Survivor Stories

Each cancer survivor has a story to share.  Here are a few of our patient stories.

Myrna – Breast Cancer

Head shot of Myrna, Portneuf Cancer CenterAt age 64, I was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer, January 3, 2005. This was a huge shock to my husband, Dave, and I as there was no history of breast cancer in my family that I was aware of. My husband has been a very large part of my treatment and recovery. He did all the chemo with me, listened to me whine on the down times, reminding me I could be as miserable as I wanted. I had it in my head that I was a lost cause in the beginning when I was told we were going to do the chemo up front. The doctors and staff explained that doing the chemo up front was to shrink the tumor before surgery. It worked very well, as the tumor was reduced to the size of a pea by the end of the chemo treatments.

I hid that I was coming down with a cold at my first chemo session on March 2nd. The very next night, Dave and I came down with the crud that was going around. We were down for eight days. Then I became worse in the next three days. Dave called the doctor and was told to bring me in. I was in the hospital for a week with pneumonia. The doctor took excellent care of me. That is when we were truly acquainted with the oncology social worker. She tried to get us involved in the support group, but we put it off until mid-May. We have made so many good friends there. We are like a family caring about each other. Had it not been for me having cancer, our lives would not have crossed paths.

We were very impressed with the social functions. The annual Cancer Center picnic is great and the Relay for Life is awesome. During my first one, I was in mid-chemo with low energy but walked five laps. We missed the luminaries as had to leave before dark. This year, I was able to do it all; it was so moving.

I did the lumpectomy on September 6. I started radiation on September 28. The staffs of the radiation oncology department were as loving and caring as in the chemo department. We are very fortunate to have such a great cancer center here.

I lost all my hair a week after the first chemo. That wasn’t as upsetting as losing my eyebrows and eyelashes. I am glad to say that they came back and my hair came back curly! I had some low days but managed to work through them. I have been a walker everyday and pushed to go if only a couple of blocks. I tried to do something to be as normal as possible. The fear of cancer returning is not present as often as in the beginning. I still have times I worry, but not as often. I thank God I am still here and doing what I want. I have made life more simple now. I take a day at a time, do what I feel is important that day, enjoy the blue sky, sunset, flowers, birds, and having another day to love someone and to be loved.

Becky – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

head shot of Becky, Portneuf Cancer CenterJanuary 31, 2006 – I was admitted to the hospital thinking I had an acute case of pneumonia. However, after a CT scan revealed a tumor the length of my spine I underwent surgery and was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage III on February 7, 2006. This was also my 59th birthday.

During my hospitalization, my doctor and numerous support staff from the Cancer Center met with my family and myself. They never failed in answering our numerous questions and addressing our concerns. Upon my doctor’s recommendation, I began my battle against cancer with an aggressive chemotherapy treatment on February 9. My special cocktail was R-CHOP. At that time I didn’t realize the impact, negative and positive, cancer would have on my life, let alone the lives of my loved ones. However, being the optimistic person that I am, I’m following Winston Churchill’s famous quote of: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” This is not to say that I didn’t fall into being a pessimist at times, especially when my hair began falling out. Although, that’s when I first realized I enjoyed wearing ball caps. There were many days during treatment I didn’t or couldn’t get out of bed to face a new day. With the aid of acupuncture and the support of family and friends, “we” forged ahead.

Almost a year later, my hair has grown back with curl, and I’m in remission. To help me stay in remission, I’ll continue Rituxan chemotherapy treatments every six months. What seemed to me as a bitter trial I’ve learned is often a blessing in disquise because I pay attention to the smaller things in life. I “stop to smell the roses” so to speak. I believe I have a renewed outlook about life in general.

Also, I’ve met many new friends at the Cancer Center and at the Support Group, friends I would never have met otherwise. Pocatello is very fortunate to have such a progressive cancer treatment center, employing a compassionate, knowledgable staff. I truly believe I couldn’t have received better care anywhere in the world. In fact, I may have just been a “number” at a larger medical institution. A quote I’d like to end with is from Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”

Judy – Breast Cancer

head shot of Judy, Portneuf Cancer CenterMy name is Judy, and I would like to introduce my cancer story to you. I was holding my 8-month-old grandson on September 11, 2004. He fell asleep on the left side of my chest and arm as I held his bottle with my right hand. As we cuddled, I became aware of something that felt like twisted cloth or a button between the baby and me causing me discomfort. I probed and discovered a very small lump in my left breast.

My identical twin sister had inflammatory breast cancer in 1991 at the age of 32. She was fortunate to have access to very good cancer treatment in the Modesto area. Against the odds, my sister fought the cancer and at present is still in remission. As I am my sister’s genetic duplicate, I have had a sense that the chances were good that my time to fight cancer would eventually come. Strangely, I had calm come to me that if it was cancer, I could put up a good fight as my sister did.

I began seeing doctors and having tests to determine what the lump was. Eventually, I ended up with a local surgeon who didn’t like the results of the tests to that point, so she ordered a biopsy. The biopsy came back positive.

On October 4, 2004, I reported to the hospital to undergo a lumpectomy. As the lump was small, we had hoped for no lymph node involvement. However, the analysis from the lab showed the cancer in a few of the nodes. On October 7, I returned to the operating room to remove the lymph nodes under my arm.

Because of the lymph node involvement, I began chemotherapy shortly after my surgery. I finished after sixteen weeks on February 7, 2005. I was instructed by the doctor to rest, avoid stress, and not get sick because in three weeks my radiation treatments would begin. In the midst of all this, on February 16, my father was killed in an industrial accident.

Some days I wondered if I would make it through all of this. I was fortunate to have great family support and doctors who really cared. I was also fortunate to be involved in the support group at the Cancer Center. My husband and I have learned a lot and have been nourished by the care and concern of people who know and understand intimately what it means to face cancer. Would get phone calls out of the blue, cards indicating others cared, and questions of when would I be back at group because they missed me! That is how I came through, and can safely say to anyone facing this illness, we need you and I think we can help get you through it in a better way.

Michael – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

head shot of Michael, Portneuf Cancer CenterMy name is Mike. I am a 55-year-old father and grandfather, an active member of the PMC Cancer Support Group and a cancer survivor living with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At this time I am two and a half years out of my primary treatments and one year out of a relapse and secondary treatment. I am now in remission.

Yes it has been challenging. But I have had wonderful treatment here at PMC. The support group has become for me an adjunct to that treatment and an emotional support I could not have received otherwise. And I have made deep, true friendships that I can count on for strong support. So while challenged, I am also truly grateful. Cancer was a turning point in my life. I am grateful that it turned me in this direction.

Nancy – Carcinoid Tumor

head shot of Nancy, Portneuf Cancer CenterMy name is Nancy and it has been one year and six months since I was diagnosed with a carcinoid tumor. I was fine on Friday night when I went to bed, but then woke at 4:00 a.m. Saturday with abdominal pain and vomiting. When these symptoms continued all morning, I knew that I didn’t have the flu and asked my husband to drive me to the emergency room. It was Labor Day weekend. We had a long wait. After x-rays and a CT scan, the doctor told us that he could see a mass in my mesentery area that could be a tumor or an aneurysm. Surgery was planned for Sunday morning.

There wasn’t much time to get used to the idea of surgery. When the surgery confirmed a carcinoid tumor, it was my husband who had to give permission for the surgeon to remove it along with approximately 18 inches of my small intestine. I learned the diagnosis when I woke up after the surgery.I know that this was hard for my family to deal with. That’s one of the difficulties with any major illness. You need to deal with your own feelings and with those of family and friends all at the same time.

Five days in the hospital were necessary before I could go home. The nurses would come in on every shift asking if I had passed gas yet. I told them that I couldn’t imagine anyone but a nurse asking such a question. They told me that it was a requirement for being sent home. (I’m told it is an indication that the intestines are ready to function normally.) One of my discharge requirements was to walk. It’s a requirement that I love to follow and I think that it has speeded my recovery and supported my health.

Carcinoid tumors don’t respond to either “chemo” or radiation, so we just monitor for any re-occurrence with CT scans and lab work. So far, all tests have been negative and I’m feeling fine. After discussion with my husband our decision was that I would take an early retirement and he would follow five months later. We both are happy with that decision. We find we are thankful for each day and enjoy the simple things like long walks, beautiful western skies, the sound of birds in the back yard, and visiting with friends and family. We no longer take time for granted.

Paul – Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

PaulIn September of 2010 I began to experience a level of fatigue and exhaustion that was beyond anything I had ever known before in my life. I had just four months earlier turned 58 years old, actively working in the field of Law Enforcement in a newly promoted position. In keeping with the mandates of the job, I maintained a consistent workout and exercise routine in an attempt to keep up with the rigors of the job.

One day in early September, I was returning from a walk in the ravine adjacent to our home here in Pocatello. Something was very wrong; I was completely out of breath and struggling with much effort just to make it up the small hill to our home. My wife Dorothy thought I was playing as she was watching me slow walking and stopping every few steps, the fact was that I was serious, I could barely make it.

At that time I agreed to see a doctor. After a thorough examination the next morning, I was sent for a CT scan where a soft ball size mass was identified in my lower right quadrant. My doctor recommended I see Medical Oncologist Dr. Michael Francisco and his team of professionals at the Portneuf Cancer Center. It was there that I began to receive the very best lifesaving cancer treatment available. Dr. Francisco’s and Radiation Oncologists Dr. Michael Callahan’s caring and highly specialized cancer treatment began to be put in motion. I was diagnosed with stage three Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Dr. Francisco drained two quarts of fluids from my chest cavity that had collapsed my right lung and was severelyaffecting my ability to breath. During surgery to remove problematic lymph nodes from my neck, they discovered that all my lymph nodes were full of cancer from my neck down through my back.

Dr. Francisco determined I should begin a regiment of Chemo-therapy treatments consisting of Rituxan, one treatment every three weeks which took up to 6 hours to complete each treatment. The chemotherapy would continue for a period of four months, culminating with a radiation treatment consisting of one very powerful, highly radioactive single shot of Consolidated Zevalin Isotopes. I was the second person in South East Idaho to receive this treatment. The effects of which has freed me from any sign of cancer for the past four years. I continue to see Dr. Francisco every six months for follow-ups. I feel great and very thankful for the tremendous care I received at the Portneuf Cancer Center and especially from Dr. Francisco, his Medical Assistant Mary who always greeted me with a smile and comforting care, N.P. Carol for great recommendations, Robb Dye for emotional and spiritual support and Chemotherapy Nurse Jenni who with gentle care and professionalism administrated my Chemo and Radiation treatments. I have nothing but praise and respect for this great team of caring professionals who together saved my life.

Finally, and most importantly, I thank God who provided me with the physical strength and ability to be receptive to the treatments, He confirmed my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His faithfulness throughout this entire process and gave me an inner peace that surpasses all understanding. I can testify to the faithfulness of the Lord and His loving mercy and therefore I  give all praise andglory to Him.

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