Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cancer with a "C"

Cancer is a rotten disease. Its nice that now a days it isn't a death sentence like it was when I was growing up. A matter of fact any talk of Cancer was done in Whispers up until the 70's. It wasn't really shameful to have Cancer but nobody talked about it even once they were gone. 

My first memory of someone talking about Cancer openly was Shirley Temple Black. Yes that adorable curly top was one of the first people to opening admit they were battling Cancer. "In the autumn of 1972, Temple was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The tumor was malignant and removed, and a modified Radical Mastectomy performed. Following the operation, she announced it to the world via radio, television, and a February 1973 article for the magazine McCalls. In doing so, she became one of the first prominent women to speak openly about breast cancer."

I remember her on the Mike Douglas Show talking openly about Breast Cancer in 1973. I was 13 years old and never heard of Breast Cancer or for that matter much about Cancer at all. Back in 1973 Tobacco Companies were still trying to deny the link between Cigarettes and Cancer. Shirley Temple Black appeared on the Mike Douglas show 4 more times that year starting the National discussion on Breast Cancer. On April 23rd this year Shirley Temple turns 83.

My family has had its own run ins with Cancer. I lost both of my Uncles, and a grandfather. My husband lost 2 Aunts, a Grandmother, and his Mom 7 years ago.

Seven years ago my Mother in Law appeared to be healthy. She took a trip to Ireland with my husband, kids and I, and even took some of the other grandkids to England on a Harry Potter Adventure. By summer she was battling a resistant pneumonia and traveling between Arizona and Utah for Highschool graduations and visits with Family. In July one of her 9 sisters passed away, she returned to Utah and delivered a powerful eulogy. I remember as she and I squeezed into the back seat of our Saab on our way to the Cemetery she turned to me and said " Ceal I just don't feel well." Her stare scared me, my husband and I became really concerned.

After a brief return to her home in Arizona she scheduled a doctors appointment in Utah to see a specialist who could help her with her pneumonia. After her first visit when all the tests were administered the doctor turned to her and bet her 5 cents that there was no way it was cancer and scheduled her followup appointment. It was just what the family wanted to hear, but just days later she was rushed to an Emergency Room and given the diagnosis of Non-smokers Small Cell Lung Cancer. It was everywhere, lungs, bones, brain, organs... everywhere.

The diagnosis was hard to take but we were ready for the fight of her life, and our life. That's when we were given the news, we had 4 to 6 weeks. How could this be? We had come so far in Cancer treatment and she had been seeing doctors for months complaining of lung problems. 

When someone is diagnosed with Cancer you imagine being given a thick heavy book with pages and pages of information, strategies, operations, treatment, survival rates, and ultimately a cure. When my sweet Mother in Law received her diagnosis the family was handed that heavy book and told to turn to the last chapter. She passed away just weeks later in my home surrounded by family. 

The day before she took her final breath the nurses took me aside before they left and whisper, "don't be surprised if its tonight." My sister in Law and I slept on the floor of her room that night just listening to her breath. Some time after midnight her labored breathing woke me up and I turned to my sister in Law and told her I thought it was time. We quickly got my husband and my father in Law, and as I left the room to give them privacy my husband turned off the oxygen machine and they all sang songs and assured her as she calmly slipped away. 

That was 7 years ago this summer, it feels like it was just yesterday. All Cancer starts with a "C", a "C" for Cure. We've had 7 more years of research, 7 more years of lives being saved, and additional Chapters being added to that Heavy Cancer Book you get handed when you start the fight of your life.


  1. Mom,
    thanks for posting. it's so funny because although i didn't spend a ton of time with Grandma Kay, i feel like i know her...and i knows she knows me. i often feel the need to tell her what's going on and i know she's listening.

  2. What a wonderful post. Your insights, thoughts and memories are so well said. For me it's been a Great-Aunt, my only Aunt, my father-in-law and my husband... And when it was my husband, we never got the book, in any form. On the brighter side, my sister-in-law is a survivor, as are some of my friends. If only "C" could stand so much more for Cure than it does for Cancer...