I am a wife, mother, & a two-time Cervical Cancer Survivor. Years before my cancer diagnosis, I had been having symptoms such as irregular bleeding & pelvic pain. I always chalked these symptoms up to something else and put my health on the back burner.
I waited THREE years to schedule an appointment. In January of 2017, at the age of 25, I was diagnosed with Stage 2A Cervical Cancer after having a routine pap smear. My treatment consisted of low-dose Chemotherapy, external radiation, and Brachytherapy (internal radiation). After a few months of treatment, my Cervical Cancer returned, but this time it was in one of my lungs.
In September, I had half of my left lung removed and have been cancer free since! I am now 27 years old in menopause and have a list of side effects from treatment. I want you to know the importance of pap smears and to encourage you to schedule them routinely. You owe it to yourself to stay healthy!
In Loving Memory
Photo Courtesy of 417 Magazine
I’m busy, cancer. I got stuff to do. Thank you Dustin for always being there…through the good, bad and the ugly. There’s been a lot of ugly, but we’ve also gotten to experience some of the happiest memories and adventures together. You get me and I love you so much. You push me when I don’t think I can do it and hold me when I really can’t. And my parents (Craig & Sharyn), you made me this stubborn. Nice work! (smiley face) They’re also always there. At the drop of a hat. For anything. I know some people don’t have that and it’s so hard for me to imagine because I know, without a doubt, they’re always there. Thank you for that security. (blue heart) And my sister…I don’t think she’ll ever realize how much I adore and look up to her. I got to spend the past couple of days with her and loved every minute. My aunts & uncles are always checking in to see what they can do or sending happy thoughts. And my in-laws…I won the lottery there. That’s for sure. I appreciate you all so much. Jennifer, we were meant to be! My friends…from the ones that have been there forever to the ones I’ve met through my kids to the ones I’ve only met recently through this cancer journey…I couldn’t do it without you. You have carried me through. You get to hear the worst of it. You get to see my tears and my anger and frustration and my fear. And you love me through all of it. Even bright orange hair. And Nana (Nan). She has taught me how to stay positive through the worst of circumstances. How to face adversity head on, with grace. I fail often, but she has given me the best example. And my babies…my motivation for everything. Every smile, every tear, every ounce of fear and hope, I think of them. If I did one thing right, it’s them. Through every giggle, through every struggle, I love them more. We survived the toddler years and are entering the school age and teenage years which promise to be a challenge for everyone. I can’t wait to see who they grow into.
In January of 2015, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, an advanced stage that had traveled to lymph nodes on either side of my pelvic bone and into lymph nodes surrounding the aorta valve of my heart. This came at a time when life was just getting good for me, newly married, children graduating and so on. My prime, you might say. Hearing the word cancer wasn't as bad as knowing that my life was about to transform. I would be trading days at the ballpark for days in the infusion room. I enjoyed the journey and continue to enjoy the journey up ahead.
My family was a great support team. My children's friends rallied wearing bracelets and each and everyone of our six kids did something special, whether it be attending treatments to cutting their hair in support. We were honest with them from the beginning and kept it no secret. We would beat cancer as a team.
From day one GYNCA was there...not only to offer financial help, but to walk me through the process and to become my own personal cheerleaders. I'm amazed at their devotion to provide really elegant events for us to participate in, in order to meet others going through the same circumstance.
I've met a lot of great people in the last few years, many I would never come in contact with, had it not been for cancer. From doctors to nurses, Amber & Jan at GYNCA, to life long friends and survivor sisters, Nicole Fillipi, Debbie Huff, Leah, Melinda Erhart, Beth Strain and more....my smile is a little brighter because of all of them. God entrusted me with cancer and blessed me with these new friendships to boot!
“I AM A WOMAN OF COURAGE… Every day of every week of every month of every year, I deal with cancer. At times it can be very depressing and the tears come even when I try so hard to keep them away. But there are times that there is such joy; it is hard to imagine. Where does this joy come from? It comes from the many women I meet on this journey. Women who are fighting hard to stay alive. Women who are fighting this insidious disease. Women who take joy in the sun that shines and the rain that falls. Women who take strength from those who are helping them in this fight. Yes, that is you.
Some reading this are newly-diagnosed and awaiting surgery or chemo; some of you are in the midst of chemo or radiation treatments; some of you are battling a 2nd, 3rd or 4th recurrence. We applaud and celebrate each and every one of you who continues to fight this fight. We love it when you “ring the bell” at the end of treatment cycles and there is no more evidence of disease; we are always hopeful that your fear of recurrence fades with the passing of time and that you can appreciate every day of your new normal. We also offer prayers, support and hope to our friends who will inevitably face recurrence due to the very nature of her specific diagnosis."
No one portrays “hope” better than survivor and sister Woman of Courage,
In Loving Memory
07.27.1972 - 11.26.2017
The storm has come and gone, and in the midst of it, this way-too-busy girl learned how to be still.
From that stillness, a better version of the old me has emerged, more aware of God's grace in everything.
It seems that even the birds have a sweeter song to sing. Perhaps I just wasn't listening before.
The old me was a sympathetic ear, moving on with my life as usual after lending you my shoulder.
Moving on isn't as easy anymore, because this journey through cancer has changed me.
I feel your pain and struggle now, I cry with you, your burdens become my prayers.
I know now that there is always someone, somewhere, going through a more difficult time than I am.
That I cannot judge by what I see, I have no idea what you are truly feeling inside, even if we are on similar paths.
Most mornings now, I wake up with a prayer on my lips and a thankfulness for the blessing of another sunrise.
I am living proof- God's mercies are new every day.
I was diagnosed in the fall of 2013. I went in for an outpatient surgery to remove what was thought to be a benign mass. I knew something was wrong when I woke up in a room and it was dark outside. It was stage 3B ovarian cancer.
My husband told me the news, but it really didn't sink in due to the pain meds. He never left my side the whole week I was in the hospital. He was (and still is) my angel in green flannel. We soon got a treatment plan and began the chemo journey. With only one set back, we got through it one treatment at a time.
Now, five cancer free years later, we have added four babies to our family. One grandson and three great grandsons!! My care team was fantastic and the GYNCA girls are amazing people. One final word...I was lucky. I had pain. I knew something was wrong and didn't let it go. Trust your own body and don't let it go.
"The start of 2017 wasn't very good for me. I found out my cancer was back, had metastasized, and was spreading quickly. I dragged my feet on what to do, but thanks to some extraordinary women I'd met through GYNCA, I eventually settled on going through a second round of chemo. Once again, I reached out to GYNCA to help my family through my unpaid leave. They helped keep my family's insurance intact. It was while I submitted a request for help that this idea dawned on me.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness month and it is also my birthday month. I wanted to do something for GYNCA since they have helped me not once, but twice now. I talked with Amber and I told her I wanted to do a fundraiser as my birthday present. Having cancer, there is little I need (other than a cure!), and the best gift anyone could give me would be to make a donation to GYNCA in my honor. Amber loved the idea and we came up with Debbie's Teal Team!
So here I am, 45 and feeling alive! I will forever be indebted to GYNCA for helping my family keep our health insurance, and for providing me with a network of women who understand what I am going through and provides a safe place to all of us GYNCA girls! Thank you from the bottoms of my heart."
By admitting that cancer can continue to have a negative impact on our lives after we complete treatment does not mean that cancer will ultimately win. However, turning a blind eye to our mental well-being short circuits our total victory.
I am a faith-based person, but I also deal in reality and this is my reality:
I am no longer who I used to be. I don’t look the same. I don’t talk the same. I don’t think the same. We can thank cancer for that. But I will not continue to destroy myself because I cannot recreate that person. I must be who I am. I still love. I still laugh. I still play. I still fret. I still complain. I still exist.
I am tired of hiding. I am tired of watching others suffer silently. I will talk. I will seek resolution. I will bring these issues out into the open. I will find an answer. Of this you can be sure. Take that, bleeping cancer!
Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot eat away peace,
It cannot destroy confidence,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the Spirit,
It cannot lessen the power
of the resurrection.