Monday, October 31, 2016

Cancer Should be a 4-Letter Word #breastcancerawarenessmonth

Cancer was a disease that affected other people, other families, not mine…until it struck not once but twice.

My Mother-in-Law, Sheila Rodriguez, was diagnosed with inoperable stage 4 Cervical Cancer in 2007.  For 2 years it was easy for me to believe that she really wasn’t “that sick” and she was going to kick the disease like so many others had. After all, she was the most loving, caring, giving, selfless woman in the world. Everyone who met her loved her. She was a good person and deserved to live. SHE deserved a miracle. As fate would have it, that wasn’t my call to make.

After 2 years of chemotherapy, her health began to decline. She was weak, could barely walk and lost her long, thick, beautiful hair. She lost her appetite, but would request certain foods, almost as if she was preparing to taste them for the last time. Even when she was only able to eat a few tiny bites of food a day, she would ask me to make my Lemon Blueberry Scones. I like to believe that this was the last taste she wanted lingering on her taste buds before she died.

The final days of her life were some of the most heart-wrenching days of my life. She was begging to live and pleading to die at the same time. She was losing pints of blood and even doctors didn’t know how she was still alive. I do...she wanted to hold on for the sake of her family because she was the type of woman who put everyone else first.  

When she passed, I knew I never wanted to watch someone I love die like that again. Again, not my call to make….

 A few months later, my Father in Law, John Rodriguez was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. His decline was unexpectedly quick, which was both a blessing and a curse. He didn’t suffer for a long period of time like my Mother-in-Law, but at the same time we weren’t ready or prepared to say our goodbyes. Almost overnight we watched him emaciate and transform from a robust, vibrant man to a frail shadow of his former self. Like my Mother-in-Law, there was one thing he requested, my “famous” Iced Tea. He wasn’t able to eat because of the pain, but he wanted my Iced Tea. I remember telling myself I would make it for him the following day, but I never got the chance.

Living through the ordeal of terminal cancer and watching my husband cope with the loss of both of his parents in such a short span of time, changed my life. I am no longer “untouched” by this disease. I am participating in Frosting for the Cause in memory of my Mother and Father-in-Law, Sheila and John Rodriguez, two of the most inspirational people in my life who both lost their battle with Cancer. We need to make Cancer a four letter word - cure.

~ Faye Rodriguez

My Mom & Cancer

I LOVE MY MOM.  As any one of my sisters and myself included can tell you, my mom is too talkative, too nosey in our personal lives, too demanding, loves to yell, but in spite of all her faults (as we all have them), she is the most inspirational person in our lives.

 My Mom will be cancer free for 11+ years in 2011.  When I was 15 years old (1983) my Mom went to the doctor’s office to tell him about a lump she had on her breast.  She was 37 years old.  The doctor examined her and told her it was nothing but a fat gland.  My mom was happy, but in the back of her mind she kept worrying.  

Six months later, my Mom returned to the doctor to have him check the lump again.  This time the doctor showed more interest and sent my mom for her first Mammogram.  The Mammogram showed that something wasn’t right.  The next step was the biopsy that confirmed our biggest fear. CANCER.  

I remember being 15 ½ years old, crying and saying this could not be happening to my family.  But my mom, being the strong woman that she is, took the diagnosis with great strength and her belief in God.  The morning she went to the hospital to remove the cancer, she reassured her daughters that everything would be ok. 

When I came home from school (the picture is still clear in my head), my dad was sitting on the couch staring into space and my grandmother was at the sink washing dishes and crying.  I asked what happened. For one second, I thought my mom had died.  But we were reassured that my mom was alive, but that she had her breast removed.  That was my first experience with the word Mastectomy.  

The months that followed were filled with trips to the Doctor, the Chemo Doctor and the Radiologist. Throughout the entire ordeal, I had never seen a stronger woman than my mom.  She never complained. She even cut her beautiful hair really short because she had heard it was all going to fall off but she didn’t lose her hair, none of it.  Personally I believe it was my mom’s strong will and determination that caused it to remain intact.  So life continued, cancer was in our lives but we learned to live with it.  

After 15 years of being cancer free, the unthinkable happened again, my mom felt another lump on her remaining breast.  I told myself this could not be happening!!  The doctor said that if the cancer did not come back after 10 years, you were considered cancer free.  How could this happen to my family again? How could my mom deal with another battle with this horrible disease?  But this time we were prepared.  We went into the doctor’s office and demanded that they do a mammogram immediately then a biopsy.  But as fate would have it, once again, the diagnosis was Cancer.   It was a different form of Cancer than before, a more aggressive and faster growing Cancer.  My mom was hospitalized and received her second Mastectomy.  I remember the doctor telling us in the waiting room that there was good news.  The lymph nodes were swollen but it didn’t appear that the cancer had attacked them yet.

When my mom came home, you could see her anger about what had happened to her, but not once did she cry or blame God for what happened to her.  She tried to remain happy in front of her kids and husband.  She prayed.   So once again we (and I say WE because cancer is a disease that affects the whole family not just the victim) started the Chemo. 

This time my mom was not as lucky as the first time.  She lost all her hair.  We bought her bandanas and cute hats for her hair, to help her feel better.  I took her to the Cancer Society for a free wig.  She had a hard time, but she survived and became stronger than before.  So now here we are 11+ years later and we are still cancer free and counting.

 I am writing this blog post in honor of my mom and to remind me how lucky I am to have a mother with such great inner strength.  We need to find a cure for this terrible disease.

~ Yvonne Curiel