My Experience With Cancer

Cancer is a devastating disease. My grandparents on my Mom’s side, both died of cancer and my dad’s mother also died of cancer. Cancer is one of the many diseases that science and doctors are trying to find a cure. There is nothing known to mankind that will cure this disease, as of yet. Medication has improved to help slow the process of the disease and ease the pain. But before now, people suffered tremendous pain; even morphine didn’t always help. It’s a disease that destroys any organ or skin it attacks. It is not pretty. I watched my mom go through it, but she didn’t make it. She just wanted the pain to end. She was so exhausted and just wanted everything to be over. The doctor told me she would become so exhausted and stop breathing. Everything would shut down; and that’s what happened. The night before she died, she told me “no more breathing”. She was only 66. I am so sorry for anyone who has to go through this dreadful disease and the emotional pain the family suffers.

I had breast cancer in 1995 and went through all 8 treatments of chemo (Adriamicin –Big Red). It was not easy. After every treatment, I would get very sick and couldn’t function for 4 days, because of all the vomiting and weakness. But I prayed every night that I would make it. Kim is my best friend and I don’t know if I could have made it without her. She was there every step. She would get whatever I wanted that I thought I could hold down on my stomach. I thank God for her being with me. I worked on days that I could and stayed home on other days. I began loosing my hair on the second treatment, and it was scary. I would stand in the shower and watch my hair fall out in clumps; I was angry with God, because he had taken my mom with breast cancer 3 years before me. I was angry with everyone. I decided that “I” was going to choose when I was going to loose my hair, so instead of waiting for it to fall out, I had Kim to cut it all off. It was hard for her to do. Knowing that I had to teach, I didn’t know how to face my class with no hair. I bought a wig and wore it a couple of times, but it was very uncomfortable and it was unfair of me to try to hide my disease from my friends and kids at school. So I decided everybody was going to go through it with me. Kim and I went shopping for hats-I was not going to wear a wig. I had told my kids at school what was going to take place, they gasped. But I told them not to be afraid that it was going to be ok. That weekend after Kim cut off my hair, I eventually lost all of it and I was very bald. I slapped on my hat and off to school I went. I wanted everybody to know what this deadly disease does to a person. My kids at school thought they were very special, because everyone wanted to see my head, but I would only let my class see it. Some of the girls cried, but after I talked to them they were ok. I wore a hat represented and all the kids in my class got to sign it--they were very proud that they got to sign Ms Stephenson’s hat. Then I had a hat that all the teachers signed. All my friends at school were pulling for me and all the kids at school. They made banners for me after treatments and I got get-well cards and letters from my kids. It made me feel very special and I began opening up and began talking about it.

It was rough, and I had some very low points. At times, I would become very depressed. I remember one night, I was very angry. I knew how to end this- Kim had taken my car keys and wouldn’t give them back to me. She said, “Where are you going?” I told her I would drive off a cliff. She said, “Where are you going to find a cliff out here? I was so angry I told her I would find one, but after saying that I thought it was pretty silly. We both laughed and the mood had changed. Kim said I was very moody and I probably was, but it was the highs and lows that I had to go through. Only after my family and Kim’s encouragement did I start fighting back. She told me to pray and talk to God and tell Him what I was feeling. I didn’t know God that well, but I knew He was my only chance. I was so exhausted from throwing up and being so weak, I didn’t know how much more I could endure. I was always a shy quiet person and always kept things to myself, but after going through this, I’m not afraid of anyone or anything, now. I remember one night I was so exhausted. I just couldn’t sleep. I would wake up in the night and be sick for hours. It was wearing me down and I didn’t know how to fight anymore. Kim told me to pray. So I dropped to my knees and I asked God to please help me get some sleep- I was so exhausted- I needed sleep. I read my Bible that night and finally drifted off to sleep.

I woke up the next morning without waking up during the night. I felt so calm and peaceful. I sat up in bed and remembered, I had a dream. I always get teary-eyed when I tell this story, because it is so very true. In my dream, I saw God. I can see Him today. Everything was very dark around Him, but He was glowing and His face was as bright as the sunlight. He had his arms reaching out for me and I could see His robe hanging from His shoulders down to His stretched out arms. His robe was dangling from His arms reaching for me. The only thing I remember Him saying was “Everything is going to be alright.” I walked towards Him and He put His arms around me and He repeated “Everything is goingto be alright.” When I woke up, I had the most peaceful rest I have ever had. It was a rest I had never felt before and have never felt since. It was better than my best night of sleep. I can’t explain it –I can’t put it into words- it was a different kind of rest- it was peaceful, calm, no worries. I wasn’t sick, my body didn’t ache. I knew that God came to me that night and spoke to me. He told me “Everything is going to be alright” and I believed it. God told me so and I was going to be alright. My spirits perked up and I knew God was walking with me and He would be there when I needed Him.

My treatments came every third Friday. Kim always made sure I had a steak the night before my treatments, to help give me strength to go through another round. After a couple of weeks of having my dream, I had to take another treatment. I knew I was going to be sick again. But it was different this time, because I knew I would not be alone. I knew that God would be sitting in that chair with me. God was going to help me get through this. As I sat in that chair watching Big Red flow up into my veins, I kept repeating to myself “Everything is going to be alright”,“Everything is going to be alright”. Sure enough, I was sick before I even got out of the chair. The best thing that helped me after a treatment was watermelon, anything cold. I ate watermelon and loaded it with salt, so I could get that metallic taste out of my mouth. Kim would have watermelon ready for me that afternoon. I couldn’t have made it without Kim helping me. I am so very thankful and blessed that she was there.

I had to go through eight treatments and every treatment got harder, but I knew I was going to be alright, because God told me I would be. And I had to believe that. I had to hang on. I was getting good doctor reports. I thought I was only going to have seven treatments, but when I went back to the doctor, my heart sank. I had been so excited that I had taken my last chemo. I found out that I had to take one more. I told the doctor- nooooo, not one more- I can’t do this anymore! She said, “One more”.

Here we go again, Kim and I headed off to Applebees to have my steak, and I got prepared to take my last treatment. Kim had to work that day, so her mom went with me. She wanted to come early enough so we could stop at Trinity’s Craft Sale. So, as I was taking my shower, I started praying to God. I was asking Him to please don’t let this last one be bad. Please, don’t let this last one make me so sick. I began saying the Lord’s Prayer as the water was trickling down my bald head. But I couldn’t remember all of it. I asked God to forgive me for not knowing His prayer. I told Him, I was so sorry that I didn’t know it. I got dressed and Kim’s mom picked me up and we stopped off at the sale. Of course, I was not interested in the sale at all. All I had on my mind was that last treatment coming up. So as I was walking through the big room just looking around at the tables loaded with stuff, I heard a voice in my head that said go back to that table you were looking at. I said to myself, no, and kept walking. Again, I heard this voice saying “Go back and look at that table.” Once more, I said no! I’m not going to do it! I kept walking and I could not get this voice to leave me alone. It kept repeating. So just to get it out of my head, I finally said “OK”!. So I walked back to the table and looked again in this bin I had been looking in and I found something that sent chills through my body. It was a charm with the “Lord’s Prayer” written on the back and the words “The Lord’s Prayer” written on the front. God was talking to me again and he was letting me know that He was going to help me learn it. I held onto that charm and bought it. I had it in my hands as I walked through those double doors at Hodges Cancer Center, now known as Joe Arrington, I prayed as I walked through those doors asking God, please be with me. Don’t let this one hurt so much. I sat down in that chair holding onto that charm in my hand. I knew God was with me and “Everything was going to be alright”.

I had to believe, I had to be positive. God, himself, told me I was going to be alright. I closed my eyes as Big Red flowed towards my veins once more. And sure enough, I was as sick as a dog. But, it was ok. Because God was with me and He was not going to leave me.

All this happened back in 1995, and to this day I am wearing “The Lord’s Prayer” on a chain that Kim bought for me, around my neck. He was going to make darn sure I didn’t forget it either. I know God is there. He helped me get through the loss of my younger brother recently. I know that Tom is with the Lord and so is my only sister, Linda, who passed away in 2003. I am very blessed and thankful that God was with me again for my cancer in 2007. But this time there was no chemo, because it was so small. Today, I take Arimidex and I have to take it for five years. But that’s okay. God said.

I hope - anyone who has to go through this, that you hold on tight to the Lord, because HE is there. Believe it and be positive and look to the light. Eat healthy foods, lots of fruits and vegetables and watermelon. Drink Ensure-that will help too. I would like to share a poem I wrote. (Everything is going to be alright) It took a long time to get my words like I wanted, but I wanted it to be a story about me and how God let me know HE IS THERE!


May God be with you,

Carolyn Stephenson
(January 2010)