Polio AIDS Cancer Activities Sources
What is Cancer? Treatments Effects
We recently e-mailed Carolyn Williams. She is our teacher, Mrs. Hawe's, friend, and she has breast cancer. She wrote us back with lots of imformation concerning her disease. Here is the interview.
I will be glad to respond
to your questions....I don't mind talking about my illness...especially if it will help
others to know.
1. How do you feel knowing you have cancer? Is it scary? I wasn't happy finding out that I had cancer, but then my biggest fear was that I would die before I had a chance to see my son graduate from high school. That Was in January of 1993. At that time they told me I had cancer they said that I probably only had a year to live, because my cancer was so advanced. I worried about pain....but my cancer isn't painful. I didn't even feel bad, when they discovered it. To me you ought to feel really bad if you have cancer.
2. & 3. What kinds of treatments have you have? I had a mastectomy in January of 1993, then I spent the next 8 months taking chemotherapy (5FU, cytosine, and adremician)..I would go to the doctors clinic and they would insert a needle in my port-a-cath in my chest and I would go home with the drugs in a fannypack, going into my system for the next 48 hours. At the end of the 48 hrs. I returned to clinic and get disconnected. A week later I would return for a booster shot. I had 2 full weeks where I wasn't taking anything and then we would start over. I went through this procedure for 8 months. In 1996 my cancer showed up in my spine and several ribs...I took an oral medication until June 1998 when my cancer had spread further. I had to have my port-a-cath put in once again and I began chemotherapy the very next day. This time I was taking taxotere once a month for 8 months, but at the end of 8 months the doctor recommended additional treatments. I now have been scheduled to take 4 TAXOL treatments. I take one every month and will finish this cycle in May 1999. The doctors have told me since the beginning that I would never be cured because mine was so advanced when it was discovered. So the drugs I am taking now and that are available are hopefully keeping the cancer from spreading so rapidly. All of the drugs have side effects. I have lost my hair completely...and you know bald is beautiful. I have several wigs, but the people in my office have encouraged me to just wear my hats. Sometimes the drugs will cause mouth sores, but I have medication for that. One of the hardest things for me to adjust to this time is that I am now loosing my fingernails. So far I have lost 4....So I wear fake nails......All of the drugs make you very tired and since they have you take steroids, you do swell.....Each morning I take a handful of pills, 1 pill for acid in my stomach, 1pill for fluid retention, 1 pill to block hormone development and one to combat a fungus from my nails coming loose, before they fall off.
4. Do people treat you differently......Some people at first were afraid to
ask me about my disease, but I tried to put them at ease and volunteer to talk about it. I would rather people know about the disease and the
circumstances around my cancer and finally surgery. I only have one friend that just hasn't accepted my disease and she avoids me. I have tried to put her at ease, but in 6 years, she would rather stay away. People are very supportive..My family has been wonderful...they are constantly checking on me and won't let me go to the doctor by myself. Mrs. Hawe has been great...she came and stayed with me 2 weeks after my first surgery and nursed me....then she has constantly been there when I am feeling under the weather. She makes a terrific nurse.
5. How does it effect my life? When I was diagnosed I realized that I
pretty much had my legal affairs in order, but hadn't told my family what I
had done. I do not put off doing anything I want to do and stay busy. I
appreciate the small things in life more now than ever before. I have
realized it's OK to be tired.....in the past I just kept going.
6. Do you know if it is genetic? I am the first person in my family to
have cancer......but they have told my daughter that her chances are 4 times as likely now that she will or could be diagnosed with cancer. Never having been sick in my life...this has definitely made an impact on how I deal with life. One needs to be happy and take advantage of all there is to offer....
7. Are you afraid of dying? I'm not afraid, but I go through periods of asking myself...Is this disease going to cause my death? Those periods don't last long. If I can help someone then I want to do my part. I asked myself once at first "Why me" but then I said to myself, well why not me? I feel very fortunate in that I am going to be here to see my son graduate from high school in May.....I can rest better now.
Every day I am more encouraged with the results of research that is going on....maybe they will find a cure for cancer, if not I know that the doctors that I have are giving me the best possible treatment.