Here is my body’s cancer journey…….
In 1963 I was 8 years old. It was Christmas Eve morning and my mother was giving me a bath. She felt 3 small lumps, where my left breast would develop later. I was born a sickly child, so she quickly called our family doctor and told him I needed to be seen right then and there. This was 1963, so doctors were a lot different than most are now. He told my mother to meet him at his office in a few minutes. We arrived, doc checked me out, looked at my mother and said, “Jane, these are just breast buds and there’s nothing to worry about.” We went home and had a nice Christmas holiday.
I need to digress a bit so that you will get a clearer picture of things. My paternal grandma was a Messianic Jew who lived in Germany with her sisters, brothers and parents. For those of you who may not know what a Messianic Jew is, it simply means that my Grandma and her entire family were Jewish but believed strongly in Jesus. Hitler was doing what Hitler did at the time, and eventually his group rounded up my Grandma’s entire family and they ended up as prisoners in Auschwitz…a concentration camp in Poland. My grandma’s parents and her brothers were killed almost immediately, which left my Grandma and her two sisters..my Great Aunts’ Louise and Clara. While being held there, they endured horrid things, the worst being experiments by Dr. Josef Mengele also known as “The Angel of Death.” Eventually, the found freedom and ended up on Ellis Island.
As I was growing up I can’t remember a year that passed when someone on my grandma’s side of the family died of cancer. Every single year it was a cousin, an child of a cousin, eventually my grandma, my dad’s sister, my great aunts….gone. All from some weird, never seen before cancer. Today, April 13th, 2012, the only people left are my brother, his daughter, myself, my three sons, and their children. My eldest son, develops tumors often and thank God, once they are removed I breathe easier….until another shows up.
In 1984, I was working and I began to feel unusually tired, and I was thin to begin with but I began loosing weight and did not have much of an appetite. I went to the doctor….the same one I had when I was 8, and he sent me to the hospital for a mammogram. Well, they found multiple masses in both breasts. I was 29…and I’m thinking..are they crazy or what. On May 3rd, 1984 I received my diagnosis of Stage 4 breast cancer. I had 3 sons, and my husband heard cancer, packed his things and left. From May through mid October I went through radiation and chemo. And 21 years and 1 day to the date of “having breast buds”, I had no boobettes at all.
All should have been much better right? Wrong. I recovered from the surgery, went through more treatment, and got a divorce and was still feeling not so wonderful. There is a big difference between chemo sick and something’s not right in Denmark sick. So, my husband had taken me off his insurance when he left…and I wasn’t aware of that. I ended up being placed in a clinical trial because I had a rare form of cancer seen only in people who had any association with the good old Angel of Death! Thank you God that my husband cancelled my insurance. Had he not, I would not be here now.
I have made my final arrangements at least 16 times, tied up my loose ends often, had the hard talk with my boys, then with their wives, then with my grandchildren. My cancer is insane. Nothing is there one minute and the next week I have a new mass. So far I have had the double radical mastectomy, part of my colon removed, my left kidney removed, it has invaded my throat, my ears, my lower jaw had to be removed and replaced, I have had tumors attached to the inside of my skull, 2 knee replacements, and currently I have a tumor in my heart. It is shrinking, but I sure wish it would just vanish because this chemo has never been used on a human before. I am the experimental rat your parents warned you about. :o) I have to make it funny or I would go to my bed and just let go. But, I love life. Life is so amazingly beautiful to me it takes my breath away. This cancer, as ugly as it is, has taught me how to live out loud, it has taught me kindness, compassion, the power of prayer and so much more. I know what is really important and special in life and I am blessed.
When I had my first surgery, December 26th, 1984 I required blood transfusions. In 1984 there was no way to screen blood for HIV. A decade plus later I receive a letter from the blood bank stating that one of my blood donors had died due to complications of AIDS and they urged me to see my doctor immediately. Well….yes I was HIV+ and now I am full blown AIDS. I am making it. I keep smiling even if I am faking it. I lost my hair so many times I actually love being bald…but when I have hair it is PINK. I have one pair of regular blue jeans that were my daddies, but if you open my closet you will feel like you just walked right into a bottle of Pepto Bismol. I still have the old yellow star that my grandma was made to wear so that everyone new she was Jewish. I take it with me to treatment. I have never asked God, “why me.” Why not me? Better me than someone else, and because of all the experimental drugs all these years, people are using them and getting well. So I don’t mind at all.
This is the story of my body’s cancer. I am 57 now and I have no intention of leaving for awhile. I will plant my pink flowers in the yard, drive my little Volkswagen Beetle when I can, and I am going to keep on smiling.
Sarah-Pink Welch ©2012
Facebook: Sarah-Pink’s Promise
UPDATE: As of February 5th, 2013 I was removed from chemotherapy and put into a new study….all though the cancer is still here, it is quiet and I am participating in a French/Canadian study that is showing great promise.
UPDATE: A full year has almost come and gone. I still have the cancer but it seems to be taking a nap. I am doing as well as I can and I feel wonderful.