Kim lost her battle with colon cancer July 15th, 2009
I keep hearing Sherrie’s voice: “If I can do this, so can you.”
But the medical numbers don’t look good.
My family surrounds me with their love: “We’re for you … forever.” However, there are no guarantees.
I hear the voices of my friends through their emails and calls: “How can we help during this tough time?” The treatment could be exhausting.
God’s voice reassures me daily: “I am with you.”
Do you really want to go through with this?
My new friend Sherrie has battled colon cancer for 10 years. She’s inspired me for the past 7 months I, along with my family and friends, have fought to keep my cancer – I can’t believe it, my cancer – at bay. But I can more than keep my cancer at bay. Because of my faith, family and friends, cancer will not beat me! I will win with passion and enthusiasm!
Sherrie has been on her path for awhile. My journey began in late 2007 with some abdominal pain. After testing, “all” that was found was celiac disease, a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Although inconvenient, I dealt with the hassles of being gluten-free. In the meantime, our family moved to the Philadelpia area. We were sad about leaving friends and our church in North Carolina, yet happy for my husband’s opportunity and that our children would have the experience of living in Pennyslvania.
Then, a lot of confusion began in August 2008. While helping my Dad, who had been diagnosed with lung cancer in Minnesota, I felt a lump in my abdomen. A CT scan confirmed a mass. Returning to Pennyslvania, we were surprised that a colonoscopy came back normal! A month long series of tests began – including a pregnancy test! – with OBGYNs, surgeons, family doctors – and anyone else who wanted to try and figure out what was going on!
My father, who I loved deeply, died September 11, 2008. My head and heart were swirling with sadness for my mother, myself and for our family. It was so very difficult to focus on this illness and to avoid the anxiety and uncertainty of the confounding medical puzzle we were in. After a seemingly endless number of tests, we decided to have surgery to remove the mass. Although the surgeons had speculated they would find some type of cancer – but not colon cancer – they removed an orange-sized tumor, two feet of colon and 13 lymph nodes.
Tests confirmed colon cancer in four of the nodes. I was stunned. The surgeon said I had stage 3 colon cancer, although the disease had not spread. However, chemotherapy was prescribed as a precaution. We were scheduled to start eight weeks after surgery, but more tests were needed again. Unfortunately, a pregnancy hormone apparently is also a tumor marker and went up higher than ever before. So a PET scan was ordered and now I am stage 4 and treatable.I now hope for more cures through additional research and new treatments so many of us can go beyond the prognosis.
The chemo began. I’ve always felt like the cancer could be beat. Really. Absolutely. Someone came up with the idea of comparing the chemo with sharks! We believed that the chemo would attack the cancer, like sharks attacking enemies. I even got a “shark shirt” and a stuffed shark to help me! I’ve had 6 rounds now.
My tumor markers are down; my hope is alive. My faith has steadied me. My family has encouraged me. My friends have cheered me on. In my heart, here’ s what has made the difference for me: Passion. Joy. Enthusiasm. The body becomes dry as a desert; the spirit thirsts to be watered. In the struggle for life, people will INSPIRE you; the medical stats seek only to TIRE you.
In a recent conversation with a friend whose brother died recently, we agreed that treatments are tough, but even more discouraging are the sterile environments. Although we sometimes feel a loving touch from a caring person, we also yearn for the warmth of encouraging word and the light of optimism.
In addition to the chemo, I am trying to let go of whatever mistakes may have been made in the early part of my journey. I want to leave that in the past and move forward. I want to replace fear with hope, doubt with acceptance and resentment with love. I want the chemo to heal my body while my faith, family and friends heal my spirit. My prayer for fellow travelers is that your body and spirit will be healed in the ways you are seeking. Want what you will; will what you want. You can live. I want to and I will! Like Sherrie says: “If I can do this, so can you.”