Cancer sucks! There’s no doubt about it. I want to offer encouragement!
Hi, I’m Tina. I’m a cancer survivor. Let me tell you a little bit about my story so you will see why I am so determined to help others who have similar issues. Some of this may bring back memories of your own cancer story.
Don’t get bogged down here. I want to encourage, not discourage. Stay with me to the end of this blog.
Just 6 weeks after giving birth to my third child, I found out that I had cancer. Squamous Cell Carcinoma. I was told it was a very rare form of cancer for me, “a 35 year old white female who never smoked or did woodworking”.
It began in the scar tissue where my adenoids and tonsils were removed when I was young, and it had spread through my squamous cells and lymph nodes. I would have to have 39 radiation treatment and lots of chemo therapy. The doctors told me that it was quite advanced. I remember them saying “You’re going to live through this, but you will go through hell to get there.”
Now that is encouragement! I never once felt that I would not make it! That doctor told me right up front that I would live! He didn’t hide anything from me. I knew it would be very hard, but I knew I would make it. My doctors and nurses held to that statement for the next year.
Full radiation and chemo treatments began, and there were many hospital stays went along with them. I had a g-peg feeding tube for several months because my throat was so burned and swollen that I could not swallow. My vocal chords were burned which took my voice for a while.
I was very weak. Others helped my husband care for our three young children and for me. God blessed me with doctors and treatments that took this terrible cancer away.
It was not a fun year of treatments, but I had so much support from my family, church, and all of my friends, and…the cancer was gone a year later. We received so much encouragement from so many!
I was taught that I should expect recovery to be slow. Over the years I met many specialists. Some helped me get my voice back, at least to a certain extent. I also began to tolerate eating ice cream. Who knew you can live on ice cream for years?! I was thrilled when I was able to swallow some other foods again too!
Unfortunately, things began to go downhill again. The cancer was still gone but I started aspirating a lot. I had pneumonia so many times.
Swallow studies showed that my esophagus was too burned and my swallow process was extremely damaged. It was acting like a funnel, channeling everything down into my lungs instead of down to my stomach. I had throat dilatations (stretching) every 4 months, but the swallowing kept getting worse.
Oh there were some very hard emotional ups and downs! But still, encouragement was all around me, even from people I didn’t know. Never underestimate how much a smile, or a small act of kindness can encourage someone who is struggling.
Take just a few seconds to offer encouragement, or kindness to the very next person you see!
Many years later:
Eventually my doctors shared that they could do no more. They gently but firmly told me there was nothing more to be done. I would no longer be able to swallow anything. The g-peg became my sole source of intake. Click here to see my post about G-peg feeding
My voice was also getting worse again. I went back to my specialists and we tried all kinds of vocal treatments and exercises. Nothing worked. I had only a hoarse whisper. When I tried to talk my throat would get tense. My neck muscles would swell and I began to have trouble breathing.
I woke up one Tuesday in a CCU at a hospital an hour away from home. I had a breathing tube, all sorts of IVs and was restrained so that I could not accidentally move any of my tubes or lines. The last thing I remembered was Sunday afternoon with my family. My husband later told me that Sunday afternoon I was sitting on our couch and fell asleep. When he tried to wake me I would not respond. I had developed an intense infection in my lungs and bronchial tubes.
It was a very long recovery time in the hospital and then at home. Once again I depended on the strength and encouragement from my family, church and all of my friends. They were right there for me!
I survived cancer but what do I do now?
That was 3 years ago. Now I have a tracheostomy to ensure breathing and my g-peg for my food.
I have not had pneumonia for a long time but I still aspirate some. I “pop” a fever and with care, my body has been able to fight back. This seems to happen about every month or so. Sometimes farther apart. Sometimes more often. It wipes me out for a couple of days and then I’m good to go again.
I work full time outside my home and I am blessed with an understanding and supportive boss and administration. I’ve been there 12 years. They’ve been very patient as I battle with my heath and adjustments. I consider myself to be in fairly good health otherwise.
I am very worried about staying in my job, though because of my inability to talk and because of the times I do “pop a fever” and get very weak for a couple of days. Hopefully I can find a way to work from home and not depend on my voice or going to work every day. Here’s a link to a site I’m working with if you are interested.
The biggest encouragement:
There are often side effects and struggles, but my Bible tells me, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it”. God has given me each day to enjoy! He presents new color, new aromas, amazing designs in every cloud and tree, so many things to enjoy.
So, take courage! Rejoice and be glad. Look around you and see the beauty. When things pull you down, find peace in the whisper of a breeze, the gentle folds of a flower, or the feathers of a bird.
Make sure you look at the other pages on this website to see more of what you can do, and for some support in your struggles.