**The following post is a part of our blog series that we will do each month as a part of our cancer observance mission information. These courageous cancer survivors are sharing their story…..the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. But the great news, thanks to the work of the American Cancer Society, they are with us today and we hope these stories provide inspiration to all who read them.
YES! Early Detection Does Save Lives!
Voice of Hope, South Region, Texas
Now, don’t get excited but you have the early stages of cervical cancer. Those are words that we never want to hear, but as I was sitting at my desk in March 2000, those were the words that my gynecologist shared with me. My first thought was…..Me?, I can’t have cancer, I do not feel sick. But my doctor continued to share that it was caught early and that is why I didn’t feel sick.
So, then came the hard part, sharing the news with my family and trying not to act frightened as I shared it. Frightened, oh yes I was. You see, this was not the first time for a cancer diagnosis in my family. My dad was diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer and a few months later, he passed away. Then several years later, my grandpa was diagnosed with brain cancer and passed away before he could come home. I wasn’t just frightened, I was terrified! But, as I shared the news with my husband, and children, the love and support I received was just what I needed to change from being frightened to being determined!
At my doctor visit to go over the treatment options, my doctor asked if I wanted to have any more children. I quickly let him know that I was a mother of teenagers! And told him that there is no better birth control than that – No, I did not want to have more children! So, a hysterectomy was his suggestion. Well, they scheduled my surgery for December 15th so that I could have the surgery and not have to worry about another insurance deductible. I told the doctor that would be an interesting way to spend my 40th birthday and he immediately said, oh no, we are going to re-schedule. They then rescheduled my surgery a week earlier.
So, a couple of weeks later, I went in for my surgery. Scared, you bet I was, but even more determined. Then two days after my surgery, I heard the most beautiful words in the English language – “We got it all! You do not need treatments of any kind.” Almost as fast as I was diagnosed, I was now CANCER FREE! But I was still feeling determined……
I went home to continue my recovery and my youngest daughter (one of my 3 teenagers) asked if she could go to an event with her boyfriend who was working the sound for the event. I said she could go because I just wanted to sleep. She came home at midnight, woke me up and shared that she had gone to an American Cancer Society Relay For Life and that I would be there the next year. I was intrigued.
My recovery was an easy one and after 6 weeks, I was feeling well enough to resume all my regular duties, working and being a mom. At my follow up appointment, my doctor shared that I would need to continue to have Pap Smears to make sure the cancer did not come back. Well, of course, I sure did not want to hear those words that I had cancer again. Even more important, I wanted it caught early again, if that did happen.
Still with that determination, I thought about what I can do to help others that hear those 3 words, you have cancer. After my father passed away, I took charge of my neighborhood campaign for the American Cancer Society and was thrilled that I collected almost $200 from my neighbors. And after researching more about the American Cancer Society Relay For Life, I knew I had to get involved.
So, the next April, in 2001, I made sure I was there for the survivor walk at the Bastrop County Relay For Life. I could not believe the love that I experienced. Hugs and celebration from other survivors. Teams lining the track clapping and calling out my name as I walked that first lap. Yes, this was the place that I needed to be. I sought out the event leadership and immediately asked how I could get involved. I was welcomed with open arms onto the Leadership Committee and that was 22 years ago and I have never let up.
In 2007, I was honored to be selected as a Hero of Hope with Relay For Life. As a Hero of Hope, I would share my story with others. What would I say? How would I get my message across? One thing that I knew was that I would share a message of early detection.
I then decided that I needed a visual aid to share the early detection message. I thought, I need a monkey so that I could share that cancer is not something to monkey around with or maybe a cat, to share that you can be a cool cat by getting your annual recommended screenings. So, off to the store I went and as I was looking, I found a purple monkey (you see purple is the color of the survivor shirts at Relay For Life) and knew that I had found exactly what I was looking for.
What would I call him……..and then I knew exactly what it would be……..EDSL. And my tagline was created……. “Quit monkeying around and get your annual screenings because Early Detection Saves Lives”. This is how I would share my story of how early detection saved my life!
So, I completely understand that it is scary to go to the doctor. I completely understand that money can be tight and paying for the visit or paying a copay can be hard but, I am here to tell you, make that appointment, skip that dinner out so that you have the copay, and “Quit Monkeying Around and get your annual screenings because Early Detection Saves Lives!!!!”