"When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure....."
I am Sheri, a 60 year-old mother, step-mother, sister, daughter, partner, employee (2 jobs), dog rescuer, 4-H leader AND a 6 1/2 year anal cancer survivor.
My cancer journey began in spring 2008. My alerting cancer signs sent me in the direction of my colorectal doctor I had worked for during my college years who is still practicing in my city. So… I made an appointment and took myself in to be checked. After two biopsies, it was confirmed that I had a cancerous tumor.
I began chemo treatment on my 54th birthday! Radiation followed shortly after. As a single mom with a daughter who has disabilities and no family members close to assist me, I had to make a decision to move my daughter out of the house so that her needs and housing could be covered. It was a tough decision – she and I had gone through a rare seizure diagnosis for her ten years prior followed by five years of seizures/brain surgeries and subsequently she had her entire left hemisphere removed with an entire year of rehab. (Today she lives alone, works and has a four year old!)
Treatment was a tough journey…. being home alone definitely gave me a better understanding of the fear and uncertainty patients face through their cancer treatments. My constant companions were my three wonderful spaniels… they motivated me every day to get out of bed and attend to their needs. I set mini goals for myself throughout my journey… even during the rough weeks, I felt small steps were giving me the initiative to move forward. Sitting on the patio, getting dressed, walking to the mailbox were short but attainable goals.
I had a number of hospitalizations during my treatment months… the pain often was so great that I couldn’t manage it at home. Many nights the pain kept me awake till the wee hours of the morning, yet I always set the same time to arise every morning.
I was grateful for the thoughtful notes that friends sent, since it was often difficult when folks called to ask how I was to reply that I was “about the same”…. Only a few select friends really knew how difficult the treatments were for me. Some weeks were very discouraging when I felt there was no progress in my health.
Shortly after my last radiation treatment/hospitalization (and just as I was on the recovery path), I started to feel sick a couple weeks later. After another ten-day hospitalization, in which I literally could not eat anything, and doctors were scrambling to figure out my newest health issue, I was dismissed on the day my diagnosis came – H-pylori!
This set me back another six weeks of recovery as well… and finally I was able to return to work four months after I started all of my treatments. My hair had thinned during treatment, but didn’t fall out (I had it cut very short)! While so many cancer patients had stories of hair color changes/texture, mine came back same color, and as straight as ever (maybe a tad more gray... that I definitely earned!)!
Fortunately, I did not have any surgeries and while I do have neuropathy in my legs from radiation treatments and my diet does have to be watched (I can’t eat as much chocolate as I used to!), I consider myself very lucky with minimal side effects.
The Foundation has provided me with the latest in news, treatments, and support. I was selected to participate in the Peer to Peer mentor program, which has been a rewarding experience for me. Reaching out to other 'thrivers' to share our stories, expectations and just a friend to lean on, is such a heart-warming relief.
Maybe it’s not about the happy ending….maybe it’s about the STORY.
A friend, Sheri
Looking for someone to talk to about your anal cancer diagnosis? We are here to help. The Peer to Peer Support Program is a free service provided by the Anal Cancer Foundation that matches anal cancer thrivers (our word for survivors) and caregivers with thriver volunteers and caregiver volunteers.