A 1977 photo depicts Linda Ann Sanford, who is now battling cancer.

Hartselle woman seeks help in battle with cancer

By Clif Knight

Hartselle Enquirer

A 59-year-old Hartselle woman is struggling to meet expenses stemming from a rare form of tongue cancer and is seeking help on gofundme.com/5d93wrs/.

Linda Ann Sanford, a 1977 graduate of Morgan County High School, was diagnosed with stage three squamous cancer (tongue) last January after moving back to Hartselle to live with her mother, Joy McElfresh, and aunt, Donna Paul Bessken.

“The front part of my tongue turned black while I was waiting for surgery,” Sanford recalled. “The pain got so bad I had to deaden it so I could eat. I was using a bottle and a half of Ambasol a day.”

Sanford’s surgery, a 10-hour procedure, was performed at Kirkland Clinic in Birmingham April 24. Half of her tongue and the lymph nodes in her neck were removed. A patch of skin and nerve were removed from one of her wrists and attached to her tongue, and a patch of skin the same size was removed from one of her thighs and grafted to her wrist.

A feeding tube was attached to her throat, and she was fed through it for five days after surgery. Because she lost the tip of her tongue, she remains on a soft food diet, which includes five bottles of Boost or Ensure every day.

“I’m looking forward to getting back on a regular diet,” Sanford said. “The first thing I want is a hamburger – a really big hamburger.”

“I had no fear of surgery,” she added. “God was in control. He knew what the outcome would be.”

Sanford said she will undergo seven weeks of radiation therapy as a precautionary measure, even though tests showed the cancer on her tongue had not spread to other parts of her body.

“I just want it to be over with,” she added. “I’ve applied to Social Security for medical disability, but I haven’t given up on going back to work. I’d much rather go to work every day instead of sitting at home.”

Sanford’s financial needs stem largely from transportation, special foods and drugs. She has no medical or prescription drug insurance and relies heavily on the retirement income of her family and the assistance she receives from organizations such as the Food Share Program, Faith House, The Caring Place and CCC of Decatur.

Other unanticipated home expenses have contributed to financial burden of the Bessken, McElfresh and Sanford family.

“First, the central heating and air conditioning unit broke down and has not been replaced,” Bessken said. “Then the hot water heater died and had to be replaced, and last but not least we lost the microwave oven.”

Sanford moved to Texas in 1979, where she raised a son, 32, and a daughter, 30. She was employed as a Walmart cashier before moving to Hartselle.

 

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