14th Annual Festival of Hope for Cancer, Diabetes and Heart Disease Patients

Date(s) - 04/06/2013
4:00 pm

Tupelo Furniture Market


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Rhonda Saunders

Rhonda Saunders

TUPELO, Miss. – Rhonda Saunders has been named honorary chairperson for the 2013 Festival of Hope.

Saunders invites area families to come out Saturday, April 6, to make a difference in the lives of local cancer, diabetes and heart disease patients. The 14th annual Festival of Hope is planned for 4 p.m.-until at the Tupelo Furniture Market, 1879 N. Coley Rd.

Saunders serves as an administrator at Baldwyn Nursing Facility. She feels specially connected to Project Hope this year because she is a recent heart attack survivor. “It is special because I get to be here,” Saunders said.

On June 7, 2012, as she was getting ready for work, Saunders began sweating profusely, had significant jaw discomfort and chest pain. She remembers thinking, “Dear Lord, let this be an esophageal spasm.” Her husband, Thom, took her to North Mississippi Medical Center. In retrospect, she realizes they should have called 911 instead.

Doctors performed angioplasty to open the clogged arteries to her heart but they were unable to use drug-eluting stents to keep them open because she is allergic to aspirin, which coats these stents. She was treated with various anti-clotting medicines and began NMMC’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Program.

Part of her treatment was to become desensitized to aspirin, so that she was able to have stents implanted later. Saunders said, “Now I am very compliant about taking an aspirin a day.”

Since her heart attack, Saunders has made several lifestyle changes. She tries to exercise regularly, manage stress better, eat healthier and take all medications as prescribed.

“NMMC took such good care of me,” Saunders said, also crediting support from her family and friends. “I was a lucky one.”

Saunders and her husband, Thom, have two children – Erin, 21, who is a student at Ole Miss, and Adam, 23, who works in Oxford.

After 13 years on a Friday evening, this year’s Festival of Hope has been moved to a Saturday afternoon and given a “Grillin’ and Chillin'” theme. Survivors of heart disease, cancer and diabetes will be honored during the opening ceremonies, and a time of remembrance is planned for those who lost their battle against the diseases.

Hamburger plates will be sold for $5 each to benefit Project Hope. Live music will be provided by local oldies band “Dusty Vinyl.” No admission fee will be charged, and family-friendly activities are planned. Presenting sponsors are NMMC and Project Hope. For more information about Festival of Hope, call (662) 377-3867 or visit www.projecthopems.com.