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Cancer Information  -  Deborah’s Story

The Year 2000 was the best and worst year of my life; oddly enough both for the same reason….CancerMy life, as I had known it for 45 years, came to an end on January 13th at 3:00 p.m. during a Sigmoidoscope, when the physician said, “that doesn’t look good at all”.   For over a year, three different doctors had been telling me that the reason I was in such

excruciating pain was “hemorrhoids”. That the reason I was so completely exhausted, weak and tired was anemia; but what was causing the anemia? The nausea...they had no idea, other than it probably was related to the anemia.  Finally, when I was to the point of hardly not being able to “void” (excuse me, but what else could I say?), it was decided to do the Sigmoidoscope.  That started my four-month journey through the valley of life and death, and an odd landscape of emotions: indescribable fear, grief, anger, rage, depression, gratitude, hope, faith, and joy.

 

On January 20th of 2000, I was told, during my first visit to the oncologist, that according to his interpretation of the pathology results, all they could do were “things to make my life more comfortable”.  I was admitted into the hospital that day to begin my new life as a “cancer patient”.  Two days later, another doctor told me that it probably had metastisized to my liver and that it was inoperable.  Within two days I had been told twice there was probably nothing that could be done.  Happy New Year?! What a joke. It was looking like it was going to be my last!!

 

This may sound strange, but I truly feel blessed to have been able to go through this process….the process of cancer.  So many wonderful things happened to me. I have met so many incredible people; doctors (the caring, empathetic, sensitive ones), oncology nurses (dispensing encouragement, love, and strength, even though they deal with tragedy of cancer everyday), interns (may they hold onto their “humanness” through the years), other cancer patients (their strength, positiveness, and willingness to help others is amazing), and complete strangers (e.g., the wonderful, black woman sitting in the waiting room that said “God Bless You” to me as I was wheel-chaired down the hall). 

 

The first blessing of this terrible disease was truly (re)discovering what a remarkable, selfless, loving and supportive husband

I have.  From the first moment, he stopped the demands of his personal and professional life, and dedicated  his existence to helping me survive.  He stayed with me in the hospital, went with me to the tests, all my appointments, drove me on the daily 160-mile round trip to get radiation, encouraged me, held me, cried with me, and prayed with me.  When he was not with me, he was doing research on cancer treatments (alternative, complementary, traditional, etc).  This was his way of helping me, and of helping him feel like he was still in control of something.  If there is one thing that cancer is good at, it is making you feel like you are no longer in control of anything. You quickly learn to do all that you can to take control of the cancer, not let it take control of you.  Passivity is not something that people dealing with cancer should ever give in to.  Being active, even proactive, in your treatment is absolutely critical. 

 

The second blessing was that of my friends; friends I knew I had, friends I didn’t realize I had, and friends I would make through this journey.  They were with me in person, thought and prayer throughout the entire process, and continue to be there.  My best friend, Janice, took off a week from work and drove over fifteen hours from North Carolina to be with me when I came home. That was such a terrible week, too. I was having to learn to deal with a colostomy, and I was not happy.  She helped me stay focused on the positive, distracted me from the negative, and reminded me how truly lucky I was.  Anne, my other best friend, was my spiritual strength. She called me everyday whenever I was in the hospital, and gave me a Bible verse. She will never fully understand what this meant to me. She shared her family with me, her time, her inspiration, and her concern. Constant encouragement and words of hope were her gift, and continue to be.  Linda, my “friend of the heart”, researched colostomy internet sites for me. She ended up knowing more about ostomies than I did. Without her, I probably would still be in denial today. She was openly curious, asked every possible question she could think of to ask me about my colostomy. I loved it. Most people are too afraid to ask, try to pretend it didn’t happen to me, and push it aside; not Linda. I can tell her anything that’s going on with my body now, and that is such a relief. Every ostomate should have people in their

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