When Heather Barber moved to Destrehan and began working with Ochsner a little over a year ago, she had a notable adjustment to make to a new job and a new city all at once. Samantha Worley was there for Barber to lean on.
“She became my work sister,” Barber said. “We’d just met and we connected immediately. She meant so much to me as I was navigating a new workplace … I knew I could trust her and always knew she’d be there for me.”
That made it incredibly jarring for Barber, however, when she learned from her supervisor that Worley was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer.
“The first word out of my mouth wasn’t pretty,” Barber said. “You hear cancer and the first thing you think is that they’re going to die. It’s scary and there are a lot of emotions.”
Worley, a Norco resident, had noted consistent abdominal pain in the days leading to her diagnosis. Barber said Worley was planning a trip with her husband, but wanted to see a doctor to determine what was causing her discomfort before departing.
“She’d be at work, in the most terrible pain.” Barber said.
At Stage 3, colon cancer has spread to lymph nodes but not to distant body parts, and it is curable. But it’s a difficult fight and an exceptionally taxing one. Worley is approximately halfway through chemotherapy treatments for the illness.
“The physical aspect of it all is something I know she’s really struggling with right now,” Barber said. “But she stays positive. It’s honestly crazy how positive she’s been through it all. I don’t think I could handle this like she has.”
That’s representative of Worley’s personality, Barber said, and it’s part of what made Barber’s natural instinct to want to help Worley.
“She won’t ask for a dime – she wants to help other people but she’s one that never wants to ask for help,” Barber said.
Barber’s answer was to set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help offset Worley’s surgery, chemotherapy treatment, doctor’s visits, and specialty appointments. Insurance offsets some of the cost, but conversely Worley has been unable to work during her battle with the illness.
“I told her I can’t take your pain or discomfort away and I can’t wear your shoes, but I can do something to help,” Barber said.
The cause resonated with people quickly, and within a day several donations were made to help Worley in her recovery – approximately $1,000 was raised in the first day the page was up.
“She walks into a building and lights up the room. She just never lets anything bother her,” Barber said. “I don’t think Sam realizes the impact she has on people. She’s very humble and is that friend who will do anything for you … she’s the one who’ll handle it behind closed doors and other people never know about it,” Barber said.
Worley said part of what’s helped her maintain her positive outlook has been her support system, including Barber and Worley’s husband – “He’s been there 100 percent of the way for me,” she noted.
Worley also said she hopes her story will inspire others to listen to their bodies and seek answers quickly – the fact she did so when she did may ultimately prove to be a life-saving decision.
“I got checked at a young age even though I had no history,” Worley said. “Dr. Johnston and Dr. Griffin have been amazing with me and I’m looking forward to the next few years with them.”