Cancer’s Reach

I have been on both sides of the cancer issue. I have had family members who died from it.

My dad died of brain cancer. My sister and I were away on a Young Life weekend but family members had noticed some signs of a stroke so Dad was admitted to the hospital for tests on Sunday. My aunts and uncle rushed us kids to the hospital Monday after school and Dad  started having convulsions before we even got there. There was much confusion that night and I, 16 years old knew something was going on. My aunt did take me up to my Dad’s hospital room and I saw him laying there with our pastor, my mom, and two uncles around him. He was still having convulsions. Dad had surgery early Tuesday for a brain tumor, that was found to be malignant. He was in a coma and I visited him with my mom. Two and a half weeks later he died, never having come out of the coma.

My grandmother had stomach cancer and after her surgery she lived at our house. My uncle came each day to clean out her wound. I couldn’t believe you could see into her stomach. After the wound closed, my grandmother wanted to go back to her apartment in the city. She knew she was dying and wanted to make sure everything was straight in her apartment. She died there within a month.

Aunt Grace, who lived next door to us on the farm, found a lump and they found out she had breast cancer. I remember something as simple as not being able to put her arm over her head after the surgery became an issue. She had slept with that arm over her head and now she couldn’t. So in addition to all the other concerns she had, now she also had trouble sleeping.  She died that year and it was hard on the family, especially for my grandmother who had now lost two children.

I have also had close friends who have had cancer.

My school’s secretary found out she had ovarian cancer not long after I started working there. Cathy went through chemo and tried all kinds of healthy food alternatives. She knew she was dying but lived out her life with joy and peace, working as long as possible. She regularly would get friends together for canasta games. I cherished those special times we all spent together laughing. As her disease progressed her goal was to be able to go to her oldest son’s graduation. She was able to do that. My last time with her was a few days before she died. I had just come home from the hospital for a hysterectomy. Cathy had called me before the surgery as I had a 3 cm cyst in my ovary which needed to be removed. We did not know whether it was cancerous or not at the time and she called to encourage me. We also had the same doctor. Well, my cyst turned out to be a teratoma and not cancer. I left the hospital and a few days later Cathy was admitted so I went to visit. She was really weak but we talked for a few minutes. She had heard that I did not have cancer and was so happy for me. Even in the last moments she was looking out for others. She died a few days later surrounded by her family and pastor singing hymns.

After my cancer, another close friend, Teresa, the school’s new secretary found out she had breast cancer. I was so glad I could be there to help her through her journey. We went to the same oncology center and I visited her during a few of the chemo treatments. She later had radiology which I didn’t. The good news is that she is now a 5+ year survivor.

You may know someone who is dealing with cancer. Cancer’s reach is more than just one person. It affects their family, but also their friends and colleagues. How can you help? In the weeks to come I plan to give you insight into some of the things that those with cancer encounter and how best to help them and their family during the journey.

 How has cancer touched you?

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6 Responses to Cancer’s Reach

  1. Brandy Lewis says:

    The year I graduated high school, I watched my great uncle take his last breathe after finding out he had stomach cancer. What hurt the most was watching my Grandfather, his brother, saying ‘Lee, wake up!,’ several times after he took his last breathe. I had been told that when someone is dying, you will know by the death rattles, I never knew what they sounded like until that day.

    When I was younger, still in elementary school, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had just had her youngest son. They lived in Durham, NC and my mom had to take care of my cousin for the first year of his life. My aunt survived, but can no longer wear her wedding ring due to swelling from the surgery.

    During the summer of 2009, we had started noticing that my dad was having trouble eating. At one point, when he ate certain things, he would choke. My mom kept trying to get him to go to the doctor, but he kept putting it off and making excuses. It came to a head one night when he passed out and 911 was called. He flipped out on everyone, but he ended up going to the doctor after that. The primary care physician sent him to a specialist which gave him a list of what it could be, esophageal cancer was one of them. After doing a biopsy he got the diagnosis, it was cancer. In the year that followed, he went through chemo and radiation, right before Christmas he had surgery to remove the tumors and re sect his stomach to create a new esophagus. The surgery and treatment was a success, but their marriage took a hit. It came out that he had been cheating on my mom and he left her three times just in a one year period. She took him back, but things have never been the same. She will never trust him and now he has to live with someone always watching.

    Last night, we found out that someone who is near and dear to us might have cancer. He was admitted to the hospital Wednesday after having a seizure at work. They did a CAT scan and found lesions on his brain as well as a mass in his lungs and in his abdomen. We’re now waiting for further testing to find out the results, but the doctor said that the lesions on his brain mean that the cancer has metastasized. He was one of those that were lucky enough to rarely get sick in his 50+ years and now he’s going to have to fight for his life. His wife said he is having trouble with his memory, I just hope that he is able to remember his Grandchildren that have recently come back into his life.

    • Janice Hidey says:

      It is so true that cancer hits everyone in some way in their lifetime. Your family has certainly had their share. Treatments are better but it is hard to believe that with all the advances in science and the amount of research in cancer that we have not cracked it yet. My heart and prayers go out especially to the grandfather and his family. My mom has Alzheimer’s and I am her caregiver so I understand about memory issues. Thank you so much for sharing your stories!

  2. I’m so sorry for all of your losses. You wrote their stories beautifully. I have had a lot of cancer in my family, but thankfully so far, everyone is still alive. I know that in the next couple of years, that won’t be the case any more.

    Thank you for sharing your loved ones’ stories. I really love your writing.

    (p.s. I went to Young Life too and checked to see if we might have known each other, but I was in N.C.) :)
    Mickey Coutts recently posted..Halloween Welcoming CommitteeMy Profile

    • Janice Hidey says:

      Thanks for your nice comments. I do love writing about my family.

      Young Life has been a big part of my family’s life as my sister has worked for YL in NJ, SC, Ohio and now in MD – Howard County. My brother-in-law also works for YL in MD but in Carroll County. My nieces and nephews have all been involved also, so we are keeping the tradition.

      I’m going to check out your blog too. Thanks for visiting.
      Janice Hidey recently posted..You’re Still BeautifulMy Profile

  3. won says:

    I lost my best girl….I had her here on this side of life for 11 years and 49 weeks.

    She bravely and with much wisdom fought her brain cancer for over 8 years. She left the world a better place…being written up as “One of the Top Twenty Passings” in our state the year she passed. As she lay dying, she’d tell me “don’t cry mommy. Just breathe in the light, and blow out the darkness.”

    I am blessed to be her mom.

    I curse that one moment when it all changed. Everything is now measured before that moment and after. The before was so bright and hopeful. The now so dark and bleak.

    I miss my daughter.

    In honor of Olivia Grace.

    Love never dies.
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  4. Janice says:

    My heart goes out to you. Losing someone you love is so painful but even more so when the one you lose is your own child. Thanks for sharing your story even in the midst of your pain. When my dad died it was so hard and we found comfort in sharing stories about him. We still do and he died over 40 years ago. And even now, sometimes those stories bring tears.
    For me, I found comfort in God’s word. In Psalm 68:5 is says that God is a father to the fatherless and I remember holding on to Him and finding comfort there. Praying for you and again thank you for telling us your story.
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