer. Laurie and husband Jeff have lived in the Village for nine years. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, she spent many of her working years in Grand Rapids, Michigan as a pediatric respiratory therapist. Since moving to HSV, Laurie has always worked at Good Samaritan, first in Health Care and now in Independent Living, where she is the Assistant Manager of Senior Living. The Boor’s family includes their five “fur babies,” – three dogs and two cats.
Laurie’s journey through cancer began in August of 2010. She found a lump in her breast and went to her doctor to have it checked out. The doctor wasn’t overly concerned, but sent her to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Rapids for a more in-depth examination. By that Friday she knew she had breast cancer. This came as a complete surprise (she just about to celebrate her 47th birthday when she was diagnosed), and it sent her on a whirlwind where her life was no longer in her hands, but rather in the hands of the doctors who would set her treatment schedule. She had a left breast mastectomy in October of 2010, with 35 lymph nodes removed. She followed that with six months of “hard core” chemotherapy, a year of additional chemo and six months of radiation.
Laurie is adopted. Incredibly, she, her adoptive mother and an aunt were all diagnosed with breast cancer within two years of each other. These ladies have no genetic links between them. Truly, cancer can strike anyone and everyone in our various circles of family and friends.
Having handled her cancer treatments very well, Laurie was on the path to begin breast reconstruction. Just when she was ready to start, she found an unrelated lump on her neck. While she was having that examined, a swollen lymph node under her right arm was discovered! That biopsy found that she had chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). It is believed that CLL came on her as a second cancer, entirely unrelated to her breast cancer.
Having just gone through her chemo and radiation treatments and because CLL is slow to progress, Laurie’s doctors decided she could go forward with her breast reconstruction and take a “wait and see” position regarding the CLL. She lived the next ten years without any symptoms or other issues. About three years ago she discovered more swollen lymph nodes and went back to her oncologist. Yes, she was facing a second bout of CLL, requiring another six months of chemotherapy. Fortunately, she experienced minimal side effects this time, and she could keep on working. Even though she had to suspend her treatments due to an allergic reaction, now, one year later, she remains in remission.
Laurie got involved in HSV’s Cancer Walk through her friendship with Good Sam’s Christy Etheridge (who remains on the Cancer Walk committee). She has served as volunteer coordinator and helps with the bake sale. She is always willing to pitch in wherever necessary.
Cancer can take a toll on one’s life and one’s family. Laurie can’t say enough about how supportive her amazing husband Jeff has been through everything. Their challenges included several during the first year of their marriage. They felt those challenges ensured that they could face anything together. They celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last October.
Laurie says she is honored and humbled to be this year’s honoree. When she thinks about her cancer journey, she remarks that some who face cancer may say “why me?” Laurie says “why not me?” Clearly no one deserves to go through this, but those who do, like Laurie, must find a way to deal with it. Laurie feels fortunate to have a great job, a very supportive circle of friends here and everywhere she has lived, comprehensive health insurance and an outstanding team of doctors to see her through. As she is grateful for all these blessings, we are grateful to know her and be inspired by her story.
Tom grew up in Booneville, AR and attended Oklahoma State University where he received a degree in Industrial Engineering. He worked as an executive for several large corporations in the International Distribution area. After moving to New Jersey, he started Bryant Staffing and owned the company for 38 years.
In 2003, Tom and Jean moved to Hot Springs Village and built their Victorian dream home on Lake Balboa. After several years of enjoying retirement and playing golf, Tom realized he wanted to contribute to the Hot Springs Village community. He was President of the Hot Springs Village Community Foundation where he was instrumental in initiating the Annual Benefit Concert as well as their endowment program and the Hot Springs Village Arts Council. He served on the Hot Springs Village Property Owners Association Board, the Metro Plan Board, the Garland County Equalization Board and the Diamante Country Club Advisory Board. He was a founding board member and Vice President of Arkansas Learning Through The Arts and a founding board member and President of the Ouachita Speakers Series.
Tom had gastrointestinal problems for about six months prior to his diagnosis of anal cancer. He received 30 radiation treatments along with chemotherapy and immunotherapy. After six months his colonoscopy showed he was cancer free, but his follow-up MRI showed he had cancer in his right lung. After having more radiation and chemotherapy, the cancer in his lung was gone.
It was a tough battle. Throughout his treatment, Tom was always positive about “beating this thing.” He was hospitalized several times for atrial fibrillation and aspiration pneumonia. Unfortunately, the cancer had metastasized to his liver and the chemotherapy and immunotherapy did not help. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2018 and passed away on September 2, 2020. He donated his body to the Genesis Program at the Medical Education & Research Institute (MERI) in Memphis, TN for research purposes.
Tom and Jean were married for 51 years and have two daughters and five grandchildren. They were fortunate that when his children and grandchildren came to visit, he was feeling fairly well and could spend quality time with them.
After Tom passed away, Jean attended her first Cancer Walk. She also started the “Tom R. Bryant Memorial” endowment in his memory. This endowment supports “Our Promise” which originated in Hot Springs by cancer care specialists. It is a non-profit that provides financial, professional and educational assistance to cancer patients and their families. The “Our Promise House” is being built in Hot Springs for patients who need a place away from home while they are receiving daily treatment for cancer.
Jean would like Tom to be remembered for his leadership in the organizations that he chose to support. His vision challenged these organizations to consider their mission and long-term goals. He was a valuable contributor to the community. Donations may be made to the Thomas R. Bryant Memorial Endowment through the Hot Springs Village Community Foundation or arcf.org.