Cancer: Turning the Page


On starting a new chapter, but never forgetting.

The scars and marks from biopsies, two power port placements, spinal tap, rounds of flash radiation and a triple lumen catheter often tell her story better than she can by using words. Of her scars, the most recognizable to other people is her port scar. That is the device that made it possible for her to receive her chemotherapy cocktail.

On her worst days, it is easy to watch her mind wander. She would like to be anywhere except for the clinical setting of hospital. When that 15 percent mortality rate creeps into her nightmares she feels it far outweighs the 85 percent chance that she will beat cancer. Even being eight months into remission, that thought of relapse is never that far from either of our minds.

When she went through treatments that weren’t working, PET scans were filled with anxiety and fear. Staff at the Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA) would ask passing doctors because, just like her family, they were invested, too. Several nurses knew that, aside from the actual results, the waiting was the worst part. They advised me on how to obtain dictation from radiology so that I would not have to wait so long.

After all that she had been through, to hear that she was in remission seemed so unreal. After having heard bad news so many times, I didn’t know if that moment would ever come for my sister. I immediately thought about all of the people that we lost along the way. In that moment, all of the families that would never hear that word flooded my mind.

Having a loved one with cancer takes a toll on your life. You wake up every morning knowing that this foreign entity is inside of your sister. You go to bed knowing that while she is resting, the disease is very much alive, attacking her. You are always being constantly reminded of that fact, and it is something that you can either come to terms with, let eat away at you. The choice is yours to make.

When I think back on this journey, I think about the heartbreak, sickness, sorrow and despair. But I also think about just how lucky we have been. I think about all of the people who fought as hard as they could and gave everything they had to beating this awful disease, but still didn’t make it. It was just too much and they left far too soon.

We got a happy ending, but not everybody does. Sadly, it is the reality of cancer that those affected by it know so well. That is why we fight so hard for a cure. In actuality, while we did get the desired outcome, it isn’t an ending to a story. It is simply closing what has been one of the most difficult chapters in our lives and beginning a new one.

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Dr. Kelly Stratton
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