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Keep a good attitude and don't be afraid...

Posted Dec 08 2009 12:00am

Congratulations on your survivorship! Thank you for sharing your story with us. Attitude does play a big part on how we handle the cancer experience. I hope also that someday people will ask..."What is cancer?"


Hello, my name is Joyce and in October of this year I was a 5 year survivor.

On October 20, 2004 (my birthday) I was in the hospital biopsy room with the test from hell. (pardon the language, pls).I had had my mammo earlier. If anyone has never seen the table you lay on, when I walked in I said "thanks for the complement guys!!" The hole in that table was a 100 Double D After it was done, nosey me wanted to see what he took. After being called nosey by the sweetest guy, I saw these things that I told him looked like spaghetti with zits. Also asked him, any hints you want to give me - he said no, but we'll call you soon.

The next day, while at work, my phone rang. It was my sweet biopsy guy...he said "I hate to tell you this", and I interrupted (which I normally do) and said "well say goodby and hang up.) He said he was sorry but I had breast cancer. Heck of a b'day present, huh? ( I had just had a "touch and feel" by my work NP and nothing was found). I was floored, but it was behind my nipple - called a shadow. He said he was going to call my OBGYN doctor who's a wonderful guy. It seemed just as I hung up the phone, the Doctor called . He said, "Joyce, I'm really sorry; what can i do for you?" I told him 2 things. 1) to find someone as kind as you- 2) someone who knew what he was doing. He said," I can do that - I'll get back with you."

Well, I called my boss and when I heard his voice, you guessed it - TEARS. Told him I was going home. His knowing what I had been waited for, he wanted me to go to medical. Medical? I wasn't sick, I wanted to go home. He said can you drive? I wonder why people think when ones cries they can't drive. You drive in the rain, right? He said go, but be careful. I called my husband who was on his way to my sister-in-laws to get some dishes for my daughter. He said to go home, that he would come home. I said no, I want to see Anne. She was in stage 4 of ovarian cancer and she was my rock. I learned a lot about chemo, radiation, being sick, all that wonderful stuff from her. I told him to act natural and we would tell her later, I just wanted to sit beside her. A fighter from the get go, she was something else. When we arrived, she was shocked to see me in the middle of a work day. "What are you doing here?" she asks. I said "I'm off for half a day and thought I'd come with Billy and visit with you." So we chatted for a while, I kissed her and said "see ya later." The following Monday I told her and she said not to worry we will fight this together. I said "I know, that's why I came to see you -to pull a little strength from you - hope not to much." She said "you didn't." We said our love ya's and hung up.

I think at that time, the hardest thing to do was to tell my girls. We were scheduled to go to Charlottesville, VA that weekend to see my youngest. Told Billy we would still go - I wasn't dead yet and treat is as any other visit and tell her at some point in time. When I arrived home, there was a call from my GYN guy. I had been scheduled to see my surgeon on Nov. 4th. Well, while visiting her, she was talking about Thanksgiving, etc. and I said that we needed to talk. I said to let's drink a glass of wine before we go to dinner. She looked at her dad and said, uh oh, she's gone crazy. We laughed and then told her. My heart broke for her, but I told her, don't worry, I'm going to do just fine - now let's go eat!! She's a very caring person and I knew she would be ok. We had a good weekend and left the next morning to go to Richmond to tell my oldest daughter. She listened, but didn't know what to say. I told her she wasn't going to get rid of me that easily.

Going on with the daily things in life, my sister-in-law had to go to the hospital. We had talked over the weekend and she was going to have a little surgery. She told me good luck seeing my doctor on the 4th. I told her, I will, if you can do it, so can I. Anne died on the 3rd and visitation was the 4th - the day of my surgeon's appt. Oh well, I said to myself, I'll do this with her in my heart. At the appointment, the first person I met was his NP. One of the most caring, professional person I had ever met. She said,"Joyce we will take care of you, don't give up." Being the way I am, I told her let's get this over. 1st - I'm not in denial - they told me I already have cancer. 2nd - I'm not angry - the cancer will win if I get mad. 3rd - I've already had my pity party of crying for 15mins. 4th - let's meet my Dr. and get going. I guess she thought I was going to be one of her crazy patients!! During November, I was scheduled for a lumpectomy .He found cancer in 2 lymph nodes and wanted to do another to see if there were more of those goobers in there. I said cut the darn thing off, it's so little, i won't miss it!! I'll just lean to the right more !! He was really shocked as I think that's what he wanted to do anyway. Surgery was scheduled for January 2nd 2005. It's a 24 hour stay time - insurance ya know. Of all places to put me, i was on the newborn floor. My youngest daughter called and when we told her what floor i was on, she said "are you going to try to nurse?" What a funny family I have. Here is my schedule for the year:

1. Dr. Desch at the Virginia Cancer Institute in Richmond, VA. - my onocologist. Upon arriving there on my appointment day, I met him (a good looking guy - phew) and his nurses. They showed me around and my 1st chemo treatment was scheduled for Feb. 14th -Valentines Day. (do you see a pattern here? b'day, valentines day - brother, i couldn't wait to see what was going to happen at Easter-!!) I elected to go into the Clinical trials to see if maybe i could help someone. I would do chemo one day, wait 2 wks and go back again. I took 2 different kinds...the 1st 4 treatments were one kind...the last 4 treatments were a different
one. They were trying to see if these two would work together. The nurses were angels...and as I looked around the room, I realized that even with my cancer I was one blessed person. I wanted to take some of these people in my arms and just hold them, to make them not to give up, to keep trying.

2. The hair loss....oh hair was my best asset. Thick, could do anything i wanted to with it...BUT, in the shower, those darn little strands would wrap themselves around my fingers and just laugh. Personally, I didn't think it was funny. (i do have a good imagination!!) Told my husband my hair had to go. He thought I would probably have a breakdown, so here he comes in with a big pot of yellow daises, a NEW SET OF CLIPPERS and the cape. I said you've been waiting for this haven't you? He would clip, stop - are you ok? yes dear - clip - stop - are you ok? I said if you don't finish what you're doing, i'm going to clip you:) Then the little hair pieces that were left, stuck in my pillow, so the next thing to do was shave.
One of my friends told me that I was the only person she knew who could make cancer a shopping many hats - so much fun to makes the best out of anything, right ladies?

3. The cardboard taste. YUK, who wanted to eat when it tasted like cardboard? I had a list of tv commercials of food that i wanted to eat after i could taste again. (we hit red lobster about 4 times!)

Let me tell you here, I was not sick at all. I don't know if it was the medicine they gave me(which i'm sure was the biggest part of it) or if I was being blessed for something i didn't know about.

On my last visit with Dr. Desch, he told me I was being scheduled for radiation. I told him no way, that he said I might have to take it, not would....He said, "I want to keep you living for a long time". He was such a doll I couldn't say no. I was wearing a big red hat and took a picture of him with it on. I put it in a frame and gave it to his nurse when I went for a follow-up and met my new onocologist. Dr. Desch had left VCI to go into more clinical and testing stages, and was killed in a plane while he was flying to Albermarle airport near Charlottesville. God took a special person from us that day and I'm glad that he was my doctor. I can still see that smile and that red hat!!

Radiation came next. I was able to do that closer to home in Petersburg. Those nurses were a hoot - one was a Braves groupie (Richmond and Atlanta) and the other would play baseball or soccer (broke her ankle). It took me longer to get there than the treatment took. That lasted for 35 days. The doctor there was a good guy. We still have a bet going on - he said 1 out of 3 women with breast removal usually end up with lymphodema. I told him "I not going to be the 1". Guess what, I'm winning!!!!

To make the end of my treatments special - I was given a really big gift by my youngest daughter - I was told I was going to be a grandma !!!!! Now what else did I need? Was I kept around for that or is something else in my future? Who knows, but I'll roll with it no matter what.

So you see? My life with cancer so far has been easy. People who cared, doctors who knew what they were doing with kindness, meds that worked (I still hope), a God that has protected me (even though I'm not as strong a Christian as I should be), a family that suprised me with more love that I knew existed and most of all- a good attitude. I refuse to let it win.

I see and talk to people who are not as lucky as I, and the guilt comes in. Why me so blessed and not them? But I try now to pay it forward. I heard a lady at VCI tell the receptionist a few months back that she was scared to death - this was her first treatment. I was really unsure what to do-would she get mad if i said something? But, with me, being me - after she sat down, I walked over to her and asked her did I hear her say that she was afraid? She said yes she was. I said as I pointed at my head - it's all in here....keep a good attitude and don't be afraid - they will take care of you. She said thank you so much. Told her I'd try to come back there after my appointment and see how she was doing. I went looking for her and her fella was with her - she pointed to me and said there's that lady I was telling you about. A total stranger made me feel special and not to be afraid - it made my day. I said, "No mam'm, you made mine. Never give up". We talk now on occasion and she's doing fine.

So, that's my story. I know it's too long, but it made me feel good to tell you about it - that i was still around to tell you about it. I've done a Relay for Life in Petersburg once and the Komen for the Cure in Richmond. So many people and that's just around our area. I like to type in little letters and my spelling stinks, but that's a little thing to care about.

I hope someday, people will ask "What's Cancer?". Maybe not in my lifetime, but one day.................

To those who are dealing with cancer - i will place you in my heart, even thought we've not met in real life, but know what it's all about.

To the survivors - remember that you are blessed and never take anything for granted - enjoy the good, deal with what ever happens with a smile

and most of all - it's the attitude ! bless all of you

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