Enjoying life

Two Time Cancer Survivor

I am a two time cancer survivor. It’s hard to think back to the beginning. It started with a sore neck. I didn’t think too much of it at first, it just felt like a stiff neck. But I never had one that lasted so long and was so sore. After a few days, it was hard to raise my head off of my pillow or turn my head to back out of the driveway. I’d had stiff necks before, but never like this. And it wasn’t going away. I recalled a time a friend of mine had been over and talked about her neck and how much it had hurt. She ended up being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, cancer of the lymph nodes. As I thought about that, I began to wonder if I looked in the mirror, would I notice anything. So I looked in the mirror and I noticed a big lump on the left, front, lower side of my neck. I went on into work, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything. It did hurt, and my mind seemed to focus on the worst scenario. What if I had Hodgkin’s disease? What if I had to go through chemo like my friend did. So I left work and went to the prompt care. This was in the early fall of 1998. Well I was referred to an ear nose & throat specialist. It ended up being my thyroid, but after a biopsy I was told it was not malignant. Later I had one half of my thyroid removed. They do other tests during and after surgery to check the tumor. A week after surgery, when I was feeling pretty good, my husband came home and told me he had talked with my doctor. She told him I thyroid cancer. I would have to go back into surgery and have the rest of my thyroid removed. After the surgery, I had to have some sort of nuclear radiation, put on Synthroid medicine for the rest of my life, and eventually life got back to normal. I felt guilty being called a cancer survivor. I just felt I hadn’t really suffered. I didn’t have to have chemo or radiation. Somehow I figured I had survived cancer and naively thought I was immune to getting it again.

I had always been a blood donor. When you’re diagnosed with cancer, they won’t take your blood for 5 years after you’re cleared. Well I had gone in for my mammogram in April 2003, and had been called back again. Then I was referred to Dr. Mammolito. I hadn’t had a biopsy yet, but Dr. Mammolito didn’t make it sound very hopeful for me. She thought I had breast cancer. I had to go in to see my endoconologist. It was 5 years ago I had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I had hoped to give blood again. He checked me and said I was cancer free. I didn’t tell him I already was suspicious of having breast cancer.

2003 marks many events that make it a hard year to forget. My husband had been in Kuwait with the military and had just gotten home the end of 2002. My mom passed away very abruptly in February 2003. My older sister was diagnosed with breast cancer right after that. My other sister’s house was struck by lightening in April. Then I was diagnosed with lobular breast cancer on May 9th. May 10th, we had a tornado go through Morton. I’m sure a lot of you Mortonites remember that. We didn’t have electricity at our house for 3 days. After biopsies, a CT scan, PET scan, mega scan, surgery, having a port put in, seeing surgeons, oncologists, etc., I started the chemo in September of 2003. As long as everything stayed on schedule, I would be finished with chemo and radiation before Christmas of 2003. I was keeping my eyes focused on the end of it all, although as you’re going through the treatment, you can only manage to get through one day at a time.

I remember my first chemo. I had to be there at 8:45 for them to draw blood from my port. After a while, they start the chemo. It’s very scary sitting there letting that “poison” into your body. You sit there and wait for bad feelings to come over you. You are told to eat ice during one of the chemo drugs to help with the bad taste. I used to like ice, but not anymore. I didn’t get sick till late afternoon, and remained that way for six hours. I never got sick like that again, but remained nauseous till chemo was over.

Having breast cancer taught me several things. I don’t know that I can honestly say I’m glad I had it, but it certainly opened my eyes to many things. I really have empathy for other people going through chemotherapy and other major health issues. I thought I had empathy before, but I really couldn’t understand the depression and the feeling of not being in control of the situation. I know now how it feels to have to choose a course of action when there are no favorable choices. I’ve also learned that as bad as it was going through all the treatment for my cancer, there are other things that can be so much worse. Right now I am leading a fairly normal life. Others are not so fortunate. I am thankful that I am able to enjoy life and my first grandson. There are so many things to be thankful for, and having gone through the ordeal of cancer, I appreciate it all so much more.

Friends, family, & co-workers were certainly generous bringing meals over and helping in so many ways. My neighbor would mow the yard & clean the gutters. I felt blessed. This was also a time I really leaned on the Lord for strength.

Before the tornado went through Morton, all the trees looked by outward appearances, to be quite solid and sturdy. But the tornado quickly proved that the trees were not able to withstand the storm. The soundness of our faith is tested by “the storms of life.” We all face storms in our life and we don’t always respond with solid faith. We have gone through times in our lives when we question God on why this had to happen. These storms or trials can be an excuse to separate yourself from God, or they can be used to bring you in a closer relationship with Him, which is of course what He desires. We won’t always get the answers we want, some things remain a mystery. One day, God will reveal everything to us, and we will understand the storms in our lives. Until then, I hope to remain strong in my faith and able to withstand the storms. I hope I can help others as they go through the storms in their lives just as others helped me when I needed them.

One more thing I’ve learned, I’m not immune to getting cancer again. As a matter of fact, I’m probably more likely to get it again. Whatever it is that causes you to get cancer – I have. Therefore it’s so important to do the check-ups. If you’ve not had cancer, don’t procrastinate on tests and exams to check for cancer. Early detection will keep the treatment down to a minimum & help you to survive it. I always had considered myself healthy, still do, but I am a two time cancer survivor.

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Rob and Stacy Reinhofer says ... on Thursday, Sep 18 at 12:23 PM

We know your deep faith brings such great joy to our Lord. We love you and are so thankful and proud to know you!

Ken & Melanie says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 9:12 PM

We always knew how incredible you are and know through this article a lot more people will see that to.

Beth says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 5:11 PM

See we can survive storms, God isn't through with you yet! Thanks for sharing! Love you Shari

Teri Horner says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 3:45 PM

Thanks for the inspiration because it is hard to stay up for the fight all of the time. I need people like you to keep me going! I hope to be a two time survivor, too!

Cloyes says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 11:41 AM

Hi Shari! I am so touched by your testimony and did not realize everything you have been through in the last few years. Your courage is inspiring! Love, Sue

Lauri V says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 8:45 AM

Thanks so much for sharing your story, Shari. God has used you and is continuing to use you to bless and strengthen others going through similar struggles. I know because you have blessed me in this way. You are a special lady and friend! Love, L

Pat C. says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 8:08 AM

What a wonderful testimony to God's faithfulness through your trials. And Shari, you have been a great witness as a Christian who goes through tough times leaning on God and not your own understanding. Thanks for sharing your story.

Jill says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 8:07 AM

Shari you know that i love you!! You are a wonderful friend who has gone through SO much!!! I am glad that you are sharing your story....you are a blessing to me and many others i am sure!!!!!

Debbie Kelone says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 6:59 AM

Shari, you are such an awesome lady and an inspiration to all who know you. I miss working with you. Your story is a testimony to your faith (and mine).

Jeannie D says ... on Wednesday, Sep 17 at 6:51 AM

Shari, I never knew you were suffering so....God has blessed you and he now has blessed us even more in knowing you and in you sharing your story. Thank-you for letting us know. We love you! C & J

Sara C says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 11:59 PM

He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. What amazingly wonderful things He has brought out of your rough spots. Thank you for bringing Him glory in your humility - every single day.

Cheryl says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 10:39 PM

You are truely blessed by God. Keep inspiring those around you!

Mike F says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 9:06 PM

Shari, your story will certainly touch many. You are so full of life and courage, that I'm sure your inspiration will touch those who are also finding difficulty in answers to the question, "why". I'm thankful you were a small part of my life.

Sandy Brandon says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 1:17 PM

I'm so thankful to have you for a sister. Your strength of character and your strong faith are an inspiration. You understand and encourage me so much. God bless you.

Dot & Dad Fishel says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 1:05 PM

WOW what a testimony. You are such a sweet, Christlike young lady and are an inspiration to all, including your family. Your faith and tremendous strength is a witness to many. God bless you - what a great daughter and step-daughter you are.

Lynn says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 12:27 PM

You are a treasure and a light to many. Thank you for sharing so others can see that there is hope. God Bless and keep.

Laura Parod says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 11:59 AM

Your story was amazing....I love you Miss Shari, xoxo.

Yvonne says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 11:39 AM

Well done, friend. Your story inspires all to the glory of God and His healing powers. Throughout your treatment you even comforted those concerned about you, an amazing feat and testimony of your faith. The light in you radiates your loving soul.

Nancy Weigle says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 9:59 AM

I am so proud of you - your ability to share your story for others to undertand, your strength, your faith that all will be well and most of all your wonderful smile...I have been thru the storm too...Bless you wonderful friend!

Tim Fishel says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 9:04 AM

Awesome job sis. I love you, and am always there for you when you need me!

Alanna says ... on Tuesday, Sep 16 at 9:03 AM

You so bless my heart! Proud of you for sharing! There are times in life we need to be reminded of why we have smoke damage - God has brought us through the fires in life. Still praising God for you and all you are to me! Love, hugs, and kisses!

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