Hope faith fear
Kathy Chaffin is on leave from the Post while she undergoes treatment for breast cancer. She is sharing her experiences with readers through updates that will be published on our Web site as well as in the newspaper.My words are coming back, so hang on. I have lots to tell you.
First, I finished my last chemotherapy treatment. Hooray! Hooray!
I’ve gotten so used to going to the Forsyth Regional Cancer Center one to two days a week, however, that I don’t think it’s completely sunk in that I won’t have to go back except for follow-up visits.
And, I have white fuzz growing on my head. Could somebody please tell me if this is normal? What happened to the dark blonde hair that I’ve highlighted for years?
Speaking of my head, I’m sporting a short blonde wig these days in case you see me walking down the street. A friend loaned it to me after my last one was damaged when I left it in my hot car.
While the bone pain has lessened, I’ve started to experience some neuropathy in my feet. I’m having tingly, burning sensations, and everything I walk on barefoot feels different.
I keep having to look down at my carpet, for instance, because it feels wet.
The fatigue also continues, but I am able to do a little more each day, and I plan to be back at work soon. I’m going to have my reconstructive surgery either in December or next year.
The effect of the chemotherapy drugs on my brain ó which we survivors call chemo brain ó and the emotional side effects of breast cancer are the hardest parts to deal with at this point.
I have problems focusing and find myself forgetting things and misspelling words much more frequently. Please keep that in mind if I end up interviewing you in the next few months.
As for the emotional part, I’ll let you know when I figure that out.
I’ve heard that cancer survivors sometimes get insecure when their treatments stop. It’s like having this wonderful team of supporters all the time and then suddenly they’re gone.
Someday soon, when I am feeling well again, I will go back and tell the members of my team just how much they meant to me.
My oncologist, Dr. Timothy Collins, was consistently kind, patient and positive. When I was determined to end my treatments early, he spent an hour convincing me to keep going. I agreed, and now I’m happy with my decision.
His nurse, Ronda Fair, and nurse navigators/angels Sharon Gentry and Laurie Mathis (a 10-year breast cancer survivor herself), just to mention a few, were also wonderful.
Sharon and Laurie are available 24 hours a day to answer questions or address concerns of cancer survivors. It was always nice to know they were there.
I will miss everyone at the Cancer Center.
Then there are the fellow cancer survivors and their family members who reached out to me. When I went for my first treatment, Keith Hilton was in the waiting room while his wife, Crystal, was taking her third round of chemotherapy.
It was great to see a familiar face, and he went out of his way to encourage me. I graduated from Davie High School with Keith and Crystal, and they have been a constant source of strength throughout this journey.
Crystal is one of the bravest women I have ever met. She’s always positive, and Keith loves her so much. There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for her. They’ve become my new favorite couple.
I made another friend that first day of chemo. I had yet to lose my hair, and I noticed her because I thought she was the prettiest bald woman I had ever seen in her “Life is Good” ball cap.
She heard Keith and me talking and said she had started out on the same drugs as I was getting ready to take. As it turned out, she and her fiance are building a house a few miles from me, so Kim Smith and I have spent a lot of time sharing our experiences and encouraging each other.
A man whose name I don’t know helped me feel a lot better about survivorship the other night when he won a prize at the Davie County Relay for Life Survivor Dinner for being the longest living cancer survivor ó 60 years. Isn’t that amazing?
Sixty more years, and I’ll be 110. That’s not bad.
Then there are all the Rowan County cancer survivors who e-mailed and sent cards and letters telling me about their journeys. Some were amazingly similar, but each and every one seemed to understand what I was going through. I hope to share more of them with you.
Cancer survivors come out of the woodwork when they hear about someone newly diagnosed. It’s just one way of paying it forward for what was done for them.
Of course, I can’t forget all the churches who had me on their prayer lists. Sarah Wood, the mother of one of my longtime friends, brought me a prayer quilt the ladies at First United Methodist Church of Mocksville made for me.
Each knot on the beautiful quilt represents a prayer. I read once that a prayer is like a beam of light pointed toward heaven.
A couple of nights, when I was really sick, I spread the quilt out on top of me, imagining that each beam formed a giant spotlight straight through to God.
There’s yet another group of people who reach out to those who are sick or going through other difficulties.
They seem to have their own individual ministries. Some send cards. Some bring food. Some call and visit, and some do all of the above.
One of the people who was so supportive of me is now facing her own challenge. Shirley Webb, who sent me 25 cards at my niece’s last count, went in for microscopic gallbladder surgery on June 14 when her surgeon inadvertently nicked what he thought was her small intestine and ended up having to do major surgery.
When she got worse instead of better from what was actually a nick to her colon, Shirley was rushed to the operating room for another major surgery and colostomy, followed by yet another emergency surgery three days later.
She spent almost a month in the hospital, much of that time in the intensive-care unit.
After all that, I got another card from her this week.
Please add her name to your church prayer list, and anyone wishing to send her a card may mail it to Shirley Webb, 129 Parker Road, Mocksville, N.C. 27028.
That’s all for now. I’ll write more later.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at kcwriter99@ aol.com or 2593 U.S. Highway 64 West, Mocksville, N.C. 27028.