Every one who has or had cancer, has a story to tell. No two bodies are the same, all have different problems and all stories will be different.
I was a reasonably healthy woman at sixty-two years of age. Doing some downhill skiing, roller skating, swimming, hiking with our boys and working a full-time job.
In 1985 I decided to take an early retirement, taking my holidays first. We were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary and having our relatives from Dresden, Germany. Quite a hassle getting them from behind the Iron Curtain. Left work May 8th, our big day on the 21st. All went well, a beautiful summer doing everything we loved. November arrived along with my first retirement cheque. The weather was terrible, rain, snow, hail, you name it, we had it. Not much sun. So I started to write a poem.
A Bleak November
We should feel clean, washed with all this rain
The earth soaked down, - it is not to blame,
Thunder and lightning, hail and snow,
Is there anything more Lord, You can bestow?
We decided to go to a ski show on the 20th with our fellow skiers. I was getting ready when I noticed a lump on my chest. I called my husband Fred to come quick. I said "You know my body better than I do, is this lump supposed to be there? "No, call the doctor in the morning". I did and he called me right in. Dr. Wolos was a special doctor still making house calls. This will not wait Mary Jane, I will call my Mother's doctor - he is good. He called, but he was away for the weekend. I was to go early Monday morning, November 25th. Dr. Ciok and his wife were both surgeons and he is a caring gentle doctor.
Every chair was taken, some standing in the waiting room. I saw him and then had to wait. I saw him go out for fifteen minutes, then he came back in, took me by the hand back to his office. He looked me in the eye and said I will be honest my dear, this has to come off. You need a radical mastectomy, right away, now. I knew by the look on his face, it was serious. I was stunned. He left to have arrangements made at the hospital. Since the Operating Room was booked until Friday morning, I went in Wednesday to have a few tests taken, losts of blood samples, etc. St. Joseph's Hospital, Hamilton, Ontario was a beautiful place. Since I did not have pain, I was nervous, apprehensive, for I had lost a lot of friends and neighbours with cancer, and felt it was my turn, why not? I was no better than the next fellow.
I had a lovely room mate, much older and scared. We became friends and we both loved to chat. Thursday evening I was preparing myself for my operation, Friday November 29th, 8 a.m.
Jesus on his cross, hung on the wall at the foot of my bed. I thought your pain must have been horrendous, you gave your life for all of us. You said the Father gives us no more than we can handle. I believe this - I prayed then for the Father to spare my life. I did not want to die. I was told I had a 50/50 chance only.
What More Can You Bestow?
I should not have asked, for now I cry,
I am so sad. Please God, I am not ready to die,
My love for you, and my loved ones here,
Give me strength, here's my hand, no more tears,
Forgive me Lord, my tears I cannot hold,
I am weak, scared, please help me uphold,
We all have our crosses, let me live on
Your love and forgiveness, I depend upon.
Perhaps it was more a prayer than a poem, for I said I would do whatever was laid on my heart, just make it known to me...
I healed quickly after a lengthy operation, for it was deeper than they thought, down to the bone. The doctor told me I had lymphoma cancer and chemo would give me another 15%, so Fred and I talked it over, and we agreed I should take it.
The doctors told me they wished all husbands were of Fred's mind. Take all of it off, more, just get all the cancer. I was to take seven powerful drugs, intravenously. Then I was asked if I would go on a program that might help others, so I said yes. I was to be picked at random whether it was to be for 3 or 9 months. My Cancer doctors Arnold and Levine were very nice. As fate would have it, I got the 9 months trial treatment. We left the hospital on December 9th and Fred took me out to a really posh restaurnat being very careful of me, attentive and loving.
I started my chemo Friday, December 13th. I had taken a little ball to the hospital to exercise my hand and arm. The doctors were very pleased with me before they let me go home. I could raise my arm to my head.
Now came the endurance part of this trial period. I had brochures telling me what to expect from these drugs. Blood tests every week. The doctor assured me I would not lose all my hair, I had such a mop. By the New Year, I took a shower; lo and behold, all my hair fell out and off. I was screaming and crying and Fred rushed down from his office, "What is the matter, people will think I am beating you?" He opened the shower door stopped, stared, speechless. I sobbed harder, trying to hold on to my hair, his next words were, "Gee, I always wondered what a woman would look like with no hair. Your head is so round and smooth"; I cried louder. He took my hands, turned the water off, and then said, with his arms around me, "Honey, look at it his way, how many men can say they took, a blonde, a redhead, a brunette and a baldy to bed in one week." He hugged me, but I saw the tears in his eyes, and then we both laughed. We went shopping then to the "Bay" for wigs. Long haired blone, and short curly haired. Needless to say, sales girls were shocked and sad when I said "Private Please" and took my turban off. "Chemo?" "Yes".
We did have some embarrassing moments but they passed. People are kind. The doctor mentioned he liked how I was wearing my hair. I took my wig off and he looked so surprised and then sorry, he did not think I would lose it.
When he told me I was picked for the 9 month trial, I said "What will it do to me if I lost all my hair after 3 treatments". I was really worried. We attended our company dance and I wore my long blonde wig and my own sister did not know me. Good for my morale. One chap asked me to dance and kept me for three, he was happy, my husband proud, and me tired out.
By the end of January, 1986 I was having problems, no pep, tired, hard work in breathing and steadily getting worse after my treatments. By March it bothered my husband so much to see me laboring to eat and walk a few steps, sit on each step going up or down, he told the doctors to do something right away, he could not stand to see me die.
I had more tests, a pulmonary function test which was abnormal, finally I was sent to a radiologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. This test was from my head to feet. Now I had blood clots in my lungs, one-half full. Some small ones below my knees. I suddently was told not to move and a wheelchair was called for. One room was available on the orthopaedic ward. I was also diagnosed as having Pagets Disease. When I was settled in, I phoned my husband to bring some things for me, "What for?" "I'm admitted." Was he ever shocked. I was put on blood thinners and monitored every hour for twenty four hours a day, for two weeks. I said to the doctor laughing, "Boy, I suddenly cannot move after walking around like this for two and a half months."
I walked to the Nursing Station with my machine, my surgeon was there and heard her say, "Go back to your room, I don't want any strokes on my floor." My doctor paled and sat down, when I told him what happened. He had done such beautiful surgery, it seemed everyone had to see it. My cancer doctor said he was happy I believed in my God. "What God do you believe in, there is only one." At this point, I remembered my vow. I am alive now, I must do what ever God places on my heart.
I always shared my good news with my sons and family so I had also shared my bad news. My brother in Vancouver said he had two strong arms and sent us tickets for EXPO 86. I sure hoped we could go. I had eleven and one-half treatments by this time of chemo and I prayed I would be taken off, since now I had this new problem. As it turned out, I did not have to go because I was off too long. We did go to EXPO, but I had to go to hospitals to have my blood checked each week coming and going, but I had to fly home if I started bleeding anywere on my body. We did have two trying times in Calgary and in Vancouver. While on this trip in our motor home, we decided we would like to live in B.C., healthier for both of us.
The cancer clinic people were shocked I would move away and cautioned me about seeing a doctor every three months and gradually stop by five years. I believe God guided us, for all the many things that happened could not be coincidence.
We arrived in Creston March, 1987, there was a doctor and hospital on our street. I did not have enough trouble; coming home from Cranbrook, a light blinded my vision and I ran off the road, totalled my car, fractured my back. We did manage to get things done though, enjoying ourselves.
In 1990 things were not so good for me. I started to get ill and losing weight, total of 44 pounds. All my tests were negative. In December, Dr. Sheehan called for an explorative operation for Fred was beside himself, worried sick. Five years to the month, I was faced again with cancer to the small bowel, lost a foot of it. I was to have all the same chemo plus radiation. I asked if I could go home and pray about it with Fred. O.K. We decided I would not. We changed our eating habits back as before and with herbs and teas, praying for guidance again. Fred grew all the
veggies we needed and we had planted fruit trees much earlier, so we felt very blessed as indeed we were. I wrote how I felt....