‘I always felt like I had a forest fire chasing me with the cancer.’
“I lost most of my family to cancer. I lost my brother to brain cancer and my father to CJD, the human form of mad cow. My brother meant the world to me. He died in three months. When he lost his voice to brain cancer, we spoke through each other’s eyes. A few years after that, my father contracted CJD, which is just the most horrible death. Watching somebody die of that is hell on earth.
“I missed one year of a mammography. When I went, the doctor said to me, ‘this is really bad, you need to go to your breast surgeon and get this looked at right away.’ They made an appointment for me to have surgery and we did a double mastectomy. Thank God I did that. No tests showed on my left side I had a tumor. If I would have done one side, years from now it could have been cancer.
“My daughter, during the pandemic, was getting her appendix out. And then we got a call that her appendix was cancer. I was devastated. I couldn’t even breathe. They had to remove part of her colon. She had to go on chemo for six months. I was trying to heal from my breast surgeries and my daughter needed help. I had to watch my four grandchildren. We would go for walks, picnics. I really had faith in God that my daughter was going to be stronger.
“After my brother passed, I learned so much about how life can be taken from you so quickly. In his memory, I wanted to share all the resources I had learned so my husband and I created the Guardian Brain Foundation. We provide direct support services to patients with brain cancer, brain injuries and brain tumors.
I used to always say, at the end of each day, find one good memory, no matter how bad your day was.
“When I come into horrifying or stressful situations, I just reach down and tell myself you have two choices, either you could fall apart, or you could be strong and fight this. If you fall apart, you’re going to get sicker. You have to think positive. I used to always say, at the end of each day, find one good memory, no matter how bad your day was. Now I say, ‘find three good memories at the end of each day.’ Somedays it’s not easy. But it helps.
“I always felt like I had a forest fire chasing me with the cancer. It was like a fear that always came over me. I knew that one day it was going to hit me. And it did. But I beat it.”
Interviewed by Betsy Abraham