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Lights of Love at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

This holiday season hope will shine brightly this holiday season at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, as we pay tribute to local cancer patients and their families with our own special Lights of Love tree. Lights will be lit in the thousands in honor and memory of loved ones, and donations to the beloved holiday event will benefit oncology patients receiving treatments at the Phoebe Cancer Center.

Phoebe Cancer Center Tree Lighting Ceremony Date

• Phoebe Putney Hospital Entrance: Thursday, December 1, 2022 @ 7 p.m.

Donate now to ensure patients are
able to stay local for treatment and care.

A symbolic light of love can be purchased for a suggested $25 each. Donations can be sent to Lights of Love, PO Box 3770, Albany, GA 31706. For questions and more information, please contact Phoebe Foundation at 229-312-4483. Lights of Love is more than a holiday event, it is a year-round project, and your gifts are welcome at any time.

2022 Tree Lighter, Phoebe Cancer Center - Albany, Wright Woodall

Live Tree Lighting Ceremony: Thursday, December 1, 2022 @ 7 p.m.

If you’ve spent much time in Albany, Woodall is a name you know. Wright Woodall’s parents moved to the city in 1948, and – other than his time at the University of Georgia – Wright has spent his entire life in Albany. When his life depended on advanced cancer care, Wright saw no reason to leave home. “I never felt the need to go to another cancer center because Phoebe is state-of-the-art,” he said.

Wright joined the family business after studying economics at UGA, helping his father and brother start a chain of local gas stations and convenience stores that bear the family name. “The business has been good to us. We get to serve some great people, and you get to know a lot of people,” Wright said.

Many of those regular customers supported Wright when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. “I’m fortunate to have a great family and lots of friends, but so many people I didn’t really know reached out. It was unbelievable the prayer lists I ended up on and the people I heard from.”

Wright’s cancer was discovered after a scan during his annual physical in 2017 showed several spots on his left lung. Wright is grateful that his primary care physician, Dr. Joe Jackson, pushed to uncover a definitive answer rather than just observing it for a few months. Ultimately, a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. “Before Dr. (Chirag) Jani came in that night, we thought the worst. He said, ‘it’s going to be okay.’ And when your doctor says that, and you believe he means it, you believe it’s going to be okay,” Wright said.

Dr. Jani referred Wright to one of the country’s foremost lung cancer experts at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta to increase his chances of being prescribed Keytruda. That immunotherapy drug is now a common and successful treatment for multiple forms of cancer, but five years ago, it was still experimental and approved for use only in specific cases.

“I had the option of having my treatment there at Emory with the lung cancer guru, but I opted to have it here because I knew the level of care at Phoebe was great, and I wanted to be at home,” Wright said.

Soon, he began six months of chemotherapy at the Phoebe Cancer Center. Though difficult, the treatments were not something he dreaded. “I used to look forward to going to treatment, and nobody looks forward to chemo, but you get waited on hand and foot. I always jokingly said, ‘I call it the Ritz at Phoebe.’ Other than fatigue, I didn’t have any significant side effects from the chemo,” Wright said.

He continued to take Keytruda for two and a half years and had no further problems until June 2021. When he started having involuntary movement in his left arm, an MRI showed the lung cancer had spread to his brain. Once again, a local physician and family friend put Wright at ease.

“Dr. (Jay) McAfee said, ‘it’s not a death sentence,’ and I immediately felt hopeful,” Wright said. “The doctors I’ve dealt with are two of the best. The cancer center at Phoebe is second to none, and I would not go anywhere else.”

Dr. Kim Brown performed surgery at Phoebe to remove the brain tumor. “She’s outstanding and we’re fortunate to have a neurosurgeon of her caliber in Albany,” Wright said. The radiation treatments that followed were successful. Now, Wright gets regular MRI and CT scans to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned, but he remains in good health and good spirits.

“He has been so positive over the last five years,” his wife, Paula said. “Everyone comments on his attitude and how upbeat he has continued to be. He never once laid around feeling sorry for himself. He never laid around because he didn’t feel well. He is determined that life, as our family knows it, will go on as normal.”

Still, Wright knows “normal” is a little different these days. “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the cancer in some form or fashion. Over time, you’ve got to work your way through it. You’ve got to work your way through that mental side of cancer,” he said.

And he’s willing to offer a helping hand to others walking the path he’s been down. “I’ve had people call me who have been diagnosed, and I’m glad to talk to anybody. I just tell them keep your head up, have a good attitude and do what your doctors tell you to,” Wright said. “You’ve got to assume you’re going to be fine.”

Thanks to the expertise of his care teams, the love of his family, the support of his community and his own determination, Wright Woodall is doing better than just fine. He is as happy as ever, and if he runs into you the next time you’re filling up your tank at a Woodall’s, he’ll gladly stop for a friendly chat.