Cancer Awareness and personal experiences

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[*screaming into the void intensifies*]
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Cancer accounts for 13% of all deaths worldwide each year. 30% of cancer could have been prevented, especially by not smoking. The most common form of terminal cancer in men is lung cancer; for women, the most common is breast cancer. In 2008, 7.6 million people died of cancer-related causes.

In January of 2012, my grandmother became part of the 13%. She had pancreatic cancer, and had been diagnosed about seven months prior- which is in and of itself an amazing thing, because the average life expectancy after diagnosis with this form of cancer is between three and six months. Pancreatic cancer is one of the least understood cancers, and cannot currently be detected in early stages. Because of this, treatment options are limited; surgery to remove the tumor is no longer possible. Its symptoms are often misdiagnosed. Risk factors are not clearly known. Over the last 40 years, very little progress in treatment of pancreatic cancer has been made in comparison to other forms of cancer. It is the fourth leading cancer-related cause of death in the U.S., with about 44,000 being diagnosed and 38,000 dying each year. Like other cancers, pancreatic cancer awareness is promoted by a particular color of ribbon; in this case, it is

Being a family member of someone with a terminal illness is very difficult, especially when you are not able to be physically present. Other members of the family act crazy, ask questions that no one can answer, all try very hard to have a purpose and do something when there is really very little to be done. You think about death in a new way. Sometimes it doesn't feel real, and then you have a new stage where it catches up to you. And then you think you've absorbed it until the next time it hits you, and the next, and the next. Things get muddled. But the important things remain the same: spend time together, love them, do what you can, and don't shut down.

If anyone has any personal experiences they'd like to share about cancer, please do. Have you had a family member or loved one be diagnosed with cancer or another terminal disease? Have you lost someone? Seen someone pull through and be a survivor? Fought an illness yourself?

Also, please take some time to visit the American Cancer Society's website.
First off: *hugs*

I have a good friend that was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after she graduated with her Master's in voice. She had to leave the opera company she was working with and underwent almost a year of treatment, including surgeries, chemo and radiation. She had lymphomas up and down her spine and had her lymph nodes removed. When she was undergoing treatment, she could barely walk due to the masses pressing on her spine, and the surgery to remove her lymph nodes had the risk of destroying her ability to sing. They weren't sure if even after the treatment if she'd walk again, or if the masses would deform her bones.

I remember we constantly sent her care packages and some of our friends went down to visit her (she was in Florida and we were in Philly). A year after she was diagnosed, she was declared cancer free.

The best part of the story, although the disease kept her from a singing contract in Alaska, she eventually was able to travel there to participate in the the Midnight Sun Marathon with the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society's Team in Training, as a runner. :)

On the other hand, though, almost two years ago we lost a very good friend at our church to breast cancer. She had gone into remission from a Stage 4 breast cancer, but relapsed after the birth of her son. She was a beautiful singer, choir director, friend and mentor to the teens in our church, and was involved in the music ministry even when she became too ill to direct the choir. She was always smiling, even though you could see she was in pain. She's still a huge miss.

Today, we buried my mom's best friend of 40+ years. She was my brother's godmother, and practically mine as well. She lived with the painful but often invisible disease of lupus since she was a young woman. She was an amazing woman who had tons of close friends and a wicked sense of humor, but also a huge reserve of wisdom to share. She was tenacious, and not even two defunct hip replacements and dialysis three times a week could keep her down. Even near the end of her life, despite the pain she was in, she could say something to make you laugh, or encourage you.

It always amazes me how people can go through pain with grace and with a smile despite everything. These are the folks that you always say are 'living with' a disease, not suffering from or dying from. They don't let it get in the way of their living. I hate these diseases, and I wish more could be done right now about them, but I'm thankful for the opportunity to know people who lived despite them. Sappy, I know, but I'm in that kind of mood.
Peggy D Carlisle's Story
The year was 2003 and a feeling in my gut told me things weren't right. So I decided to go speak to my mother. Turned out she had a doctor appointment for a lump in her breast. She went in to find out that it had to be removed. Once removed they found out it was malignant cancer. They then had to turn around and go back in to make sure it hadn't spread to her lymph nodes. Which at one point the doctor's said it did not look good. They thought for sure it had, and my family was terrified. The removed her lymph nodes to only find out by some miracle it hadn't ate them away. We were thrilled, but it did not end their. We had to go through a whole year of chemo followed by radiation. Keep in mind I was only 13-14 at that time. Which was extremely scary. I honestly thought my mother was no longer going to be with me. She was my best friend, and my world. This tormented me and my mom until they said she was going to pull through. I was happy that she made it. Despite her loosing her hair and being sick. She wasn't going to leave this world and I am still able to see her face every morning. These days it has been a lot longer than 5 years. That means chances of it coming back is very very unlikely.

Esby William's story:
A long time smoker and my inspiration to quit such a nasty habit. This man was my grandfather, a wonderful man by all means. However, he wouldn't go to the doctor often it wasn't in his nature. He was a long time drinker and smoker. He lived till he was in his 60s before things started to fall apart. That is when we started noticing he was acting strange. When he spoke he would be talking about one subject then for some strange reason he would say something that had nothing to do with the conversation. He would realize what he did and say that's not what he meant. We didn't think nothing of it. Until one day he went to the store to get gas for his car. While he was there he was pumping before he finished he sat down on the curb. He sat there for a good while before a unknown woman approached him. She asked if he was alright, and he proceeded to tell her he didn't know who he was. My grandfather completely lost his memory that day. He could not remember any of his grandchildren, children, or any family for that matter. The lady called 911 and got his wallet to tell paramedics who he was. We got a phone call and went to the hospital. Where we had to realize a brain tumor was found. He had kidney cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. He tried to get radiation to give himself a longer life span. Though after a few months he grew tired of going. Esby lived with my aunt not remembering any of us. Though he got constant love and care until the day he passed away.

Cancer is always a hard thing to live with. Though here is a word advice. Most cancers not all, but most that are caught in stage 0 can be treated even in stage 1 can be treated. If you get strange symptoms push your doctors to look. Don't give up until they are completely sure they have a answer to give you. This could be your very life that is at risk. Though do not go over board. Live happily and peacefully.