Cancer survivors share their stories

The 34th annual National Cancer Survivors Day® is Sunday, June 6, 2021. “It’s a day for everyone to join in solidarity with cancer survivors around the world, to raise awareness of the ongoing challenges cancer survivors face because of their disease, and – most importantly – to celebrate life,” according to the National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation. In honor of this day, two MEOC employees are graciously sharing, in their own words, their poignant stories of cancer survivorship.

JACLYN GILLIAM
AGE 41

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1998 at age 18. I always thought of cancer as a death sentence, so I was scared that my life was over. I was beginning my second year of college, and facing a life-or-death diagnosis was the furthest thing from my mind.

The doctors were very informative and empathetic. They discussed with me the high survival rate for Hodgkin’s Disease and explained my treatments. At that time, I had radiation treatments only. I was told I was in remission just a few months later.

I thought my cancer journey was over, but I was diagnosed with a recurrence of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2000 at age 21. At the time, I had a 10-month-old daughter, and I was concerned that she would grow up without a mom. My doctors remained optimistic that I would recover. This time, I endured six months of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation treatments. In July 2001, I was considered to be cancer free and in remission.

This July will mark 20 years of being cancer free! I don’t do anything special to celebrate each year of remission, but this year is especially meaningful. Through medical innovation and technology, I have been able to live 20 more years with hopefully more to come.

Although I’m sure the cancer care system has come a long way since I was diagnosed with cancer, there’s always room for improvements. Creating a medical environment that is supportive to young adults with cancer and providing a network of other young adults dealing with similar issues and experiences could ease the stress and anxiety of being a young cancer patient.

********

LYNNETTE STUART
AGE 69

I shall never forget the words. “We found cancer in your right colon.”

That was November 9, 2018, following a routine colonoscopy. In an instant, my faith kicked in. I asked, “What are we going to do, Lord?”

Then I asked the same question to the doctors: “What are we going to do?” They wanted to schedule surgery as quickly as possible. The doctor suggested that I enjoy Thanksgiving, and then we would go from there. I made peace with God, family and friends. We had the BIGGEST Thanksgiving ever. I shared with my family what was ahead, and we agreed it would be all right!

On the morning of the surgery, I thanked the team of hospital workers and the doctors. I knew going in that, no matter what, it was going to be all right.

After the surgery, the doctors remarked on how lucky I was. The team removed all of the cancer. It was caught in time. But I didn’t consider it luck. Instead, I thought how blessed I am!

It has been a process of healing, but to God be the glory! Thank God for the doctors with knowledge and skills, for family and for the agencies that helped guide me to the things I needed.

In the words of a favorite spiritual, “This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.” I am a living testimony. I could have been dead and gone, but the Lord let me live on.

It has been three years since my cancer diagnoses. My last colonoscopy was normal, and I won’t need another routine exam for five years.

I am thankful for the opportunity to tell my story and to encourage hope for others.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a cancer diagnosis, MEOC’s Mountain Laurel Cancer Support & Resource Center provides personalized assistance in a welcoming, private environment. Through a partnership with the University of Virginia’s Cancer Center Without Walls initiative, MLCC provides education on cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and resources to groups and individuals in the community. Through funds established by families of cancer patients who lost their fight with cancer as well as through foundation funding, the center also provides liquid nutritional supplements and financial assistance for travel for diagnosis, treatment, and surgery as well as for other unforeseen expenses that attend a cancer diagnosis. Contact MLCC Coordinator Dianne Morris at (276) 523-4202 or dianne.morris@meoc.org for more information.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *