Guest Column: My cancer journey

Cancer…Wow, never thought I’d hear that word on my 72nd birthday. I heard those words last year, and my life changed. I thought I was doing all the right things, going for checkups, having mammograms, trying to exercise a little each day and staying busy with my family, friends, crafts and spending time between Lebanon and my home in the Smoky Mountains.
May 21, 2014
Shirley Robinson

Cancer…Wow, never thought I’d hear that word on my 72nd birthday. I heard those words last year, and my life changed. I thought I was doing all the right things, going for checkups, having mammograms, trying to exercise a little each day and staying busy with my family, friends, crafts and spending time between Lebanon and my home in the Smoky Mountains.  

In the midst of my busy life, I kept experiencing a strange symptom...I had bloating with pain severe enough that it was interrupting my life. I went to my gastrologist, and he did a scan on my gall bladder that reflected that it was working properly. I was told that I had something called bacterial overgrowth and was prescribed medicine for that.  It would get better then appear again. This went on a year and a half until I realized I was my own best health advocate and changed doctors and had a CAT scan that revealed cancer. 

I asked, “what kind, what stage and what should I do next?” But never did I ask, “Why me?” So many people experience this disease, and it certainly seems that you lose control of your life. How we fight and our attitude is the only things we have control over.

I have ovarian cancer, identified as stage 3C. I had surgery Aug. 29, and the surgeons did a major “de-bulking,” which was their goal.  I then started a six-month course of chemotherapy Sept. 9. I have to say that while taking chemo is no fun, there could not be a better group of caregivers that are in this profession. They truly care and do everything they can to make it a good experience for you. There were bumps along the road with the chemo with my white blood cell count, but I’m finished now and return every six weeks for my port to be flushed and to keep a watch on my C125. It is now at 16, which is in the normal range, but was around 400 before I had my surgery. I couldn’t wait for my life to get back to normal but realize this is the ‘new normal’ for me, and I have accepted it.

I have learned so many things on my journey with cancer. First, I learned who and what was important to me and what I had to do to stay on this path. My faith in God has proven to be my most valuable treasure and knowing that He is with me to fight with me. 

I thought of all my family and friends who are watching me from heaven and placed their pictures in my bedroom to watch over me through this time. I also read from wonderful devotional books from people who have gone through this.  

Many times it seemed that the words were written especially for me. I also asked some cousins, who I consider ‘prayer warriors’ to hold a handkerchief and pray for me, then kept it with me through surgery and chemo. I remember my mom telling me of having a handkerchief that her mom had given her when she had gone through a difficult childbirth before I was born. This is all part of my faith, and I love the quote, “Hope is faith holding out its hand in the dark,” by George Illes.

While waiting for my diagnosis, my little dog, Pee Wee, would lay down with me and one day he came up to me and just stood over my mouth. I asked if he knew mommy had cancer for I’d heard that some animals can sense sickness. Ten days after my surgery, Pee Wee was diagnosed with cancer that was so advanced they I had no option but to have him put to sleep. While that hurt me beyond compare, I like to think he took my cancer with him. 

I have tried to keep family and friends updated on a website called mylifeline.org. On days when I didn’t feel like writing, my daughter would write for me. People posted such positive things, and I looked forward each day to reading them. 

I have three beautiful daughters that are on this journey with me and have been my rock and strength. I also have come to appreciate my friends and their love in a whole new way. Good can come from bad, and I hope this is showing me to give roses while I’m here. I know all my family and friends have given roses to me with their prayers and actions.  

Shirley Robinson is a gracious southern lady who has inspired her many friends and family this past year with such a positive attitude during her diagnosis and treatment for cancer. She was selected as one of the honorees for this year’s Relay for Life, and will lead the Survivor Walk on June 6 at the Relay event.

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