Cancer. Just the word is enough to put chills down your spine.
When people find out I work with cancer patients, they often ask, “how can you do that, isn’t it depressing?” If I’m being honest, the answer is… yes, it can be. But because I am an eternal optimist, I never lose hope… whether it’s hope of cure or remission, hope of feeling better tomorrow than you do today, or hope that you are able to surround yourself with the people you love as the end draws near… there is always hope. This week’s Inspired By Life is about hope…
I have been treating a woman we will call Loretta. She recently moved to Denver from Nebraska so she could complete her cancer treatment with two of the most wonderful doctors in town Dr. Kevin Schewe and Dr. Samir Witta. I met her as she was on day 33 of her 35 consecutive days of radiation. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago and had already undergone chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. When I met Loretta she was going to be receiving acupuncture for neuropathy and fatigue.
She was a nurse and it came quite clear as she gave me her quick and concise health history and listed her two chief complaints. When it was time to lie her down on the treatment table to begin the acupuncture, she was very slow to move and winced as her right shoulder touched the table. I asked her where she was receiving her radiation and she very casually pulled down her shirt to show me a burn unlike anything I had seen before. It was about the size of a dinner plate, fire-engine red and the skin was visibly damaged and peeling. Unfortunately this can be a common side effect of radiation and especially at the tail end of a treatment series as long as hers was, and it had to hurt unlike anything I could imagine. She proceeded to tell me it was just a “little inflamed” but genuinely smiled from the inside out when she told me… “I’m almost done with radiation and this will heal, but we’ve made sure there is no chance that the cancer could have survived.” As the treatment continued she proudly told me about her kids, her grand kids and her plans for the new house she just bought in Denver. She never skipped a beat.
That was a few months ago… she has since finished her radiation, her burns have healed and her body is in full recovery. I always enjoy our time together, mostly chatting about her grand kids and I’ll tell whatever ridiculous story I have for that week. We had known her PET scan was coming up and several times she had told me she didn’t have a doubt in the world that no cancer could have survived everything they did to get rid of it. But the week before her scan, I asked her, “Loretta, how we doing? How you feeling about Friday’s scan?” And she burst into tears. She said she was so scared that the scan would come back positive for cancer and even though she would fight again, she really didn’t want to. She apologized to me for crying and said that she had not cried in front of anyone…this totally shocked me…not only that she was showing fear, but that she felt like she could share these feelings with me. Next she asked me if I would pray for her Friday when she would be getting her scan. I handed her a tissue and she quickly stood up and got on the treatment table signaling that our “feelings festival” was over and we returned to our usual conversation topics.
I saw her the Monday following her scan and asked how she felt now that it was done and there was nothing to do but wait for the phone call with results. She said she had a lot of peace about it and thanked me again for the kindness I had shown her the week before. As she was leaving that day, I asked her if she would call me Wednesday when she found out the results of the PET scan because I would be thinking of her. She said she had a busy day planned but she would try to call, if not Wednesday then Thursday for sure. I thought about her often in the next couple days and when I heard her voice on my voicemail Wednesday afternoon, my heart stood still and I held my breath until I heard the news I was hoping for… and her words sounded just as beautiful as I imagined they would.
“Jana, this is Loretta. You are my first phone call. My scan was clear. I AM CANCER FREEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!”
Jana Royer-Morian is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Inspired Wellness Center proudly serving Arvada, Denver, Broomfield, Westminster, and even more of Colorado. To learn more visit: www.inspired-wellness.com and join the on-going conversation on Facebook.