Almost no one thought I would survive


Sharolyn’s Cancer Survivor Story:
I had gained about five pounds and began walking several miles a day and exercising at the gym to try losing the weight, all to no avail. I attributed the occasional ache in my abdomen to the exercise routine. On the very last day of my teaching contract for the academic year, I developed a fever and chills. I drank lots of fluids, took two aspirins and went to bed early. I awoke the next morning with a slightly lower temperature and abdominal pain. Thinking I had appendicitis, I immediately contacted my family physician, who saw me that afternoon. He diagnosed the problem as an intestinal virus, recommended fluids and medication for the fever, and said I should be fine to leave for the vacation my husband and I had scheduled. I felt better as the week progressed and left for our vacation as planned.

During the vacation, I had occasional bouts of nausea and began having night sweats. Upon returning home, I called the doctor immediately. He did blood work and ordered an abdominal scan to evaluate my gallbladder for gallstones. The results of that scan altered my life forever. There was a very large mass that appeared to be coming from my left ovary...
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I want people to know that there is hope


Linda’s Cancer Survivor Story:
I’ll never forget that day when my doctor came in to tell me that I had cancer. But she said, “We can beat this.” Similarly, I’ll never forget what my husband said when I was diagnosed, “Come on, you’re going to be alright, we’ve fought bigger devils than this.” Although I didn’t think that we had, I did not cancel out his faith-filled words. These words and so many other faith-filled words of family and friends would be the hope that I needed in the weeks to come.

At the end of March, I began four three-week cycles of chemotherapy. This was a frightening time. I can remember many days and nights confessing that God had not given me the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. I am a high-energy person and it was difficult not to have energy to do the things that I was accustomed to doing. I’ll never forget the words of a close friend, “You’ll need to let others take care of you.” This offered me hope that there would be others to help me, just as I had given my help and support to others before. During treatment, I experienced such a flood of family and friends supporting me, especially in prayer...
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My instinct has always been to never give up


Jennie’s Cancer Survivor Story:
I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1964—when I was 32. I did not have any symptoms. I went in for my annual gynecological exam and got a Pap test. My results came back as irregular so the doctor recommended more testing. The results showed that I had cervical cancer.

My primary care doctor referred me to a specialist right away to talk about my treatment options. I couldn’t tolerate radiation, so the specialist opted for surgically removing my cervix. I was lucky in that I had a good health care team...
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My Unforgettable Journey


I am 45 years old, diagnosed with ovarian cancer in May, 2014. I underwent surgery in July and am currently having chemotherapy treatment. I have a wonderful support system of family and friends, especially my two boys, ages 29 and 9 who both mean the world to me. It’s been a tough road so far but I never would have made it through without a very special person in my life. I call him my “Co-Survivor”, the one who has been by my side from the very beginning of it all. His name is Sam, my sweet little 9-year-old boy. Let me introduce you to him by sharing just why I nominate him for this award.

For that long six weeks of recovery, Sam took the absolute best care of me. Every day he woke me with a kiss and hug and asked me how I slept and how I was feeling. He sat with me throughout the day. He told me jokes, even gave me his favorite blanket. He took over, cleaning up around the house, making sure I was drinking and eating, even helped out with the laundry. We read to each other, watching movies, making each other laugh and eating popsicles. He took on the role of caring for me. Sam sacrificed his summer months, to make me feel the best I could. It was his quest, he says.

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The Roles We Play


My mother’s sister, Linda, has arrived from Australia for her annual visit. We’ve got a trip to Roatan booked in a few weeks, but no one believes we’ll actually be going. Sad, because if ever I needed a vacation, now was the time. Linda is great to have around. She worked in the social work/medical field for 30 years so has experience with hospitals and meetings with medical staff. She’s let me know that there are different roles for each of us to play at the hospital meeting in the morning. I’m the patient, so my role is to hand over my health card, nod when asked a question and blink at regular intervals. My mom will be the crier, my dad will go silent, and she will take notes and ask the questions we wrote down before the meeting.

As we drive to the hospital in the morning, the car is uncomfortably silent. I turn down the radio and ask, “So, we all know they’re going to say I have cancer, right?” My family answers: “Yep”, the music goes back up, and we continue on to the hospital.

Once again, the waiting room clears out before my name is called. I tried to tell my mom that I wanted to find out on my own, and then call them in. She’s having none of it. So we all file into the room, and sit around the table. There aren’t enough chairs for us and the whole medical team, so my surgeon puts his clipboard down and goes to get more. I sneak a look at the top page. ”Immediate Chemo” is what I read. In a strange way, I did find out by myself, even in a room full of people.

True to form, we have all assumed our roles as we listen to the doctors. My father leans back, arms folded and eyes closed. My mom looks on the verge of tears, my aunt is taking notes and asking all the right questions. I have dug in my purse, and found mini boxes of raisins. By the end of the appointment I’ve eaten 7 boxes of raisins, and tasted none of them.

I meet my oncologist at this appointment. She’s lovely -- 5 foot nothing, you can see the determination in her. She’s also not much older than I am. We discuss the treatment plan, which will start with chemotherapy. She explains that this is not the traditional order of treatment, but the tumour is 5cm so she wants to shrink it as much as possible before we move on to surgery. I’m on board. I honestly have no idea about chemo, the drugs, and their side effects. She wants me to start the next day. I go and visit the chemo area, see the loungers, the IV stands, and it becomes very real. Questions start to run through my brain. Which chair will I sit in? Will people talk as we sit together for hours on end? Are there really only two washrooms for this many people? Very important things.

We discuss the side effects of chemotherapy, and that I may go into menopause. The idea of freezing my eggs comes up, something I never thought about. I decide that I should look into the possibility of harvesting some eggs, and my oncologist gives me two weeks to do it and get started with chemo.

The Tests Begin
It’s January 9, 2013. Today’s the day I go to the Breast Health Center, meet the doctors there and have the mysterious day of tests. My father is instantly uncomfortable -- put the word ‘breast’ together with the word ‘daughter’ and see how any man deals with it. He’s trying to lighten the mood in the waiting room by making jokes….again, another family trait! My mother is playing it cool, just watching what’s going on. We meet with the surgeon and he explains the tests I’ll be doing. An ultrasound-guided biopsy is first.

The test starts out as any ultrasound does, with a whole lot of goop and not many clothes. I like this technician better than Joanne, from a few posts ago. She laughs when I try my “It’s a boy!” joke again, and we bond instantly. She tells me about her dog and makes me contort my body in strange ways to get the angle just right. Another white coat comes in and freezes (Read: shoves a big needle in my breast) the area for the biopsy. I close my eyes as I see the biopsy tool come close. There’s pressure, and a sound like a toy gun. He does this a few times and then lets the technician clean me up and bandage the incision spot.

I’d like to say that the tests are one after the other, but they’re actually hours apart. Anyone who’s been in a similar experience will relate. I spent a good portion of this day dressed normally from the waist down and wearing only a hospital gown on the top. I’m still conscious of my jiggly boobs at this point, so I put my down vest over the gown as cover. This day began our study in the art of waiting rooms…I should have my Masters by now!

The mammogram is up next. I’m 33 so have obviously never had one. Interesting experience. In retrospect, being numb from the biopsy was a blessing. “Put your arm here, shoulder back, head angled like so and make sure your hair is out of the way,” says the technician. “Is this tight enough?” Crank. “Now hold your breath.” Then repeat for the other side. No two ways about it, a mammogram -- essentially, putting your breast in a vice -- hurts. I return to my parents and commiserate with my mom about the “boob squish” as we call it. Dad is instantly fascinated with the waiting room wallpaper.

We meet again with the surgeon, he does a physical exam and lets us know that we can expect the results in 10 days. Another 10 days to think, to get stuck in our heads and worry….sigh.

It took about three hours for the freezing to wear off, then oh mama did it ache. I went to work the next morning cursing all bra manufacturers, and keeping a protective arm over my chest in a karate chop motion. I must have looked very strange on the subway, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

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4 Year Stage IIIC Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Linda

In December 2010, when Linda was 54 years old, she began experiencing symptoms that she tried to ignore—bloating, diarrhea, vomiting. Linda figured it was a virus that she’d get over. But one morning that next February she became extremely sick. Linda felt a horrible pain in her stomach that would not go away. That night she went to the emergency room. The next thing she knew she was being transferred to a regional cancer center. But no one told her that she had cancer. She was shocked.

Linda says "At the cancer center, the doctors wanted to perform emergency surgery, but I developed an infection. I was in the hospital for several days while the infection was treated, and then underwent a complete hysterectomy, and removal of my appendix. I learned that there was one large mass and one small mass in my stomach, along with over a gallon of water. The doctor scraped cells from my lymph nodes to check for cancer. I remained in the hospital for three or four days after surgery." Read more here...

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12 Year Stage IIIC Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Jan

Jan says "My husband Bruce and I were active in the gym at least three times a week. In the early part of 2003, I was not feeling myself and I noticed my exercise routine was getting more difficult. In February 2003, I met a woman named Shelly, a registered nurse, at the gym. She and I hooked up together, lifting weights and doing abdominal exercises on the mats. She was still grieving over her sister, who had died of breast cancer six months earlier.

I asked Shelly why I felt worse after a workout, especially in the abdominal area, where I was bloated. She asked me if I had backaches. I told her that yes, sometimes I did. She told me that my symptoms could be ovarian cancer and that I should see a doctor. Well, that hit me like a ton of bricks. I made an appointment with my primary physician.

My physician recommended blood work and a test called Ca-125 tumor marker for ovarian cancer. Within a week, he called and said the Ca-125 came back 1119. When I asked what was normal, he said 0 to 35. He said he would make an appointment for me to have an ultrasound." Read more here...

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Cervical Cancer Survivor

Tamika

When I was 25, I was living in Washington, DC, working as a television producer and loving life. I felt great and healthy, so I put off getting my routine Pap test for a few years. I thought it could wait.

When I finally did go for a check-up, I got the shock of my life. I had cervical cancer. I was devastated, and I asked myself how this was possible. I was too young and too strong for this.
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Cervical Cancer Survivor

Geraldine

I've been a hairstylist for more than 35 years. I love to read and listen to music. My daughter is in the music business. I've worked in New York City for Broadway shows and for Saturday Night Live, but I was a freelance stylist when I found out I had cervical cancer. I never thought I would have cancer, but in 2009, I was diagnosed through the New York State Cancer Services Program. Because of the high cost of insurance for the self-employed, I didn't have health insurance at the time. Read more here...

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Cervical and Uterine Cancer Survivor

Eileen

I have three children, six grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. They keep me busy! I also take physical activity classes offered through a local hospital, including a "Healthy Steps" class, baton twirling, and belly dancing.

In August 2007, I began having heavy bleeding and I went to a nearby medical clinic. The doctors there found that I had something suspicious on my uterus. They referred me to a gynecologist who did a biopsy, which revealed I had cancer. I was then referred to a gynecologic oncologist, who did an additional biopsy on my cervix, which also showed the presence of cancer cells. To this day, the doctors say they are not sure which came first, the uterine cancer or the cervical cancer. Read more here...

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Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Debbie

The women in my family have a history of being healthy and living a long, long time. I was the last person I thought who would ever have to worry about a major health crisis. I have a beautiful family—two sons, three stepdaughters, four grandchildren, and a supportive husband. I have always been active and enjoy outdoor sports and activities, and I guess you would say I'm a workaholic.

Before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, I rarely got sick. Then, a few years ago, I had some symptoms that were unusual for me—I felt bloated and gained weight for no reason I could explain. I also noticed other things that were unusual for me, like constipation, and I felt nauseous when I ate. My doctors told me I had hypothyroidism, put me on medication, and the symptoms went away temporarily. I'm still not sure if the hypothyroidism symptoms were related to what came next. Read more here...

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Ovarian Cancer Survivor

Linda

In November 2010, when I was 63 years old, I began to experience unrelenting pain in my upper right abdomen and around my right rear flank. It would wake me at night. I went to my family doctor and she ordered abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds. Kidney cysts were reported and I already knew about those. In addition, another cyst was noted—thought to be an ordinary ovarian cyst—although a large one.

The next visit was to my kidney doctor in March 2011. He looked at the ultrasound report, and strongly suggested I see about getting the ovarian cyst removed, just in case it was cancer. Read more here...

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017
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Why Me?

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