Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Looking Back -

I'm posting this piece which I wrote back in February of 2004 and which was published then in the little monthly local newsletter - The West Branch Review -that I contributed several articles to until it disbanded about two years ago. (I really do miss that publication and a goodly number of local folks who know I used to write for it have asked me on many occasions if the lady who ran that publication will ever bring it back to life again. Wish I could answer that question but right now, it does seem pretty unlikely.)

But anyway, this piece refers to events of my life from March of 2003 until March of 2004 and seeing as it was an anniversary -of sorts -for me this past Thursday, March 12th, I thought I would dig this piece out and rerun it here -just for posterity, ya know.

written February 17, 2004
published in The West Branch Review, March 2004.

What’s your favorite sign of spring? Warmer days, spring-type rains, robins or, if you are like me, perhaps it is the budding of jonquils and daffodils that signal spring is here.

However, since last March, those daffodils have taken on an entirely new concept of spring for me.

Daffodils, as you may know, are the symbols for a fund-raising event for the American Cancer Society. And, a year ago this coming March 12th, I learned I was just one of millions in the country who would benefit from the years of research done to find cures for cancer.

You see, I was diagnosed on that date with colo-rectal cancer.

After having endured a myriad of intestinal and digestive problems for about fifteen months, I finally saw a doctor, who referred me to a surgeon, who scheduled me to have a colonoscopy. And the results of that procedure gave me the news that yes, I had cancer.

When my surgeon came to speak to me, as I was getting ready to be discharged, he already had made plans for me as to what procedures would be utilized for my treatment.

I was scheduled to report to the Chemo Clinic at Clearfield Hospital in two days to begin 6-7 weeks of chemotherapy and the week following the colonoscopy, I was to go to Altoona Hospital to do the preliminary paper work for radiation therapy. Then, 6 to 8 weeks after the completion of radiation and chemo, the surgeon told me I would have surgery to remove the tumor detected that morning.

Because both my parents, an aunt and an uncle had succumbed to cancer and another aunt had a colostomy back in 1991 to remove a cancerous tumor, I already knew that genetically speaking, I was at risk of developing this dread disease and for many years, I had worried about that happening.

But strangely enough, once I heard the doctor give me his diagnosis and outline the treatment plans he had made for me, a sense of calm came over me. Not that I felt cocky and sure that I was going to beat the odds against me, but rather a sense of acceptance and at peace.

I wasn’t going to worry unnecessarily about the possible outcome: what ever would be would be!

I had six weeks of chemo –with a portapack pump system that provided a continuous dosage of the chemotherapy. For six weeks I also rode the Medi-van back and forth to Altoona for radiation that would attempt to shrink the tumor. And, in my case, I was lucky that I didn’t experience all kinds of problems with nausea from the chemo. Once the radiation was completed, I did notice a big drop in my energy levels and the surgeon told me that was an after-effect from the combination of the radiation and the chemo.

In June, I had surgery which fortunately resulted only in having a colon resection and not a colostomy. Recuperation for roughly six weeks was prescribed and then I began follow-up chemotherapy one week a month for the next six months. This chemo did have more of a wallop to my system, in that it did give me problems with nausea and cramps for the week I received the treatment and sometimes for the entire week following that but in January of this year I completed that program and the chemo doctor informed me all the tests he had run showed that I am now cancer free.

This doesn’t mean that the cancer will never return as it could already be in the process of doing that and just hasn’t grown enough to be detected. But, it could also be that I will go on about my business and never have any further problems with this disease too.

Whatever the final outcome is though, I am very grateful for having been diagnosed and at least for the time being, cured.

I no longer view cancer the same way as I did before either. Not that I would welcome a return visit of the disease, but I know that treatment is often available and yes, more and more frequently, the outcome from these treatments is very favorable too!

So when you see someone selling those beautiful daffodils, think about how much help you are giving to people like me, all over the country, through research, treatments, providing various forms of assistance to cancer patients and their families comes from purchasing a bunch of daffodils.

They not only brighten up your home but help make the lives of so many people much more beautiful. They also provide the hope, like spring gives us too, of many more wonderful days to spend basking in the sunshine of our families and friends!

Who knows, maybe someday through the funds raised from the purchases of these lovely flowers cancer may even be totally eradicated.

Who knows too, maybe you will, as did, view spring and daffodils, in a whole new vein.

I'd like to add a postscript to that piece now too. Please, have regular tests run -mammograms, for one, regular checkups with your doctor and also, schedule yourself to have the good old colonoscopy done too! A diagnosis today of cancer is no longer the automatic death sentence it was so frequently in the past. With regular checkups, tests performed, early diagnosis, many, many forms of cancer can now be "cured." Do these things ESPECIALLY if you have a history of cancer in your family tree. No, it is not necessarily genetic, will not be automatically inherited per se, but there are strong links there.

The key is not to be afraid of the tests, of the treatments either and if finances are a concern, trust me,. a way will be found to help you with that too! Been there, done that and am still here to talk about it six years after the fact.


Maggie May said...

Thank you Jeni for writing this and for bringing it to our attention.
So pleased that you are hopefully over this cancer. I sincerely hope it never returns.
We also have the daffodil as a symbol for cancer funding.

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

About a month ago I had the sigmoid procedure where they found a pre-cancerous polyp. Thursday I go for the colonoscopy. I'm hoping they don't find anything else.

I'm glad you are okay now. I hope you remain cancer free. Scary stuff, but you are right. You have to see the doctor and take care of the tests that are so essential to maintaining good health.

Have a terrific day. :)

Linda said...

Scary stuff is right but what's even more scary is if you don't take the precautions to avoid having a curable cancer turn into one that's beyond hope. The tests are out there and it's not that hard to take them!

May you stay cancer free and able to remind people of these things for a long time to come!

Suldog said...

Thanks for sharing your story.

A question, if I may? Since you were having surgery to remove the cancer, why were chemo and radiation needed prior? What I mean to say is if they would be removing the growth, why was it being treated in those additional ways? I'm sure there's a simple answer, but it seems puzzling to me in my ignorance. Thanks!

sheng said...

HI there, Jeni? Thanks for roppoing by my place, i love to read too, it's my passion, we share some common things too. I will be here more often now that i have discovered this little place of yours.