“I want to be on the other end.”

“I was in the ER. Dr. Ritter was a resident, and she was there talking to me. She was like, ‘Do you have a primary care physician?’ I’m like, ‘No. I’m never sick. I don’t know what to do.’”

Anna Cox—then Anna Harris—was 23 when she went to the ER with stomach pain so severe it left her in tears. The pain had been getting steadily worse for days, and she finally admitted she needed to go to the hospital. Her boyfriend asked her where she wanted to go.

A candid photo of Anna and her husband laughing while sitting in a waiting room. She is holding his hand while it rests on her leg. He is a young white man with short brown hair who is wearing a blue and white gingham long-sleeve shirt with blue jeans.
“He is my biggest supporter, 110%,” said Anna. “He's been there from the very beginning.”

“I was like, I guess just take me to UK HealthCare. Reflecting on it now…it couldn’t have turned out any better. I can’t imagine my treatment plan at any other institution.”

Things moved rapidly once Anna arrived in the emergency department. A CT scan of her abdomen revealed the source of her pain: an infected, swollen lymph node. Doctors suspected the underlying cause might be cancer, and several days later, a biopsy confirmed Anna’s diagnosis: stage IV diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive type of blood cancer.

A photo of Anna smiling and giving two thumbs up while receiving treatment at the hospital.
“[My] faith is so important to me,” said Anna. “That’s helped me to stay positive.”

Anna’s treatment would involve a variety of teams, including infectious disease specialists, and hematologist/oncologists—a process typically coordinated by a patient’s primary care physician. Anna, like approximately 25% of Americans, didn’t have a go-to doctor. Dr. Shaunah Ritter, a resident working in the emergency department when Anna arrived, connected Anna with Dr. Sarah Schuetz, a primary care physician at UK HealthCare.

A photo of Dr. Sarah Schuetz standing outside and smiling for the camera. She is a white woman with long dark-blonde hair. She is wearing a navy shirt under her white lab coat, and a pair of gold, geometric dangling earrings.
“As a primary care physician, you're the gatekeeper,” said Dr. Schuetz. “Making sure that the patient is getting to all the right places.”

“Anna came over and saw me in clinic—at that time, we were trying to get the diagnosis,” said Dr. Schuetz. “We set her up for biopsy, and unfortunately she got diagnosed with her malignancy at that time. I’ll never forget having to tell her about her diagnosis, and how she took it. She’s an extraordinary human being, just in how she took it and was ready to face it. She was like, ‘I’ll just beat this. Just tell me what I need to do.’”

A candid photo of Anna and Dr. Schuetz hugging outside on the hospital campus.
“There’s just not many patients you get to have that kind of relationship with,” said Dr. Schuetz.

Dr. Schuetz stepped into the center of Anna’s treatment plan, working directly with her other specialists to coordinate care and advocate for Anna. When major decisions had to be made quickly, Anna turned to Dr. Schuetz for advice.

An over-the-shoulder shot of Dr. Schuetz smiling mid-conversation with Anna.
Dr. Schuetz may have been Anna’s physician, but now she’s Anna’s mentor as she goes through med school.

“I called Dr. Schuetz and I was like, ‘I don’t know what to do. Can you please give me some guidance?’” said Anna. “She called me back after hours and was like, ‘Hey. I talked to your doctor. This is what you should do.’ She was right there and guided me through the whole thing. It was just really cool that I had her to lean on when I was really scared, and I didn’t know what was coming.”

A photo of Anna smiling as she holds up a certificate declaring that she has finished her chemotherapy.
“I’m feeling great,” said Anna. “I’m three [years] clear, which is a really big milestone.”

Anna began a regimen of outpatient chemotherapy specific to her type of lymphoma: every three weeks, she came to UK HealthCare’s Markey Cancer Center for a six-treatment series. Her first appointment was in June of 2018, just a few weeks after her diagnosis; six months later, in December, she was in remission.

A candid photo of Anna talking with Dr. Chaitanya Iragavarapu in a waiting room. He is a South Asian man with short black hair. He is wearing a gray suit jacket with a white long-sleeve shirt and a red tie.
“I love what I do,” said Dr. Iragavarapu. “Chemotherapy is a team effort.”

“The chemotherapy for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is [generally] a combination of chemotherapy called R-CHOP,” said Dr. Chaitanya Iragavarapu, the hematologist who currently oversees Anna’s follow-up care. “The majority of those who go through R-CHOP tend to have a really good response to treatment, in that the cancer either disappears completely, or for the most part. And about two thirds of folks who go through R-CHOP chemotherapy tend to have long-lasting remissions.”

A photo of Anna and her husband smiling as they pose together for the camera.
“My husband is special,” said Anna. “Not many people are like him.”

So far, Anna appears to be one of those patients. Three years of regular follow-up assessments have remained clear, and she’s feeling healthy. Her hair has grown back, and she and her then-boyfriend have since gotten married. But her experience has permanently shifted the course of her life, and her career—she’s made the choice to return to school at the Bowling Green campus of UK College of Medicine and become a doctor herself.

A selfie of Anna and her then-boyfriend smiling as they shave their heads. They have both comically left a small amount of hair in the back which is sticking straight up.
“I [took] power over my situation,” said Anna. “We ended up shaving our heads, and it was so much fun.”

“Seeing that patient-provider relationship, the instant trust, and the fact that they literally had to guide me through this unknown, super scary situation—I want to do that,” said Anna. “I want to be on the other end. I want to help someone else get through their scary time.”

A photo of Anna and Dr. Chaitanya Iragavarapu standing together outside and posing for the camera.
“At this point, we see her every six months,” said Dr. Iragavarapu.

“She is so caring and thrives off giving back,” said Dr. Schuetz. “I think that this helped bring her to what she was always supposed to do. It will make her a better physician in general, because she’s gone through these hard experiences and knows how important it is to be there for her patients when they’re in similar situations.”

A photo of Anna smiling alongside two of her nurses. The nurse on the left is a white woman with long blonde hair. She is wearing blue scrubs over a white shirt. The woman on the left is a white woman with blonde hair. She is wearing a pink blouse, dark-rimmed glasses, and a pair of dark blue jeans.
“They brought so much ease and comfort into my life as I was going through the scariest time,” said Anna.

“​​It has done a 180 on my life, and I’m so thankful,” said Anna. “Because I never in a million years would have ended where I am if it weren’t for my experience. There’s always a reason that something’s happening. I got diagnosed with cancer, but there’s so much good—I know what I’m supposed to do with my life. And I really feel like I’ve figured out God’s plan for me.”

A photo of Anna smiling as she stands in the skywalk between two of the medical buildings on campus.
“It just kind of hit me,” said Anna. “This is it. This is what I want to do.”

See how we care for patients like Anna

at UK HealthCare.

Dr. John D’Orazio looks on as lab researcher Dr. Nathaniel Holcomb uses equipment to dye cells. Dr. D'Orazio is a white man with brown hair. He is wearing a white lab coat over a gray sweater and a light-blue button-up shirt, and a white face mask. Dr. Holcomb is a young white man with blonde hair. He is wearing a white lab coat over a gray polo shirt.A picture of Anne Sydney, a white woman with short curly brown hair, smiling for the camera as she leans on a wooden fence at a children’s playground. She is wearing a white and turquoise dress that has puff sleeves and an intricate floral pattern.