MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Every Tuesday, as part of our Community Changers series, we highlight organizations making a positive impact in our community. This week, we caught up with a group brightening spirits during difficult times.

Rosemary Alexander-Ledbetter was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in May. Every two weeks, Rosemary goes to West Cancer Clinic in DeSoto County.

“Absolutely, unbelievably, my world was turned upside down,” Rosemary said. “The treatments is chemotherapy and immunotherapy. I am stage four so there’s no way they can get rid of it but what they can do is stop the spread.”

Cancer can be isolating and that can take you to a dark place. When Rosemary received a Hope Basket from DeSoto Hope, it was like a basket of sunshine.

“These people really do their homework,” Rosemary said. “Esophageal cancer is not common. But they knew that the medication was going to cause cold sensations.”

DeSoto Hope is a non profit organization providing gift baskets to cancer patients in DeSoto County. They know what items are most needed because each member of the organization has gone toe to toe with cancer.

Tracy Gallagher is the founder as well as a breast cancer survivor.

“Exactly fourteen days after my first treatment, my hair started coming out in clumps. And my husband shaved it for me,” Tracy said. “The hair shafts were irritated so i took tylenol and i also had a silk pillowcase. So we put silk pillowcases in our baskets to help.”

Ashleigh Parker is the co-director and she was diagnosed in 2019 with stage 4 colorectal cancer. She added heating packs into the baskets because her treatments caused cold sensitivity.

“Your fingers and toes and everything gets super cold, Ashleigh said. “And if you touch anything…it feels like electric shock.”

You’ll see bamboo utensils in many baskets as well.

“I couldn’t drink out of anything metal,” Ashleigh said. “Or eat with a metal spoon or it would taste absolutely terrible.”

When Rosemary’s Hope Basket showed up on her front porch, it meant the world!

“It makes you feel like you’re not alone,” Rosemary said.

That is why our anonymous donor wanted to give DeSoto Hope a thousand dollars. Because when you offer hope, encouragement and support during a dark season in someone’s life, you offer the whole community sunshine.

A true Community Changer.

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Mary Alexander-Ledbetter: Esophageal Cancer: Nonsmoker/non drinker

Symptoms:“My symptoms were very strange. I went to the doctor because I had ringing in my ears. I became very anemic because I was on blood thinners for a cardiac condition I had. The problem was the blood thinner was causing a mass in my esophagus to bleed. And I was very anemic. So that’s what brought me to the doctor. The dizziness, the ringing in my ear and the anemia. Just not feeling well.”

Ashleigh Parker: Colorectal Cancer: Caught during a colonoscopy
Symptoms: “Some of my symptoms were also some symptoms that could easily be explained away with stress, being a mom in her forties with four kids. I had an urgency to go the restroom. I did have some bleeding. But I never had any pain or anything like that, so I went to the doctor and talked about some things, and he offered a colonoscopy at the time, and we did it. And it was discovered during a colonoscopy.”

Treatments: “I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colorectal Cancer in 2019. I was treated in Memphis at Baptist Cancer Center. I received three months of chemotherapy. Liver resection surgery. Then I had twenty-five treatments of radiation and took chemo at the same time.  After that I had my final cancer removing surgery here in Memphis. That was my colon surgery. I have a permanent colostomy.  Then I finished up with a little bit of chemo after that. Some oral chemo because I had it in one lymph node still. But I’m two years and a few months cancer free.”

Tracy Gallagher: Triple Negative Breast Cancer Symptoms/Treatments: Caught during routine Mammogram:  “I started routine Mammograms when I was forty. And at forty-six, I went in for a routine mammogram. They called me back which they’ve done serval times. Didn’t think anything about it. I could not feel anything. I was diagnosed in November of 2018. From there I learned that it was triple negative which is an aggressive kind of breast cancer. I lad a lumpectomy and started chemo. An aggressive chemo called Red Devil. During that, I learned that I had a genetic mutation called BRAC1. Because of that, I also had a double mastectomy, reconstruction, and a hysterectomy all in 2019.  I had sixteen chemos and 6 surgeries in one year. “