A Survivor's Story
I had a sore throat that persisted for 3 weeks. It was accompanied by severe heartburn during meals. Oddly enough the "heart burn" pain was alleviated by anti-inflammatory medicines. After dismissing my pain to minor aliments, I looked in the mirror to check something I felt as abnormal. There is was a mass poking up from my breastbone. I saw a medical doctor that night. I had a CAT Scan the next day. That is when I got my first clue. The radiology technician had a hint of concern in her voice.
But it was Friday and I had a Ferry to catch. The phone call happened on Saturday morning. What ever was growing abnormally in my body had to be removed. "Let's hope it is not malignant."
On Monday encouraged by a friend to seek help immediately I went to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to see a thoracic surgeon who was nice enough to squeeze me in immediately. From the thoracic surgeon I was sent to another building to see another doctor. My husband and I were moving so quickly we did not see the ONCOLOGY label on the door. So at age 33 years began my experience as a cancer survivor.
I met many doctors the next 3 days, all optimistic, none cancer survivors. The resident told me I would experience fatigue at the worst, which could be alleviated, by a cup of coffee. For the first 8 days the coffee worked then on the eighth treatment day just the smell of coffee made me nauseous. I liked every doctor I met but the one I like the least was the radiation oncologist. She told me my hair would fall out, my throat would become sore, eating would be difficult, my skin would become red and painful, I would experience fatigue and after the last radiation the side effects would get worse before they got better. But despite the negative side effects I should be able to continue working around my radiation schedule. Quickly my radiation oncologist became my favorite doctor. She told me the truth about what was coming.
If anyone who is a cancer survivor can be labeled fortunate, I can. Fortunately my cancer was Hodgkin's Lymphoma; a highly treatable form of cancer and my tumor grew in a place that could not be ignored for a long time. So I under went some seemingly barbaric tests, had good and bad cell annihilative radiation treatment and now I am a survivor of 2 1/2 years.
Coping following a cancer diagnosis is a personal experience. I researched my disease and treatment in medical journals and on the Internet. And I relied on the medical team to prep me for the upcoming events. Radiation treatment is different for each diagnosis and stage of disease. Talking to someone who has been through radiation for treatment of the same diagnosis as your allows you realistic foresight of side effects and healing.
After my treatment I became a volunteer for the Leukemia Society First Connections Program (website: www.leukemia.org phone 800 955 4LSA) that connects survivors with newly diagnosed people. On the telephone I speak with buddies referred to me by The Lymphoma Research Foundation of America website: www.lymphoma.org . The Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Newsletter, website: www.bmtnews.org provides a "patient-to-survivor telephone link." Cancer Hope Network phone
877-HOPENET (toll free) email: firstname.lastname@example.org offers one-to-one support from trained volunteers who have survived cancer. Cure For Lymphoma Foundation at website: www.cfl.org has a nationwide Patient-to-Patient Telephone Support Network. National Brain Tumor Foundation phone 800 284 CURE website: www.braintumor.org offers contact with other brain tumor patients. R.A. Bloch Cancer Foundation, Inc. phone 800 433 0464 website: www.blochcancer.org provides a hotline that matches newly diagnosed cancer patients with someone who has survived the same kind of cancer.
All of the above plus fifty other national organization can be found in Coping, Living With Cancer magazine published bi monthly by Media America, Inc. (615) 790 2400, email: Copingmag@aol.com.
Coping, Living With Cancer magazine also publishes personal survivor stories, updates treatments, provides advise for dealing with side effects and promotes National Cancer Survivors Day annually the first Sunday in June.
Locally Support, Inc. a Barnegat Light based not for profit organization whose mission is to promote cancer survivorship issues will provide Internet service for cancer information free of charge. To utilize this service call Laura Say at Sure Rehab 609 494 0020 or e-mail: email@example.com.
Also Support, Inc. has an annual Spring Break Massage Fundraiser and has National Cancer Survivor Day activities in June. The primary mission is to promote cancer survivorship and secondary is to raise money for cancer research or for local families needing support.
Sure Rehab, Inc.