Physician and Patients

Cutting-Edge, Close to Home
Story 170

"Everyone was so calm, so reassuring. It’s a counterintuitive thing to say about cancer treatment, but they made the experience genuinely pleasant and positive."

Carol and George Burkhardt will be the first to tell you, with a laugh, “We’ve been through some things.”

Married nearly 57 years, the couple met as teenagers working summer jobs in the Catskills, Carol waiting tables and George working as a part-time bartender.

Though they hit it off that summer, George was soon off to serve in the United States Army Security Agency and stationed in Eritrea, while Carol returned to her undergraduate studies at Rutgers University. They wrote each other often to stay in touch.

“His letters were so uninspiring,” Carol jokes. “Just talking about the baboons he saw.”

By the time George came home, Carol had graduated and was dating someone else. But George was undeterred. Six months later, Carol and George were engaged to be married. 

The Burkhardts’ life together has been full ever since, rich with job changes, cross-country moves and the arrival of two sons. They even relocated briefly to rural Green River, Wyoming, as a young family. “Two babies, no phone,” Carol remembers. “That was something.”

After long careers and raising their family in Newark, California, the Burkhardts retired to their summer home in Copperopolis. Just a few years later, in 2018, Carol was diagnosed with breast cancer for the first time. Though Carol underwent a successful lumpectomy in the Bay Area, another tumor was discovered in 2021. This time, more aggressive treatment was needed, and staying close to home was more important. 

“We wanted to stay up here because of all the travel time for radiation,” George explains, “And my career actually involved working for a leading radiation technology company, so I was familiar and impressed with the equipment available at the cancer center.”

Pericles Ioannides, MD, and Shane Tipton, PA-C, at the Diana J. White Cancer Institute coordinated Carol’s care, which included several rounds of chemotherapy and daily radiation treatment.

“We loved Shane’s level of involvement and his positive demeanor, and Dr. Ioannides was so warm and welcoming,” Carol says. “At the end of our first appointment, he asked, ‘Would you like to end with a prayer?’ I’ve never had a doctor do that. It made me feel so accepted.”

Carol and George navigated the uncertainty and difficulty of cancer treatment with their characteristic resilience, and a healthy dose of humor. 

“It was hard for us, right?” Carol asks, turning to George.

“Did I learn to cook? The answer is no,” he laughs. 

“But you did a lot to encourage me and give me a boost when I was feeling down,” Carol reminds him.

Now in remission, Carol has chosen to donate her wigs and headscarves to other patients at the cancer center, glad to pay it forward. She and George are enjoying getting involved with their community again, active in the Lions Club and traveling often to see children and grandchildren. 

The one thing they’ve stopped traveling for is healthcare. Though they’d seen the same doctors in the Bay Area for decades, the care they received at Adventist Health Sonora during Carol’s cancer journey convinced them to make the switch for their other care, too. 

“We’re both in our 70s, so we’ve been lots of places and seen lots of doctors,” George explains. “Here, we never felt rushed. Everyone was so calm, so reassuring. It’s a counterintuitive thing to say about cancer treatment, but they made the experience genuinely pleasant and positive.”

Written by Jaquelyn Lugg, Marketing and Communications Manager, Adventist Health Sonora