Not all stars are found in Hollywood

By Jennifer Lassiter
star staff

   In a perfect world cancer would not exist. Neither would heart disease nor even hospitals for that matter, but in reality many patients are often left fighting for their lives.
  Mary Ellen Peters, a recovering heart patient and resident of the Hunter community, watched nervously on Friday as she became one of the newest stars in a series of commercials, which focuses on real people and real experiences.
  BVK Media filmed the series of true stories of former patients and families for Mountain States Health Alliance that will air on Monday.
  Peters, a gentle, soft-spoken woman was asked by her daughter Nona Stegall at the last minute to star in the commercial. Stegall was starring in another "spot" with her two daughters Melanie Stanton and Melissa Jones when a space came available. When they needed an extra person, she considered her mom.
  Peters' story is told in her home, and in the 30-second clip she says, "I never thought I'd have so many wrinkles, or so much gray hair. . ." Her voice says it all as she sits down and thanks Mountain States for saving her life.
  Peters, 78, had three by-pass surgeries and a valve replaced in 2002. " I feel great and I've had no complications," Peters said.
  The series focuses on the care patients received, and it gives former patients a chance to say "Thank you" to their caregivers and the MSHA staff.
  With an entire family with roots in Elizabethton now slated to be on the air, their lives are truly a success story. Stegall and her daughter will debut in a spot about menopause against the scenic backdrop of Roan Mountain. The group of three were worried they looked too old. "We're just not use to seeing themselves on camera," said Nona.
  Another Elizabethton resident, Julie Buchanan, tells the story of her fight against breast cancer. At age 31 she was determined to fight, and that's just what she did.
  "I think there are a lot of women my age and younger who never think they will be affected by breast cancer," Buchanan said.
  Though Buchanan knew she was at a high risk for the disease because her mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer, medical guidelines call for mammograms to begin at 40 years of age. It was through a self-examination that Julie discovered a lump years earlier that she ever expected.
  Now three years later, Buchanan looks back on the experience and talks about the letter she wrote to her children during the middle of her battle with cancer. She expressed her love for them and how she would be with them forever no matter what happened.
  That letter was never sent, because now Buchanan is cancer-free and talks to the team members at the Regional Cancer Center as if they were family. Between the medical care offered by the center and the support of her church, she is ready to continue her life.
  "I felt like I got the best treatment I could get," Buchanan said.
  Greeneville resident Tom Janaski worked most of his life in the health care field and was impressed the care he received at MSHA.
  Janaski had his knee replaced at the Johnson City Medical Center and his commercial spot focuses on his home and his six dogs he cares for in Greeneville.
  "I have three inside and three strays I feed outside," said Janaski. His 200-year-old log cabin was the perfect backdrop, since he fell in love with East Tennessee and the people here.
  Since his surgery, Janaski has decided to go ahead with his second surgery on his other knee.
  "If I could say one thing to people in my situation, it would be to quit putting it off. Go ahead and have this stuff done. I'm sure glad I did," he said.
  The spots focus on MSHA's four centers of Excellence: Cardiovascular treatment (Peters), cancer therapy (Buchanan), women's services (Stegall, Stanton, Jones) and joint replacement (Janaski).
  "Instead of just throwing out figures about having the region's top heart hospital or number one cancer center, we wanted to let our patients do the talking. We believe their personal stories are more impressive that anything we could say," said MSHA Vice President Ed Herbert. "This is an opportunity for the patients to tell their stories and to say 'thank you.'"