My Personal Battle With Cancer

by admin on May 16, 2009

Survived Cancer 3 Times

Survived Cancer 3 Times

Cancer is a disease that touches practically everyone in one way or another.  Either we have personal experience or have family members or friends with someone having dealt with effects of cancer, and now I am dealing with cancer and the emotional impact that goes with it, and this is my story!

Last December I had a routine quarterly check-up and everything was fine except I mentioned I had been losing weight, although not really trying.  Having had cancer years before, I was seeing an oncologist every three months. Since unexplained weight loss can indicate a recurrence, he ordered some tests to be done.  Everything turned out normal, so was scheduled for my yearly check-up in April.  This time my Chest CT Scan revealed spots on my lungs, but the radiologist mentioned he had seen them in the December xray but that there had been no change.

When discussing tests results with the oncologist, he mentioned these facts to me and said the spots were too small to needle biopsy, but the radiologist’s opinion was that I had lung cancer.  Needless to say, I was stunned as this would be my fourth flare-up, over a span of 11 years.  But, he said they didn’t know what to do about it.

Three years before, in 2005, I had half my left kidney removed due to three malignant tumors and in 2003 I had a mastectomy as a lump was found on a yearly mammogram.  So, the problem was not knowing if I had breast or kidney cancer in my lung, and what type treatment should I be given.  Without a definitive diagnosis, the oncologist decided to send me to see a lung specialist (pulmonologist) for his opinion.  I was told by the latter physician that I wasn’t a candidate for surgical biopsy where they open up your chest, for which I am truly thankful!  He also said due to the location of the spots on each side of my lungs, they couldn’t be reached unless they grew larger.  He did mention the possibility that I could have scar tissue from a fungus which is common in many people or perhaps I had tuberculosis or pneumonia scars from when I was younger.  My visit ended with his declaring he just didn’t know what to do for me!

Next, I was referred to a kidney specialist (nephrologist) for tests to determine if my half a kidney could withstand surgery if needed since I was considered high risk for kidney failure.  Again, I was quite thankful to learn my half kidney was functioning at 67% which surprised the doctor as the normal function of one is at 75%.  So, he said I’d be able to go through surgery but would need to be monitored.  He did take me off salt usage due to my blood pressure reading being very high.  I told him that was normal for me when at a doctor’s office and I was told it was called “white coat syndrome”, but he said there was no such thing!  He wanted my pressure lowered to lessen my chances of having a stroke.  Since going off salt, I have lost fluid retention and a few pounds, but food no longer appeals to me as it is so tasteless.

My next appointment was back to the oncologist who had reports from the other two doctors and it was decided he’d order repeat Chest CT Scans every two months and this week I had my fifth xray.  I’ll see the doctor next week for results to see if there has been any enlargement in the past nine months since spots first appeared.

My original surgery was July 1997 where my right kidney was removed due to a tumor inside, but self-contained.  I needed no further treatment afterwards.  At that time my only symptom had been high blood pressure but I had been in treatment for several years yet it had remained high.  Finally I decided to change doctors, and being a new patient, routine bloodwork, chest xray and physical exam were done.  The xray revealed an enlargement of my kidney showing up at lower edge of xray and I was referred to a urological surgeon who took one look at the xray and bluntly told me I had kidney cancer.  It was like being hit by a ton of bricks as I was so shocked, and soon the tears were flowing down my cheeks.

However, before surgery could be done, a bone scan was needed because if there had been any spread to my bones, then surgery would not be necessary and my time of living would be limited.  It would be several days later after the test (which was done the following day) before I would learn the test results.  That was the toughest time emotionally and I was a “basket case” with fear, but I, being a Christian, called on family, friends and churches asking for prayer support as all of this was beyond my natural ability to cope with.  When the news came that the test was negative, I dropped to my knees and praised God for His mercy and again the tears just ran down my face in gratitude.

The after-effects of the first surgery was mainly a lengthy healing period and then I was doing well until 2003 when the mammogram revealed the tumor in my breast.  After discussing my options with the surgeon, I decided on a complete mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy as I wanted to be certain all cancer was removed.  Fortunately, after having my breast and lymph glands removed and biopsied, no further cancer cells were found, so I didn’t need chemo or radiation afterwards.  However, I did have some problems with lymphedema in my arm and needed 3 months of physical therapy/massage which proved quite painful.  The incisional area especially needed massaged as I was told the skin could grow attached to my ribs and then I’d really have problems!

After the mastectomy, I learned all about wearing a prosthesis (fake booby) and was sent to a Women’s Boutique for fittings, and this resembled a lovely lingerie shop.  Medicare covers the cost of these and the special bras needed.  They are also equipped with other items women may need such as swim suits, wigs, etc.

While in the hospital, a social worker visited me and told me about a cancer support group that meets in the hospital which I later started attending.  I had been unaware there was such an organization, but my first visit upset me greatly as I never realized cancer could attack so many parts of a person’s  body.  In listening to the different cancer survivors discuss their coping techniques has been very encouraging and so I continue to attend monthly meetings.

Throughout all these years of cancer surgeries, numerous tests and xrays, I guess I’ve toughened up compared to my younger years.  My faith and trust in God has deepened.  His tender mercy towards me has been proven many  times and I have had so many answered prayers.  Last year I was interviewed on a local Christian Radio Station talking about my experiences and the ways God had intervened in my life and had given me “holy boldness” where I could talk with so many people about Him and His goodness to me.

One particular incident I’d like to mention is taking a bone scan test.  I was quite scared beforehand as I knew the results would determine my eligibility for surgery to remove the kidney tumors (2005).  While taking the xray I mentioned to the technician my nervousness and apprehension about waiting 3-4 days for the results as it was quite nerve-wracking!  He told me to wait to dress until he checked the clarity of the films.  While waiting, I was again praying for mercy as I had done for weeks before the scan.  When he reappeared, he leaned over and whispered to me that the results were negative and I had nothing to worry about, so go home and enjoy the weekend.  I was so grateful for his kindness and consideration as I know they are not allowed to tell people test readings, so I saw the hand of God once again!

Although this has been emotionally draining many times, at present I am trusting God that this last test will again show no growth, yet at the same time praying to have the courage to deal with whatever may come next.  I do want to mention how useful our cancer insurance from AFLAC has been.  Three times they’ve paid the claims promptly, efficiently and generously.  Many people don’t carry this type coverage, but I can highly recommend it.  As you may realize by now, my coping skills are being used in getting back into writing.  I developed a love for writing stories, articles and poetry, years ago when in high school and at one time considered being a journalist.  So, here I am at aged 72, finally realizing a dream, and hopefully the ideas I have in my head for stories will come to fruition.  I hope the story of my battle with cancer will be of interest or help to someone.

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