On The Other Side: The Journey of a Cancer Survivor
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by Sue Northey
Category: Health/Fitness/Self Improvement ARIANA Award Winner: Best Cover Art
Description: Like many other individuals, when I was first diagnosed with cancer I struggled to deal with my diagnosis. My first inclination was to learn as much as I could. I scanned and read dozens of books in search of the proper balance of information, guidance, inspiration and hope. But in the end, I found myself exasperated by the fact that nothing seemed to fill my needs. When a physician recommended that I write a book about my battle with cancer, I remembered that hopeless feeling I had experienced. I was struck by the fact that I may be able to provide some positive insights to help others as they battle cancer themselves or make the journey with someone they care about. My hope is that you find the inspiration you are looking for in this book.
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2007
eBookwise Release Date: March 2007
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [177 KB]
Reading time: 107-150 min.
"While the subject matter of this book is not, at first glance, overly joyful, this is a book that is informative, well written, candid and filled with useful information. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that it is a firsthand account of a very serious subject. The author and her journey through the diagnosis of cancer is the subject of this book. There are many passages that are especially difficult to read but cancer isn't a subject that most people are thrilled to think about, let alone read about. But many people either know someone with the disease or are patients themselves, so this is a much needed volume. On the Other Side: The Journey of a Cancer Survivor is one of the best books on the subject that I've ever read. Bravo, Ms. Northey, for tackling a scary subject and giving it a very human face! Kudos, and thank you. 5 Angels!"--Carly, Fallen Angel Reviews
A few years ago, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. As I struggled to deal with my diagnosis, my first inclination was to learn more about the cancer that was growing inside of me. Being an avid reader, it made sense that I would turn to a bookstore to find answers to my questions and to look for hope and encouragement as I embarked on my journey.
When I entered the bookstore, I navigated my way to the cancer section. I opened dozens of books looking for the proper balance of information, guidance, inspiration, and hope. It seemed that I stood (and then sat) for close to an hour, exasperated by the fact that nothing seemed to fill my needs.
When a physician recently recommended that I write a book about my battle with cancer, I remembered that hopeless feeling I had in the bookstore. I was struck by the thought that maybe I could provide some insights that might help others as they battle cancer themselves or make the journey with someone they care about.
I hope you find as much comfort in reading this book as I found in writing it. * * * *
IN THE BEGINNING
Life is full of surprises. Some good, some not so good. December 29, 1998 fell into the "not so good" category for me. That was the day I was told that I had lymphoma. On New Year's Eve--the day I planned to spend celebrating the end of 1998 with my family and friends--I was stunned into silence with a confirmation of Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
Lying in the recovery room, in a morphine-induced haze, I distinctly remember the words of my oncologist. He told me, "If God came down from heaven and told you that you have to have cancer, this is the one you would pick." While it was comforting to know I had a highly treatable and curable form of cancer, I also knew that people die from Hodgkin's every year and that the journey to rid my body of cancer would be a difficult one.
This whole experience was quite simply mind numbing. You see, I was the first in my family to have cancer. Ever. No siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins had ever battled cancer. So, I had lulled myself into believing that without a genetic link, I would never have to contend with it. At the very least, I would not encounter cancer until I was an older woman ... certainly not a strong, seemingly healthy 40-year-old mother of three.
What would follow would be a physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual journey unlike any I had ever encountered before ... and hopefully will never encounter again. A journey that would test my physical limits, strengthen my faith, and occupy every waking minute of my thoughts every day of that year (and plenty since).
The Warning Signs
Over the years, I have had countless people, including medical professionals, ask me what my first symptoms were. Admittedly, this is a very good question. If we can identify the symptoms early on, we might just be in a position to diagnose the cancer earlier. For some, this could represent the difference between life and death.
Looking back, I realize there were many signs. But they often were not as clear-cut as one might imagine, and most could be rationalized away for one reason or another.
I'm convinced that my symptoms began 1-1/2 years before my actual diagnosis. I was tired. No, I was exhausted. I had gotten to the point where just getting up in the morning was a chore. Eventually I developed a little ritual to help jump-start myself each day. I'd stay in bed until the last possible minute, drag myself up, grab some aspirin (believing the added caffeine gave me energy) and crawl into the hottest shower my body could possibly tolerate. I would submerge myself under the pelting stream of hot water, often doing nothing but standing there for 5-10 minutes until the aspirin started to take effect and I once again began to resemble a human being.
But exhaustion wasn't a warning sign of cancer for me. Instead, it was a constant reminder of the fact that I lived an amazingly hectic and stress-filled life. I was a mother of three young children, a full-time career professional at a major corporation, and a dedicated volunteer for nearly every organization imaginable, including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, church, my children's schools, and numerous other charities. Of course, I was tired. Wouldn't anyone in my situation be?
The next symptom that appeared was a sinus condition that seemingly developed out of thin air. I'd never had any type of allergy before and frankly was of the opinion that, given the opportunity, an allergist would find something wrong with every patient that walked through his or her door (an opinion I have since wholeheartedly changed).
Burning eyes, stuffed ears, drainage in my throat, and sinus headaches became a constant in my life. My internist reassured me that allergies could develop at any point in life and tend to run in seven-year cycles. I received a prescription for sinus medication, which provided me with some relief. I was also rewarded with a slightly increased energy level.
So, I had some sinus problems. Uncomfortable, yes. But overall, not a big deal. Certainly not something that would alert me to a growing malignant mass inside my body.
And so I went on my merry, but hectic, way for several more months. Then, I developed a rash, accompanied by itching. The itching was violent, extending throughout my abdomen and chest. I could not tolerate any elastic on my skin without severe discomfort. Since my gynecologist had just started me on synthetic progesterone, I speculated that I might have had a reaction to this new drug. My gynecologist was skeptical, but recommended I stop taking the progesterone to see if it helped. I discontinued the drug, but it provided no relief. In fact, the itching actually seemed to get worse.
As I began to discuss my rash and itching with my physician, I got the distinct impression that identifying the cause of itching can be very hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint. (Plus, it's rarely symptomatic of something as serious as cancer.) During this process, I began to appreciate just how much artistry is involved with the science of dermatology and for that matter, medicine in general. Frankly, I was mistakenly under the impression that a dermatologist could just do a quick blood test and tell me what was wrong in a day or two. Instead, I found that the dermatologist begins by attempting to rule out all possible causes for allergic reactions and that the cooperation of the patient is at the core of this discovery process.