You Aren’t Alone.
Find Strength in Stories from Our Community.
Sometimes, the most healing thing to do is to remind ourselves over and over and over, other people feel this, too.
– Andrea Gibson
We all have a story.
You know the one. The words. That moment. When you, or someone you love, heard . . .
”I’m sorry, but you have cancer.”
I’ve spoken with hundreds of survivors and patients and learned that many of us experienced the same thing in that moment.
The out of body experience. The shock. The disbelief.
The certainty that you’ll later get a call telling you this was all just a big mistake.
Our stories matter. YOUR story matters.
Together, our stories help others going through the same thing.
Karen. Discovering Faith, True Beauty and Confidence.
During and After Cancer
Without question, when going through a serious illness, you learn to know what faith truly is, along with finding the true meaning of beauty and how you really feel about yourself. I know this all too well at 65 years of age because I have experienced many trials and tribulations in my life. Through it all, I gain strength that I never knew I had, and much more confidence in myself, which led me to love myself all over again. I had a new beginning, all on my own.
After going through so much in my life, things were going well, until it happened. I had a head-on collision with not only breast cancer, but colon cancer as well, and possibly just recently, and it changed my entire outlook on life. I say recently, because I was recently thought to have cancer, where the test showed positive results, yet a little later, it showed negative results, so I feel as if I survived it three times. I thought that I had endured rough years before in my life but going through cancer was the rest of the iceberg. There is nothing like it. You wonder, what in life had you done so wrong to have this placed upon you. You began asking, why me. Yet through my tragedies and all that I had to endure, it all became an awakening for me, in which I received and gain all the strength and encouragement I needed to conquer. Through it all, not only did I find the true meaning of life, but I also found the true meaning of beauty. Through all the chemo, radiation, the pain I endured, I still felt beautiful. I found myself looking in the mirror even more during this time because I thought what I was dealing with would change me drastically, but as I viewed the imperfections I now must live with, over time it got better, and instead of feeling sorry for myself, I embrace it all; I am still among the living, who am I to complain.
Whether we are dealing with an illness or any other negative feelings about ourselves, our lives, and our bodies, we need to be our on-cheering section. Through all my mishaps, I still feel beautiful, and it is real. I have come to realize that even going through such a dark time in my life, I still have a life to be lived, and I am going to live it to the fullest. When I think about the individuals that are no longer among us due to such a horrific disease, I am profoundly grateful, and I will no longer take my life for granted, life is precious, and we do not realize that until we come close to losing it. When I think of the “gift of life” that was given to me twice over, I knew I did not have a moment to waste. I would never say having or going through cancer is a gift, surviving it, receiving a second and third chance at life, is the gift. Yet, through it all, I did not allow the disease to take away who I am, or what I stand for. I am a survivor, as well as an example to show that it can happen and that I can go on and look and feel just as beautiful, inside, and out, and it shines brighter.
Yet through my tragedies and all that I had to endure, I received and gain all the strength and encouragement I needed to conquer. I will say that the areas of my body that were interrupted, will be a constant reminder I had cancer, and at times, it does bother me, I am human, but within a moment or two, I look past it, because those areas could be covered up. True beauty is within and when you feel beautiful on the inside, it shows so clearly on the outside. Just because I had cancer, does not mean cancer had me. We as women should never allow anything, or any circumstance to steal our joy, nor our self-esteem. And I know with cancer, many times you are too weak to even think about your looks because you are not always feeling your best, believe me, I know; but sometimes you must try a little bit, and fight past it and keep living. Through any tragedy, we are and always will be beautiful and unique! Women, we all know that our bodies take lickings, yet we keep on ticking.
When I look back now and see how far I have come, I have to say, I thought right away that my cancer diagnoses were truly a death sentence because you are not sure if you are going to make it or not. Cancer has taught me not to blink twice at life, my eyes are wide open, living life to the fullest. I also realized after surviving cancer both times, that I was about to face new beginnings, new hope, do and see more with a whole new perspective on life. I share my story with others hoping to make a positive impact on someone who is ill or otherwise, where they can proceed with life in a whole new way. I am 65yrs of age now, and I am cherishing each day, each moment, and through it all, I feel that I am still at my best. I am confident with myself, as well as grateful. I am starting over, doing things I should have done before cancer.
One day, after one of the many surgeries I had during my breast cancer period, and I could remember it as if it were yesterday, I experienced something so real, so peaceful, something of a miracle, that I had to write it down. I turned that experience into a poem, and I called it “Peace”. I took that poem, along with many others I had written, writing had become therapy for me. I am hoping that anyone who may have the opportunity to read my poems, get out of them, what I placed in them, they are as real as any could ever be. My most recent published book is titled, “Cancer, Yet Cancer Again, but I will not Die, before I’m Dead”. I titled it that because I truly feel that you should not stop living, because you have cancer, and that is exactly what I almost did when I heard the word cancer. I am a realist, a regular everyday woman, who has overcome many obstacles, which took me to writing, trying to produce inspirational stories. If I had not gone through all that I did, I would have never anticipated such.
The scars and mishaps, that are now attached to my body, due to cancer, are just that, and they are symbols for someone else for inspiration and hope. I am thankful because if I had not struggled, I would not have found my true strengths. I am a true example that you can survive cancer, not once, but twice, providing you get to it in time. I am not saying all will be easy, I am not saying all will survive it, what I am saying, is to have faith, fight with all you have, then hold on. I honestly believe, when and if you survive a horrific tragedy or a horrible disease such as cancer, it is for a reason. You have a purpose, and through that purpose, faith, compassion, and strength, true beauty is born, and I’m walking in mine.
Fatima. My Cancer Surviving Journey.
Hey everyone… This is the very first time I am sharing my story. I don’t know how to share, but I’m trying, as they asked me to be a voice.
No, actually, this is the first time I ACCEPTED THE FACT OF MY LIFE.
This is my cancer surviving journey.
I went through 3 surgeries and 2 years of chemotherapy in my teenage years. When everyone else was enjoying school with friends, I was in the hospital with no friends to see me. Well, the reality of life with cancer is very different from the image we try to portray. It’s not like when chemo ends you just walk right back into the real world. It takes time for everything to fall into place, hair to grow, the strength to live normally, the body to return to its familiar shape . . . And there are bigger things that sometimes never fall into place, like talking to people who haven’t had cancer about what it’s like to face the possibility of death.
Our fight? It is simply a willingness to go through the treatment or the reactions. FRANKLY, the alternative sucks. We endure pain and sickness for the chance to feel normal again. We build up an emotional tolerance for things we can’t change. Faith takes care of the rest. Most importantly, life will never move the same again.
In your life when it feels like time is flying by, it will scare you. When it feels like time is crawling and you’re dying to get past a difficult phase, you’ll feel guilty for not appreciating the time you have. It’ll simply never be the same again.
After a colonoscopy, I was cleared. No cancer. A few months later, I had symptoms. My doctor sent me to a surgeon, who took biopsies and found . . . Anal cancer.
I did chemo and radiation. It was horrendous, and I ended up in hospital four times. I started to have continuous pain and was doing hyperbaric chamber therapy. The pain got worse, so they got in touch with a doctor specializing in my cancer and biopsies showed cancer had spread, leading to [my] colon and to my vagina.
I had major surgery and was in hospital 5 days. They took from and including my colon and intestines down, had to remove my vagina, and open my chest and remove 3 of my ribs to put in place where the cancer had been taken out. No anus, no vagina and 29 staples in my chest and 3 drains later, I came home.
That was last Thanksgiving 2020. I have a bag and luckily they were able to save my urethra so as not to have a second bag. I had to do more hyperbaric oxygen therapy because the radiation I had was inhibiting the tissue from healing.
I’m doing well now but sometimes I get down. I go for a scan in September to see if the cancer is anywhere else in my body.
Tamron. Coping with Cancer: What I’ve Learned as a 14-Year Mesothelioma Survivor.
As a woman in my thirties, I could easily write a book about lessons I’ve learned and still am learning.
When I was diagnosed with peritoneal Mesothelioma at the age of 21, I was in complete shock. I had just given birth to my first child five months prior and was engaged to my now husband, thinking of when I was going to return back to school.
It hit me like a ton of bricks, because all along I was told I just had a fibroid tumor. I did think a time or two about what lessons I needed to learn out of this entire journey. When I hear the word “Cope” my thoughts are how you’re dealing with something.
For the most part, in the beginning of my diagnosis, it was a roller coaster ride. One minute I was up, probably in denial and the next minute I was at a breaking point where I had to have a moment of release. As the days went by, I grabbed hope from out of the darkness of my situation and mustard up some faith. I would say, “yes I have cancer but cancer doesn’t have me.”
I saw myself in the future being cancer free. It was as if I had a goal of being cancer free and I was determined to get there. I was focused on the finish line, being able to be healthy and cancer free not only for myself but for my son and husband. For me it was all about a mindset change and a shift in my perspective. One may ask, how do you cope with cancer? It’s not easy but it’s doable.
Here’s some ways I coped during my journey with mesothelioma.
- My perception changed- I didn’t see the situation as doom and gloom. I looked at it from another perspective a positive one.
- Take it one day at a time- remember this is a journey, a marathon not a sprint.
- Tap into your gratitude- it’s like when you get cancer you start to be grateful for even the smallest things.
- Talk to others- joining a support group will help you cope especially when you share something in common with others you’re talking to.
So with these ways I’ve found to cope during my journey with cancer I’ve learned some lessons that I still find important in my life now as a survivor. Lessons I’ve learned . . .
- Give yourself grace- having mesothelioma isn’t a walk in the park. Giving yourself grace allows you to know that yes you probably can do everything but you shouldn’t do everything.
- Patience is a virtue- it may sound cliché but it’s so true. Waiting for appointments, test, scans, treatments, surgery, results, etc. will definitely make you have patience.
- Your journey can help someone else I have so much gratitude knowing that my story can help to inspire others and give them hope and encouragement.
So whichever part of your journey you may be on, find whatever works best for you to cope with cancer.
It was 2016. I had been feeling pretty crappy for a while — nausea, fatigue . . . I owned a yarn shop and my employees kept having to wake me up. In a move that was uncharacteristic for me, I scheduled a checkup in October because I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I had lost some weight, but I was overweight so I thought that was a good thing.
My doctor did a breast exam and said, “I think you need a diagnostic mammogram.” I had no clue what that was. She said I could call the hospital and set it up. The next day, I called and they said my doctor had to set it up. So I promptly forgot about it.
In March 2017, a nurse called and asked why I hadn’t had the mammogram. I explained, and the next day I went to have the mammogram. I looked at the ultrasound image and saw what looked like a constellation. It was even swirly. I knew it wasn’t good.
The next day (Mayo Clinic DOES move fast!) I had a biopsy. By the end of the day they called to say the doctor wanted to meet me the next day, but they wanted me to have an MRI first. It was at that moment that I knew . . . I had cancer. To be honest, I was actually hoping it was cancer. Not because I wanted cancer, but what else could be making me feel so rotten?
The next day, March 23, 2017 (the day before my 57th birthday) I waited in one of the small consultation rooms at Mayo. A young doctor entered the room. He sat. And he said, “The type of cancer you have . . . ” and I heard nothing after that.
I had 16 courses of chemo — 12 weekly ones followed by 4 bi-weekly ones. They kicked my ever-living butt. I am diabetic and they told me, “Eat whatever you want. If you want hot chocolate, don’t forget the marshmallows and use whole milk.” I kept losing weight, albeit slowly.
I had a mastectomy in November to remove my right breast and every lymph node they could find, which turned out to be 40 or so. I started radiation and had 30 treatments in January and February, 2018. But I never bounced back. My appetite was poor, and I started using medical cannabis, although it didn’t help much. I was too tired to hold down a job.
In July 2021 I fell and landed squarely on my knee. The pain kept increasing. On August 3, 2021 my hip broke and I had a full hip replacement the next day. I got a call the next week saying that my GP (the same one who sent me for the diagnostic mammogram in 2017!) wanted to do my surgery follow-up, which I thought was kind of strange. First red flag. This woman goes to my church and we have played in bell choir together! When I went in for the appointment, her first question was about pain. I asked if I could get more pain meds, to which she answered I could get all the meds I needed. Second red flag. Then I said something about blood sugar and she said, “Let’s not worry about things that aren’t important anymore.” Third red flag. My doc’s MISSION IN LIFE has been bugging me about blood sugar ever since becoming my doctor.
Then she looked at me and said, “Mary Jill, your hip bone tested positive for cancer.” I lost the ability to breathe. I had my first-ever PET scan which showed my pelvic and hip bones were strong but most of the marrow was now cancer. There was also a small spot in my chest, probably a lymph node.
I have decided to have no treatment. At least at this time. I am taking pain meds only.
After a fun-filled day with friends, I returned home and sat down to relax. I felt a soreness on my right side. I felt a lump the size of a golf ball in my right breast. Fluid was excreted if I pressed on my breast. It was late in the afternoon and after talking with my sister, she reassured me it was probably a blocked milk duct. I had gone running, then swimming, on a very hot July day.
I called my OBGYN the next day and took the 3:30 appointment so I didn’t have to miss work. When the doctor left the room and the staff started buzzing around, I began to get nervous. The breast center was closed and they could not get me in for a mammogram until the next day. When I arrived at 10 am on Tuesday, I was told the doctor was expecting me.
WHAT? I was not expecting a doctor to be waiting for me and again. The anxiety returned. After a mammogram & ultrasound, they flipped the room into a surgical room to perform a biopsy. When I was finished the doctor told me I had an appointment with the surgeon in 2 days.
The surgeon told me [it was] DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma InSitu) breast cancer and [the lump] was estimated to now be the size of an orange. They would do a mastectomy followed by reconstruction. I was assured I probably did not need chemo or radiation.
The surgery told a different story. Cancer was found in my centennial lymph node. My diagnosis changed from stage 0 to Stage 2 triple negative breast cancer. Chemo and radiation were now necessary.
This is the beginning of my story which all occurred within days.