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How to Survive Cancer
My Story: Diagnosis Breast Cancer.
What do you do when your worst nightmare happens?
Eleven, seven and two what will my children do... if I die? I turned 40, was healthy, and strong, when a mammogram confirmed my symptom was cancer. My only symptom was abnormal discharge from my breast. The cancer was 2.5 centimeters, I was on the line between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. Because the kids were so young a mastectomy and chemotherapy seemed like the best avenue to follow.
Chemotherapy was awful for a number of reasons. Hopefully I will help you or someone you know avoid some of those causes.
Our family survived with help from our friends and family. Rich, strong relationships were forged in unexpected ways. As an introvert who works hard to encourage people it was hard for me to ask for help. We called Dad. There were gasps on the phone line. In twenty four years of marriage we had never asked him for help. Cancer requires people to take extreme actions. You cannot do cancer alone!
Dad and all of our family came to our aid. The kids got to know the grandpa they had never known before. This one cry for help caused the boys to have a loving relationship with their grandpa and wicked step grandmother.
Look for unintended benefits from every hard thing that comes your way. To survive cancer you need a support system.
Community Support System
My community came together to care for me. Community can be family, neighbors,school groups or people in support groups who come together to help each other. My supporters gave of themselves to maintain life for my family when I couldn't do it. Family and friends brought meals,babysat while I had treatments, they called,sent notes, drove me to doctor appointments and chemo appointments. They did all the things a mother wants for her family when she is sick. Surviving cancer requires being humble enough to allow others to do for you what you can't do for yourself.
A good support group and positive attitude can greatly improve your life despite cancer.
This is the most life changing example: my husband and I had different ideas on disciplining our children. I though he was too harsh and he thought I was too soft. The boys thrived under their dad’s stricter parenting and I was won over to his side. The weeks I had chemo my husband did everything. His relationship with the boys was strengthened. They really liked dad's consistent boundaries. They liked it when he said what he meant and meant what he said.
My nausea was debilitating. Years later, I discovered the nausea was increased by dehydration. I also learned to take anti nausea medication before you need it and at proper intervals to prevent nausea .
Exhaustion accumulates as you go through chemotherapy. This exhaustion doesn't get better with sleep. It was the encouragement of friends and family that got our family through 6 months of chemotherapy.
My neighbor three houses down still laments, as he chuckles, at his memories of me taking the three kids, the dog and the cat to the park. Apparently I would to sit down in front of his house before going the next three houses to the park. It was the humor of this circus that kept me going to the park. The exercise enabled me to sleep better. Scamper, the cat, who didn't like the little kids or the dog followed them up the steps then slid down the slide behind them. Too bad there are no videos. The cat moved across the street when our neighbor was diagnosed with cancer. Scamper eventually moved to Texas with the family and his feline friends Cheddar and Jack a year later.
Because Of Mary
I was cancer free for three years, when our community was rocked by my friend Mary's diagnosis of ovarian cancer. It was just before the test CA125, which diagnoses ovarian cancer, was widely used, Our community came together again to keep Mary as healthy as possible.for as long as we could. Her kids were the same age as mine. Actress comedian Gilda Radner battled ovarian cancer for 7 years. During those years nothing about ovarian cancer looked promising. Gilda Radner worked hard to search for a cure.
Mary was gone in a year and a half. She weighed about 90 pounds when she died. She left behind three children. Despite her husbands best efforts to find ways to get nutrition into her she essentially starved to death. I learned many things from her death that helped me when I was diagnosed a second time with metastatic cancer. The most important bit of information I learned is there is always something you can eat, no matter how bad the sores are in your mouth.
I strive to help people with cancer to live life to the fullest because there was so much that could have helped Mary, had she had known and been willing to try,
My story: Diagnosis More Breast Cancer
I was healthy and preparing for a 66 mile bike ride.
I was the poster child for surviving cancer. It had been 15 years from my first cancer diagnosis. One of the boys was married and one was in college the other was in high school. Life was full. My annual oncology appointment was scheduled. Since I had noticed a lump on my chest I was concerned. The Doctor wasn’t too concerned. It has taken 15 years to grow. We would remove the lump, irradiate the area and off we go. I felt guilty that it was going to be that small a deal. Cancer survivors have guilt sometimes when they survive while others haven't, It may sound silly, but it happens.
When I Said Life Was Full
When I said life was full I wasn't kidding. I was homeschooling an 11th grader. Life was going to move on whether I like it or not. The lump was cancerous as suspected. The radiation appointment was scheduled. The P.E.T. scan results changed my life. The PET scan showed cancer in my sternum. The fury of cancer treatments started in a different direction. What had been a skin type cancer was now life threatening.
Healthy and active made me a good candidate for a clinical trial. After being screened and meeting the criteria, the clinical trial accepted me. The cancer was Her2 positive and estrogen receptive. Chemo therapy was very different this time. My clinical trials nurse told me, "You will drink lots of water, and exercise. Nausea is not an option." I was blown away. No nausea! How could that be?
As part of a clinical trial I was monitored carefully. There was a clinical trials nurse who battled for me through the maze of paper work. scans, chemo, doctors appointments and blood draws. I shall call her "Big Nurse".
A serious bicyclist for more than 30 years, living a healthy life is something I have studied. I live with cancer just as I live with food allergies. Planning around cancer is not as important as planning to live my life well.
Remember the 66 mile bike ride I was training for? I got a cold and was in the hospital the day of the ride. The weather was cold and rainy. I was enjoying H.G.T.V. while my friends were suffering.
I believe many people die from cancer treatments. What you are willing to eat and drink will make a difference in how you fare throughout chemotherapy. Some of us will see the end of life regardless.
Some questions are answered through soul searching.
There are questions you have to ask other people like doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and others who live through cancer.
Ask questions. The Patient Advocate Foundation has recently come to the forefront; they can help with the red tape of medical insurance. Look for solutions to your problems. If you can't think of questions, ask your doctor what questions you should be asking.
There was a wise man who once said,"There is nothing new under the sun." We know more about the body than ever before. Scientists are finding new ways of dealing with cancer. There are solutions for many things that surrounds a person living with cancer.
Some times there are no solutions, that is when community is most important. Where love makes the difference.
This series of articles will deal with asking questions, getting good nutritional information, exercise, hair loss, fear, depression and generally maneuvering through cancer as an adventure.
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