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It happened in an instant.

The sun was just beginning to rise on a beautiful Florida morning and Loyce Mackey was lacing up her sneakers as she did every day for the past 15 years. Loyce usually walks 3 miles a day at dawn, but this day is different. The nightlight that usually guided her way to the stairs was out. It seemed like a little thing. She may have even thought about picking up an extra bulb later that day, but she tripped and tumbled down the stairs, shattering her right leg which had been radiated after breast cancer spread to her bones.

The avid athlete, who spent years playing tennis, flying airplanes and acting in community theater, was in severe pain and couldn’t stand. She sought relief at pain clinics and even underwent a three and a half hour neurosurgery operation — but nothing helped. Loyce became more bedridden as the days went by and passed away 21 months later due to the injuries sustained by the fall.

The United States Centers for Disease Control estimates that unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury and death in Americans over age 65. However, cancer patients regardless of age are at a high risk for falls because of the disease and its complicated treatments.

Approximately 20 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients suffer a fall at home within the first six months after a diagnosis. That’s usually due to medications, loss of strength, low blood counts, electrolyte imbalance, neuropathy and dehydration.

Moffitt Cancer Center is hosting free fall prevention screening events for patients and team members on Sept. 18 and 20 at its McKinley and Magnolia campuses. During these events, registered nurses along with physical and occupational therapists will perform:

  • Postural blood pressure screenings
  • Balance screenings
  • Home safety screenings
  • Safe patient handling for all caregivers

Fall prevention methods include talking to your doctors, getting an eye exam and making your home safe by:

  • Removing items that could cause you to trip
  • Adding grab bars inside and outside the bathtub, shower and next to the toilet
  • Putting railings on both sides of the stairs
  • Using brighter bulbs to improve lighting

Before Loyce passed, her beloved husband, Bruce, made a promise to help others, especially those at Moffitt. Bruce kept his commitment and even moved to a community just minutes from Moffitt, where he volunteers on a regular basis and is an active member of Moffitt’s Fall Prevention committee. He’s made it his mission to educate cancer patients about the dangers of falling because he never imagined that his wife would battle breast cancer for 22 years and ultimately pass after falling down the stairs.

To learn more, watch this VIDEO on fall prevention.