Helping others despite a shocking diagnosis

Terry Stevenson UNTHSC

Terry Stevenson almost couldn’t believe the words she was hearing about the results of a recent CT scan: “Metastatic cancer ….”

But a diagnosis of stage four metastatic lung cancer hasn’t kept her from the job she loves.

Stevenson, a Clinic Service Representative Lead at UNT Health Science Center, says she thrives on the work she does in helping ensure patients are treated with dignity and compassion.

“There’s no point in feeling sorry for ourselves,” she said. “What good does it do? If we are helping others, we are getting blessings in return.”

When Stevenson, 56, received her shocking diagnosis, she knew exactly how she wanted to proceed. She told her primary care physician she wanted Albert Yurvati, DO, Chair of Surgery, as her surgeon, and she wanted to receive treatment from the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, which is a UNTHSC research partner.

Both Dr. Yurvati and her oncologist, Bibas Reddy, DO, are graduates of Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, and that was important to her.
“I know the foundation laid for them to be a graduate of this school,” she said, “and I trust that foundation. I truly believe in what we do here for students and patients.”

Although she originally was given only three months to live, she took the grim news in stride.

“Three month’s is man’s time,” she said. “God’s statistics are totally different.”

Now, nine months after Dr. Yurvati’s surgery to biopsy lymph nodes and after six rounds of heavy chemotherapy, Stevenson is on maintenance chemo—and still working. The cancer is no longer spreading, and she’ll continue maintenance chemo “until my body says it can’t take any more or the cancer starts to spread again.”

Meanwhile, she continues to work at a job that she tackles daily with integrity and compassion. Among her many contributions is making sure people who travel from out of state for surgery with Dr. Yurvati have everything they need, prompting one patient to call her his “guardian angel.” Read the story.

“Terry definitely serves others first,” Dr. Yurvati said. “She is a very special lady with a big heart who is a great team member.”

DeeAnn McKinney, Assistant to the Chair of Surgery, agrees.

“Terry is such a caring person who works diligently to see that our patients are treated with dignity and compassion,” she said. “She takes the time to listen when assistance is needed or questions arise. She insists that things are done right.”

Stevenson says her values come in part from her husband, Tom. He had polio and continues to struggle with pain and mobility. Yet, when she asks how he is, he always responds, “I’m up—it’s a good day!”

“He never stops,” she said. “I’ve learned not to tell him he can’t do something—he’ll find a way.”

Her cancer battle has been humbling.

“The biggest lesson I’ve learned is humility,” she said. “I learned I’m not as strong as I thought I was, physically and mentally. The hardest part is to accept help from others. I’m used to giving. But if I don’t accept others’ help, I’m denying them the blessings that come from giving. What right do I have to deny those blessings to other people now?”

Joanne Mize, Director of Clinical Operations, said she’s grateful for Stephenson’s dedication.

“When Terry came to me with the news of her illness, my immediate response was ‘take as much time as you need,’” Mize said. “True to form, Terry said that she ‘needed and wanted’ to be here at work with her team. Knowing Terry’s commitment to the Surgery and Dermatology clinics and UNTHSC, I immediately understood why.

“The Surgery and Dermatology clinic faculty and staff function very effectively as a team. I knew Terry’s illness would require extensive time out of the office, but because of the great team we have in place, we were able to make the necessary accommodations. We will support Terry in her wish to keep working as long she is able to.”

Recent News

  • Our People
|Sep 29, 2023

Dr. Michael Clearfield the inaugural winner of the Beyer, Everett, and Luibel Memorial Medal

For more than two decades, Dr. Michael B. Clearfield, DO, MACOI, FACP, has developed the Department of Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine into one of the largest and most productive academically in the osteopathic profession, serving as the chair from 1982-...
Kari Northeim 2 (002)[66]
  • Our People
|Sep 28, 2023

HSC’s Dr. Kari Northeim and Parker County collaborators awarded SAMHSA grant for rural EMS training and education

Dr. Kari Northeim, School of Public Health assistant professor of population and community health at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, has been awarded the SAMHSA Rural EMS Training and Education grant in conjunction with HSC community partners, Parker County Hospi...
Graci Finco
  • Research
|Sep 28, 2023

SBS researchers publish innovative study in Nature Scientific Reports 

People with leg amputations, including those with diabetes, run the risk of overuse injuries like osteoarthritis, muscle atrophy or bone breaks in their intact limbs.   Now, new research is quantifying the impacts of amputations and diabetes, a leading cause of amputation, on those overuse ...
Frank Filipetto Cropped For Social
  • On Campus
|Sep 28, 2023

HSC’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine to host symposium on ‘Creating Change in Health Care Delivery’

Americans have soured on the U.S. health care system, according to a Gallup poll taken earlier this year. Most of those surveyed rate health care quality as subpar, including 31% saying it is “only fair” and 21% — a new high — calling it “poor.” The U.S. ranked nearly last compared w...