Cancer Center nurse goes the extra mile

Murphys man hosts barbecue in conjunction with bicycle ride to raise awareness

Chris Stevenson of Murphys enjoys helping his oncology patients in and out of the hospital environment. (Photo by Charity Maness)

When Chris Stevenson of Murphys began his career in nursing nine years ago, he was mesmerized by the oncology aspect of health care and began a journey that would lead to not only caring for those with cancer, but also promoting awareness of the disease and the available avenues for care.

“During my internship, I was able to rotate through six areas of hospital care, including (but not limited to) emergency room, neonatal infant care unit and oncology,” Stevenson recalled of his beginning in the profession. “But the area that interested me the most was that of bone marrow transplant.”

With his specialty field chosen, he became a traveling nurse, working in cancer-related fields in several hospitals around the United States. Yet traveling lost its beauty when he decided it was time to put down roots.

When a job became available at the Mark Twain Cancer Center, he jumped at the chance.

“I had never heard of San Andreas before,” he said. “But the minute I got here, I fell in love with the area.”

He recalls one day sitting on a bench in Murphys and feeling as if he had finally found home. “We got pulled into the community, which is really a nice thing. People actually engaged me to be a friend.”

As soon as he familiarized himself with the area and the hospital, a passion took root, a passion to not only give the best medical care to those in his care but to spread the word about the many avenues of cancer treatment and availability in this rural area.

“For the size of our hospital, we offer wonderful care,” he said.

After working in many high-caliber hospitals across the country, like Johns Hopkins, the Dana Farber Cancer institute, Stanford and more, Stevenson finds the rural setting a perfect fit for his passion.

“We are so much closer to our patients and their families here,” he explained. “We even get to know their pets’ names.”

So it seemed natural to Stevenson that his career choice and the community he calls home would meld into one, “becoming part of the cancer community, to help wherever I can outside the office, I am eager to do this. These aren’t just my patients, they are my friends.”

When he heard about the Texas 4000, he wanted to help. The 70-day, 4,000-mile bicycle ride organized by University of Texas students brings

riders from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska, to raise awareness for cancer, and the Sierra route passes through Murphys.

Each year, the Texas 4000 selects college students with not only a passion to fight cancer, but who show initiative, communication and leadership skills, all of which play important roles in the mission. At each stop, the youths meet with communities they travel through as they stay in host homes or campgrounds and reach out to the communities with stories, their hopes and their dreams.

Twenty-five of the riders on the Sierra route come through Murphys June 24 and will stay in host homes or camp in the area.

Stevenson hosts a public barbecue for donations at Murphys Community Park on Sunday, June 25 from 3 to 8 p.m. Live music is performed by the Lava Cats and grill masters from the Angels-Murphys Rotary Club cook the meal.

The riders will make presentations throughout the event, explaining their passion for the ride against cancer and telling of their adventures thus far.

“I want people to know what care is available to them,” explained Stevenson. “And I want them to know there are people out there who truly care.”

He hopes Sunday’s barbecue will bring survivors, supporters and those wanting to learn more to the table together in a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

As the riders arrange for all their own accommodations along the 4,000 mile ride, Stevenson and some of his friends will host a few of the riders in their homes, but other homes are still needed.

For more about hosting a rider or the event, call Stevenson at 822-1131. For more about the Texas 4000, check out texas4000.org.

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