As a couple faced their own cancers, the Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital staff kept them informed and well cared for.

Communicating to conquer cancer

Image Jeff Hughes And Kathy Tillar Hughes Mjh Cancer Center Image Jeff Hughes And Kathy Tillar Hughes Mjh Cancer Center Image Jeff Hughes And Kathy Tillar Hughes Mjh Cancer Center

Charlottesville couple Kathy and Jeff Hughes have been together for 21 years, and like many couples, have faced big challenges and great support during their married lives.

They, however, may be one of only a few couples who can thank the staff of Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital for supporting them during their individual cancer treatments and in their individual roles as caregivers.

The staff’s excellent care and guidance began in May 2012, when Kathy was diagnosed with an aggressive but early-stage form of breast cancer. She started chemo­therapy that lasted until September 2012, and then underwent a double mastectomy that October. The following month, she started radiation treatments.

“We were immediately proactive and aggressive,” said Kathy, a physical education teacher at Murray Elementary School.

Around the same time Kathy was undergoing radiation treatments, Jeff, a sales manager, noticed a pea-sized knot in his neck. He had it checked, and was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer in December 2012.

Jeff’s treatments, which included radiation, chemotherapy and surgery to remove 20 lymph nodes, began in January 2013 and ended in March 2013. His results were outstanding — much better than most patients can expect with the same type of cancer.

And two weeks after his treatments ended, Kathy underwent reconstruction surgery.

“I went from being the patient to being the caregiver within two weeks,” recalled Kathy. “So I took care of Jeff, and then he was better. Then I had reconstructive surgery, and he took care of me. This back-and-forth was challenging, but we just dealt with it. We’re both cancer-free now.”


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