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The Real Voices of Cancer

We hear many heart wrenching stories from cancer patients, doctors and survivors. But what about the family members and friends? What is it like to go down this road with someone who’s struggling with it or has passed from it?

The following is a list of questions that will help others understand what is experienced while caring for a loved one with cancer, or been diagnosed with it.

They were not asked for names or contact information. Some stories have happy, cancer-free endings. Others do not. It is the reality of cancer. Here are three of their stories.

SARAH

  • What is the relationship between you & the person that you know that was diagnosed with breast cancer (or other cancers)? Friend and co-worker
  • What was their age at time of diagnosis? She was so young the first time. It came back in her hips the second time and again in her liver the third time. She was 41 when she passed… it breaks my heart… she was way too young.
  • Did they find out through early detection methods like mammograms? I am not sure how it was detected the first time… we didn’t meet until we worked together.
  • What was your initial reaction to the news? I found out the second time she was diagnosed and I was sad and scared for her but she handled it like a trooper and she had such a positive drive. As for her third diagnoses, she didn’t tell anyone, not her friends, not her family, she talked about things but she never came straight out and said it. She kept it to herself I believe it is because she didn’t want anyone to see her suffer. She was such a strong and amazing woman. I couldn’t imagine how she felt.  She put on a smile every day and came to work as long as she could. She had an amazing sense of humor. One most people could never imagine. We spoke and emailed daily until she went into the hospital, then we texted daily. I saved her messages!  I will never forget that long week or the Saturday that she passed away… it was raining and I was out to dinner with a friend for her birthday and my cell phone rang and before I even looked at it I knew what the call was. I knew in my heart she was gone. I knew she was not suffering any more. Cancer has affected my family and friends for years, many have died and suffered, but with Kim it was different.  She was my age, she was my peer, she was my friend!!  I wanted to hold her hand and be there for her and I couldn’t… but now I am!! I miss her and by knowing her she has made me a better person!! Thank you, Kim Hermann!
  • Is the person currently undergoing treatment or a survivor? If a survivor how long have they been cancer free? Or did they lose their battle? She lost her battle June 2008
  • What was the most difficult thing for you to deal with? Losing her and feeling like there was nothing I could do for her.
  • Are you active in any fundraising efforts or events that benefit research or cancer patients like Making Strides, ACS, etc?  Yes, I am the team leader of  Team Legal Eagles of Norton Hammersley and we host fund raising events to raise money such as the BYOBachelor Auction, Takethepicture.org, a yard sale, sell hand decorated pink bras, etc. to help support Making Strides Against Breast Cancer
  • What would you like to see happen with the funds raised by these types of organizations? Free or discounted mammograms to those who can’t afford them.
  • Do you feel there is enough information available concerning early detection, treatments, prevention & or fundraising? Yes and no – I think information is out there but I think that people don’t think it will happen to them so therefore people ignore it. I also notice with our events we have a difficult time getting the press to write up articles on our events prior to the event. We get more publicity after the event takes place… which defeats the purposes of promoting early detection…
  • Is there anything you would like to add? Early detection is key… get checked… even if it is self checking… do it every day… pay attention, look in the mirror at yourself every day, notice changes in texture, color, size anything, go to your doctor, be aware!  Of course Mammograms are the best but everything little thing helps!

ANONYMOUS

  • What is the relationship between you & the person that you know that was diagnosed with breast cancer (or other cancers)?  My step mother, ovarian cancer and my husband, oral cancer and my mother, breast cancer.
  • What was their age at time of diagnosis? Step mom, late 40’s I believe. We lost her too young, Husband late 40’s, he is fully recovered, my mother was in her 40’s, and now cancer-free for over 15 years
  • Did they find out through early detection methods like mammograms?  Step mom, I think she should have gotten to a doctor sooner, had severe pelvic pain & it had spread by the time she was diagnosed. Waited too long. Very sad. They tried, but nothing worked. Over a decade later: Husband: oral cancer they assumed was a sore throat that never got better after rounds of antibiotics. After months, they did a scan and saw a tumor. Mother- mammogram.
  •  What was your initial reaction to the news?  Fear. I hear the word cancer and I think death sentence. I learned that is not always the case. Some cancers are different than others, some aggressive, some not, some are in early stages and it depends on where the cancer is. We learned so much about how to get your body in an alkaline state, what foods to avoid, what foods to eat to fight the cancer. We had a great mentor, Steve who was a survivor of oral cancer & coached us through my husband’s ordeal step by step. I leaned on him for support & advice and he was so positive for us. Thanks Steve!
  • Is the person currently undergoing treatment or a survivor? If a survivor how long have they been cancer free? Or did they lose their battle?   Step mom passed way too soon. She was a wonderful woman. The world needs more people like her. My husband went through chemo, radiation and had a feeding tube, the whole ordeal went on for about 6 months. He is fully recovered, still goes back for PET scans, and eats differently now. He takes whole food multi vitamins, and is in better health now than before! It was a lonely, scary time for me as his caretaker. He was very ill, not himself and very weak. My mother went through chemo and had breast removal, mastectomy. 15 years later, fully recovered. Now in my late 30’s, I am aware (and afraid) that I may be high risk. I try to stay active and eat the right food, don’t smoke, maintain a healthy/slim weight, etc. I feel this will lessen my odds of getting it, plus I have been going for yearly mammograms for many years.
  • What was the most difficult thing for you to deal with?  Death. Seeing my beautiful step mom on her death bed was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I remember the Hospice nurses, they were angels. I was angry that the doctors weren’t able to save her. I can’t erase the thoughts of that room she was in, and my father holding her hands and loving her. She was skin and bones. So unfair for her to go through. Over a decade later, I was scared my husband would die. He did not- he had a very different, non aggressive cancer that had not spread, because we caught it early- the same kind Michael Douglas had. Squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Are you active in any fundraising efforts or events that benefit research or cancer patients like Making Strides, ACS, etc?  I donate to Susan G. Komen or ACS when I can. It’s a cause I hold near and dear.
  • What would you like to see happen with the funds raised by these types of organizations?   Affordable or free mammograms and cancer related healthcare/treatments. And find a cure – for all cancers. Educate people that they are killing themselves with the way they treat their bodies. Alcohol, smoking, obesity. I know some cancers are inherited, there’s a genetic component, there’s environmental components, but why increase your chances? It seems insane to abuse your body.
  • Do you feel there is enough information available concerning early detection, treatments, prevention & or fundraising?  I think so, but as I said above, people need to become educated on the right foods to eat, cancer fighting foods and what to avoid. Exercise, preventative maintenance. It’s not a big deal to some people until it is too late.
MARY ~ Diagnosed at 36
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  • What is the relationship between you & the person that you know that was diagnosed with breast cancer (or other cancers)?  Myself
  • What was your age at time of diagnosis?   36
  • Did they find out through early detection methods like mammograms?  Found through self-exam.   Did not show up on a mammogram but did appear on an ultrasound.
  • What was your initial reaction to the news?  Afraid for the long road ahead but not surprised since my sister was diagnosed at 38 years old two years prior to me.   My  mother, aunts and grandmother were also diagnosed so I figured it was a matter of time (but hoped that it would somehow skip a generation)
  • Is the person currently undergoing treatment or a survivor? If a survivor how long have they been cancer free? Or did they lose their battle?    I am a survivor now for 7 years – I hope I’m cancer free.   My mother is a survivor of over 15 years, my sister over 9 years, my aunt over 20 years (unfortunately, I lost my grandmother and great aunt to breast cancers many years ago).
  •  What was the most difficult thing for you to deal with? The possibility that I would not be around for my kids.   I’ll never forget losing clumps of hair during chemo and the first day I had to go back to work with that ugly wig!
  •  What advice would you give other family members to help cope?   Be there and spend as much time as you can with each other.   Take the help of friends and family when they offer and don’t be afraid to ask – they want to help.  I had a wonderful support group including my husband, mom, sister, kids, family and great friends.  I’ll never forget all the food, cards, flowers, phone calls and visits from everyone. It meant everything and really helped me get through it with a positive attitude.  I was so blessed.
  •  Are you active in any fundraising efforts or events that benefit research or cancer patients like Making Strides, ACS, etc?   Yes, but not as active as I would like to be.
  • What would you like to see happen with the funds raised by these types of organizations?  Find a cure – I have a daughter that’s 11 and time is running out for her and all the other young women out there!
  • Do you feel there is enough information available concerning early detection, treatments, prevention & or fundraising?  I think so but I don’t think it can be reinforced enough.
  • Is there anything you would like to add?   Thank you Sarah and everyone for all you do in coordinating the fundraiser events for the Legal Eagles and Making Strides.   I believe it will make a difference some day.
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