Wheeling, West Virginia
In 1996, Ann’s husband was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC), which is a kidney cancer that originates in the lining of the small tubes in the kidney. RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer in adults and has been described as among the most lethal of the urological cancers. Given only six months to live, he surpassed expectations living six more years until passing away in 2002.
Just four short years later, Ann was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, meaning that the cancer extended beyond the immediate region of the tumor and possibly invaded nearby lymph nodes. After going through surgery, chemo, and radiation, remission seemed likely, until Ann was re-diagnosed with stage four, terminal, breast cancer in August of 2012. Due to the advancement into stage four, the cancer spread to her bones.
So I have already been the caregiver, I’ve been the recipient of cancer and I’ve been re-diagnosed with cancer. I understand the stress of being a caregiver, especially when you go from having a spouse to being a caregiver for that spouse. You know you’re a caregiver for your children, you’re a caregiver for your elderly parents; you don’t expect being a caregiver for your spouse, you expect to work together.
I still work full time. I was working fifty to sixty hours a week, so I have gone down to about forty for a normal workweek. I’m not real strict, if I don’t get in there at eight o’clock, they have a little attitude but if I don’t get in there until eight thirty so what. I am on treatment and I go in for treatment about once a month. I was on chemo and I am actually doing the shots now, so it’s like fifteen minutes and I’m out of there. So then I go to work. I have no side effects from it. The first time, yes, I had a lot of side effects. If I get a headache and go into work, then I just go home.
But right now I’m working full time, I don’t think I could sit at home. I’m not going to sit there and dwell on what I’m walking through. I refuse to do that. I think work distracts me too, which I think is a good thing. Sometimes I think if I was sitting home all day I wouldn’t have any money to go and do anything. I’d just be sitting at home all day, pondering. So I get up and I go to work, and I will work until I go home to the Lord.
I go in and demand the love from the doctors. And when I walk in the door they’ll say, ‘Oh, here comes Love she’ll want love’. Because I think that’s what it is all about in this life. It’s the journey of sharing your faith and sharing your love for each other. I’m grateful for my first husband, we were married for nineteen years. When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2006, I had just started seeing someone else after my husband was gone for four years. And I remember him coming in and he says, ‘I want to marry you, because I know you won’t let me stay with you going through treatment unless we are married’. So we did get married in October and two days later I was in surgery’. So I don’t know how cancer changed our marriage because we walked into it together.
My diagnosis gives me more of an opportunity to share my faith. I start out asking people if they know the Lord, because that is where all my faith comes from. When I go to sleep at night I just say, ‘Lord, I’m tucking myself up into your arms and we’ll see what tomorrow brings. So I get to share my faith, and I’ll pray because this was from the enemy. I can’t deny that all my strength comes through the Lord. I have no strength, people say, ‘you’re so strong’, it is not me. It does come through the Lord. Everything I have, everything I stand on. I know His word and I know he says, ‘I will heal you’.
I don’t understand the journey. So I’m like, “Okay Lord, I don’t know why you’re having me go through this, but I’m gonna go through it’. But I get up each day. I’m grateful to be here; I’ve got a great, loving second husband. So I’m just grateful to be here each day and see what the world brings. I don’t carry the big C on my chest everyday, because I serve a bigger C, which is Christ, and I believe that. I have a very strong relationship with the Lord and if he decides to take me tomorrow, I’m gonna be okay and so will my family.
In the six years that my husband had cancer, we didn’t miss a beat. We didn’t miss a summer vacation and we still don’t. It will be a year now in August since I have been re-diagnosed. My son now, who was a teenager when my husband died, will be 26. I think it was rough for him, because my son was 9 when my husband was diagnosed. I am so grateful for those few more years because I think if it happened when he was 9, I would have had a more rebellious teenager.
When my husband passed, my son actually sang the song “I can only imagine” by Michael W. Smith. Now you can dance, now you can jump. Which were a lot of the things my husband had lost in his battle. You really appreciate the times you have together. I think sometimes people take advantage of each other or get taken for granted. You kind of lose that when you’re going through a battle. And some of those things you think matter so much become trivial, the trivial things just don’t matter. You want to value that time together.
My son believes he is going to see his father again. So even though it’s a hard loss, it’s very hard; you just keep on going. I don’t deny what’s going on inside me; I’m not going to let it live the rest of my life out here on this earth. I refuse to let the cancer control me. It can take my body but it’s not going to take my spirit.
Eric Smith Rapid City, South Dakota
Jan Mulvaney Fairfax, Virginia