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How to Survive Cancer

Updated on September 24, 2015
Tirelesstraveler adventuring in Alaska twenty years after first diagnosis. This Hub is just the beginning, but it's nowhere near the end.
Tirelesstraveler adventuring in Alaska twenty years after first diagnosis. This Hub is just the beginning, but it's nowhere near the end. | Source

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.

Dr. Fredrick Riehl and family Thanksgiving Day 1893
Dr. Fredrick Riehl and family Thanksgiving Day 1893 | Source

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.

Rachel Welch and Gilda Radner.  Gilda Radner fought ovarian cancer and advanced awareness of ovarian cancer for seven years
Rachel Welch and Gilda Radner. Gilda Radner fought ovarian cancer and advanced awareness of ovarian cancer for seven years | Source

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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    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      samowhamo, I am very sorry for you loss. My dad died three weeks ago, so I know the pain.

      Write what interests you. I find the more diverse the people I follow the more I learn. I read at least one hub of the people I follow. If I like what they have written I follow.

    • samowhamo profile image

      samowhamo 4 years ago

      My grandmother died of cancer ten years ago and my grandfather just died a few days ago of cancer. The viewing was today and the funeral is tommorow :'(. Well thank you for following me but I write mostly about herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians) and paleontology (the study of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals) if you are interested and sometimes I write about other things.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California no truer words spoken. Thanks for the visit.

    • profile image 5 years ago

      Live life fully, compassionately and with a song in your heart - even if some days you sing the Blues...

      great hub -


    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Amy B., My heart is breaking for your BFF. She will be in my prayers.

    • Amy Becherer profile image

      Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      The news today spoke about a new drug that is curing melanoma, once a death sentence. Innovation is impacting the field of medicine day by day. My BFF, who was living in Florida with her husband, had a daughter that was hit, head-on, by a drunk driver going the wrong way over the Poplar Street bridge. Alicia, my BFF's daughter, suffered a brain injury and multiple broken bones. While she was @ SLU Hospital, a growth near her heart was accidentally discovered. As Alicia was poor and had no health insurance, the doctors assured Alicia and her mom that it was benign (without benefit of any scan). After Alicia left rehab for her injuries, she lived in her grandparents small, cramped home. She was treated as more of a nuisance than welcome. When Alicia started feeling sick, a local hospital discovered that the growth was non-hodgkins lymphoma. The night before the last chemo treatment (2nd round) she was trying to find a friend to stay with and she ran off the road, crashed into a guardrail and died. When you write about community, tirelesstraveler, your words ring so true. With Alicia's mom back in FL and no way of accommodating the state to state differences in laws governing medicaid, Alicia's family could not afford the treatments. Here, she needed to be within a reasonable distance to the hospital. Alicia's biological father, who lives close to the hospital, refused her. I lived over 50-miles from where she needed to be. Had her grandparents been more receptive to their grand-daughter, the outcome might have been altogether different. Thank you for writing an important, life-saving hub.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      KDuBarry03- Greetings! Thank you for your blessing.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      You are strong and filled with motivation! You definitely have a mother's strength and that is shown in this Hub. I commend you for your strength and battles! May you live a long, joyful life with those who love you :)


    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      tirelesstraveler, thank you for your reply to my comment. That is truly amazing, inspiring and wonderful.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Pamela, I have a friend who told me 25 years ago that she was living with cancer. I decided that was a good way to look at cancer. Recently I heard a quote," It may not be curable, but it is definitely survivable". Cancer is definitely survivable. I am in training for a run and a 100 mile bike ride at the end of the summer.

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 5 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I do hope you are in remission. I will read on to your next hub.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      Sunshine635- Thank you for stopping. So far so good.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Wishing you continued success with your journey. Thank you for sharing!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      So glad to hear your are doing well.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Wow-What a journey you've been through. It sounds like you have so much knowledge and experience and your hubs will help people like me. I'm an eight year, lung cancer survivor. Who knew a 41 year old that never smoked would get this diagnosis. Cancer can get anyone but it is no longer a death sentence. Where are you at today with it? Hopefully in remission. Thanks for sharing your cancer stories with us.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 5 years ago from California

      wwwolfs- So glad you stopped by. Cancer has been an interesting road to travel. Don't wish it on anyone. I have been made a more compassionate and loving person because of cancer. :)

    • profile image

      wwolfs 5 years ago

      You have written a great hub. One that would give many encouragement. I, especially, love your message to others to keep trying until you find something that works. Everyone couldn't possibly have the same results with whatever they use in many situations. Other factors would have to be taken into consideration and how consistent you are with what you are doing.

      I have read some of your hubs and I am sorry you have had this come into your life. It certainly is not something anyone would welcome. You show much courage and strength. You, also, appear to be a fighter and are a great inspiration for others.

      Keep up your strength, your faith, and continue to reach out to other people. There are many cancer survivors today. You have much to share. Many blessings to you. I wish you much happiness and success.

    • chuckandus6 profile image

      Nichol marie 6 years ago from The Country-Side

      You are a very strong and inspiring great article and a very well written hub Have a happy Easter