My name is Candace Henley. I am a mother of five daughters and have one grandson. I have raised eight girls total. I currently work as a Customer Service Specialist for FedEx Office. When I was diagnosed I was a bus driver for the Chicago Transit Authority for the City of Chicago for 15 yrs.
Currently, I am the only living relative to be officially diagnosed and survive colon cancer. In November, I found out that two of my father’s sisters had colon cancer discovered in their autopsies. They died, however, of causes unrelated to colon cancer.
The effects of this disease on me and my loved ones were devastating and it took a huge financial, physical, and emotional toll on my whole family. I went from the emergency room, to surgery, and then to the hospital bed, all within 36 hours and returned home after 10 days in the hospital and 50 lbs lighter. Not having time to financially prepare for my diagnosis, I lost my house and car fighting cancer. I filed bankruptcy to try to hold on to it, I depleted my retirement and savings just to end up homeless and penniless with five children. We moved from family member’s homes and place to place because I was unable to work and disability pay was only $184 a week. My mother tried tirelessly to find help for me to no avail; at that time no one had services for colon cancer survivors. I am still, after ten years, recovering financially from being diagnosed with colon cancer.
The breakup of my marriage during my cancer battle and the doctors telling me my life expectancy was three to five years was too much for me at one time and I attempted suicide, not wanting my children to watch me wither away to nothing. I spent five days on 24 hour watch and one of the nurses assigned to me asked me “Who’s going to tell your life’s story if you’re not here? Don’t let the last memory of you for your children be of you taking your life but, let it be the memories and stories your children tell about their mom.”
To help us cope, my children and I started watching America’s Funniest Home Videos! I read an article about laughter being good for helping you heal and found reasons to laugh. I also found the more I shared my story, the better I felt. I realized that others, like me, felt alone and powerless, but felt stronger when we shared with each other our journeys to wellness.
Get Your Rear in Gear means to me that knowledge is power so, get screened, get treated and get educated! Colon cancer no longer is a death sentence. Every day you wake up you’re a survivor, so live your best life now!