Small Gifts Have Huge Impact: A 30-Year Cancer Survivor’s Story

Frances Thackston doesn’t consider herself wealthy by any means, but she feels confident the modest contributions she has made to Duke Health over nearly 30 years have truly made a difference to countless patients—herself included.

“I would send $10, $50, or $100 occasionally,” she says. “All of that adds up.”

The Virginia resident credits Duke with helping her survive cancer twice. She learned of her first battle with breast cancer in 1985,  just a couple of weeks after her father died of thyroid cancer.

After undergoing a mastectomy Frances reached out to the Duke oncologist who had treated her father and became his patient too, enduring six months of chemotherapy. She won her first fight against cancer and was declared cancer free. But a few short years later, was diagnosed with melanoma and returned to Duke for treatment.

In the end, she managed to win yet another fight against cancer. "I survived cancer twice in about three years," she says, adding:

“I laugh and tell people that I need to live in a monastery on my knees because the Lord has been so good to me through Duke Medical Center.”

Though her cancer has never returned, she still returns to Duke frequently for checkups.

In 2012, Frances and her husband Carroll Thackston added Duke to their wills. Soon after, Carroll passed away in February 2013. It broke Frances's heart to lose him, but she finds comfort in knowing their contributions will have a lasting impact on many others.

Since giving to the Duke Health Fund, Frances has shared that it meant a great deal to receive letters and other communications from Duke letting her know how contributions from her and Carroll and donors like them make a difference.

“It is so nice to be thanked by Duke. They even recognize the small givers. That means a lot,” she says.