“Bumps in the Road”. Hmmmm. It’s an interesting phrase that pops up all the time in cancer land, but is a very broad statement. In my 11 year journey, I have experienced small, short bumps; large, high bumps and many bumps of different sizes. Actually, it’s been like a run down a double black diamond mogul field (for you skiers out there). I’ve also experienced pot holes and craters…….life threatening craters. There’s a plethora of causes for these “bumps”. Some were caused by treatment side effects and some by the cancer itself. For me, my most significant “bumps” have been caused by side effects of treatment(s) including radiation.
My first significant “bump” resulted in having to be hospitalized for “failure to thrive”. This occurred during my first recurrence after receiving a chemo combination in addition to radiation. Things were going well for a while. In fact, I continued working when I started this regimen. Gradually though, I got weaker and weaker. I couldn’t eat and had no energy so my doctor hospitalized me. I was discharged a couple of weeks later, but I wasn’t feeling any better. I needed constant care. Slowly, under the care of my youngest son, things started to improve. He made protein shakes and forced me to drink them. He also took me on walks. Eventually, I turned the corner, regained my strength and got back to my life including going back to work.
The second significant “bump” was more of a sink hole. Four years ago, on December 18, 2012 I was directing our school Christmas Show (I was a middle school orchestra and chorus director) when I started to feel dizzy. I collapsed and don’t remember the next few weeks. It seems that the radiation I had several years earlier had caused an ulcer that was unsymtomatic. This ulcer had gradually eaten through my diaphragm among some other things which resulted in a pericardial fistula. Now, this is a situation that typically results in death and my family was told that I probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Thankfully, I was totally unaware of what was going on. Because of the efforts of a creative cardio thoracic surgeon, I survived. I was in the ICU on a ventilator for quite some time…….most of that experience is a blur. I was heavily sedated. Eventually, I was discharged, again I needed a lot of care, and again my youngest son cared for me which included administering IV antibiotics through a pic line.
Again, I recovered and was able to return to my job.
Just remember…….there is always hope. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up!!
I’ve included an interview that was done for Lung Cancer Awareness Month