We heard from people across the state whose lives have been touched by cancer. We're sharing some of their experiences here, at Michigan Cancer Stories.
Has your life been impacted by cancer? Click here to share your story.
I was diagnosed with uterine cancer in April, 2011. I had surgery in May and because the biopsies showed cancerous lymph nodes, I was given very aggressive chemo treatments for six months. I lost my hair and lost my home. I gained a new respect for my own strength and learned just how wonderful my closest friends are.
I have no proof that my cancer was caused by environmental conditions, but my former partner (who passed away 3 years ago at the age of 50 from cancer) and I restored an old house in Ann Arbor. While we were careful to wear protective clothing and masks, I fear we may have encountered materials that were toxic. As we tore apart the old lathe work and plaster, the smells were overpowering. We tore up old tiles, flooring, paneling, etc. and often ended the day filthy with dust and particles from our endeavors. We often worked in short sleeves because of the heat. The newer materials we handled included insulation, solvents, paints, and treated lumber. All came with warning labels, which concerned us at the time.
My father died of lung cancer at the age of 83 (he was a smoker from the age of 13!!!). Her father died in his early twenties of testicular cancer, following a serious industrial accident involving a solvent/paint spill in a GM auto factory.
I was 18 years old when my mom was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer
in 1986. It moved to stage 4 in 1990.
Over the past 25 years my mom has taught me the meaning of courage, hope, determination, and faith. She has been stage 4 for many years but but has refused to let cancer define who she is or keep her from living. Regardless of the outcome cancer will never win.
John Wagner is pictured above (on the right) with his brother, Joe.
Until 2008 I don’t think that cancer had been in my life at all.
In the spring of that year I met my girlfriend who had moved back to Kalamazoo to care for her mother who was battling cancer. I am very grateful that I was able to meet her mother before she passed away in 2009 and it has been a team effort since to work through the emotions from her loss.
In 2011 my brother called to tell me that he had been diagnosed with cancer and many of those emotions came back in an even more personal way. Since then he has had a number of surgeries. The first of these was without any health insurance. He was also diagnosed with another form of cancer. My brother had/has Thyroid and Skin cancer. He is doing well, but still in treatment. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and worry, but I always hope for the best.
It’s important to be supportive and to remember that although it is a serious illness the affected person still has a life to live. It is our responsibility to make that life the best we can.
This email was written in September of 2010 for friends and family. I never made a “bold announcement” of being sick because I got diagnosed and dealt with all of it in Michigan, where I have only lived since 2008.
Prior to that, I lived in Bloomington, Indiana and many of my friends and acquaintances there didn’t really know what was going on.
Telling people that you have cancer is sometimes harder than just experiencing it - people really don’t know how to react and then you have to help them understand and feel better. It’s trying, and I felt overwhelmed at the prospect. So, I wrote up the story to distribute via e-mail, facebook and some letters. It went over well and everyone felt confident in my recovery.
Since that story, I have been free and clear of cancer at my one year anniversary and am doing great!
WHAT I DID ON MY SUMMER VACATION or TESS’S SUMMER OF CANCER:
Earlier this year, as many of you know, I was diagnosed with hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disorder in which my body produces “anti-thyroid” antibodies. Later, my endocrinologist insisted and … wouldn’t you know it? Papillary thyroid carcinoma, the most common kind of thyroid cancer.
If you are so inclined, google it and you’ll see, it’s cancer, yes, but it’s not a death sentence. Nearly everyone who gets it survives!
I am 21-year breast cancer survivor with 3 sibling survivors. My cancer led me to volunteer as a speaker and I was subsequently hired by Karmanos Cancer Institute. Since 2001, I have led the efforts of Susan G. Komen for the Cure in metro Detroit. I feel privileged to work every day in the battle to end breast cancer.
As part of the series, we wanted to find out how cancer has affected people across the state. We created this site and asked people to tell us how cancer has impacted their lives using the Public Insight Network.
Many people were eager to share their own stories, as well as their loved ones’ stories. We received close to 100 stories, and featured 40. Each story was different, but we were able to identify some trends throughout the collection of posts.
My mom, Martha Ironside (pictured above) my best friend,died from stage 4 breast cancer in November 2008 at the age of 57.
She was the most important person to me always. The one who protected me, the one I could call at any time about anything. I moved back to Michigan from Chicago in April 2008 to take care of her a couple months after her own mother died.
The year 2008 was so far the worst and the best year of my life. I met my super amazing and supportive boyfriend a couple of weeks after moving back to Michigan, and he has been there with me every step of the way. Together we have dealt with all of the emotions and the bills that have resulted, and forged a new life full of smiles.
In 2011 we discovered that his brother has a battle with cancer now too to live through. Every day I think of my mom and my boyfriend’s brother. You fight as hard as you can to do what you need to do for yourself and others no matter what side of the battle you are on. You are forever changed. Cancer touches my life every day with these lasting emotions and thoughts of what I have lost, but what I have gained because of my actions and reactions.
Rodney Curtis with his daughters Skye and Taylor.
The parking lot is mostly empty at our departure terminal, but the sun still hasn’t risen and activity is on hold for now. Most of the shift workers have completed their important duties and are just in monitoring mode, flipping through magazines, making final notes in their endless computer ledgers, waiting.
Me and the other Acute Leuks, as our doctor has named us, have an unofficial hand off too. I don’t know exactly what it is but I think we’re the watchers.
The Czech gentleman down the hall - who is done with chemo, yet has to stay here due to risk of infection - wanders around the ward in the evening, keeping the nurses alive. I switch off with him during the day and joke around, hand out lollipops and relish the smiles as the care workers - amazingly gifted in their field - walk fast with an un-hurried rush to their next call.
We are watching the exiting. We are in some indescribable way here to witness the transformation.
My son Ethan (pictured above) was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 1997 at the age of three. He suffered through four years of conventional treatment. After a spinal relapse while on treatment, a bone morrow transplant and a secondary cancer from that treatment they told us there was nothing more they could do.At that point my mind opened to the alternatives.
I took him to a Naturopathic doctor who through non-invasive testing found Benzene in his bone morrow. It is a petroleum bi-product and found in many common household products. We then took him to the Oasis of Hope Hospital in Mexico and began an intense detoxification process. I had carried him on the plane there with no life in him and after 3 1/2 weeks of intense nutrition and detoxification he ran off the plane coming home. It literally brought him back to life. Following their regime he was cancer free in 9 months.
There are many toxins we can not control, but those we ingest, apply and bring in our homes we can. Benzene causes cancer, nitrites cause cancer, phalates cause cancer. We need to avoid those we can and be sure to ingest enough fresh, organic produce to counteract these poisons. It has become my life’s passion to share Ethan’s story with parents before they experience a crisis like ours.
Cancer stole my parents, Loren and Carol Schultz (pictured above on their wedding day) from me before they could even truly enjoy their golden years. My dad succumbed to malignant melanoma less than two years after he retired at age 55. My mom fought primary peritoneal cancer, a rare disease that is like ovarian cancer. She was 69 and was otherwise a very healthy, active woman. It has made me a different person because I don’t wait to enjoy things until I retire. I live now. I save for retirement just in case, but I don’t want to have any regrets no matter how long I live!
My dad died in July 1992 just two days before his first grandchild, a grandson, was born to my sister. It was a bittersweet series of days and he would have been a wonderful grandfather to the three boys my sister eventually had.
My sister recalls feeling that dad was very much present with her during the difficult birth. And although those three boys never met their grandpa, they would tell about dreaming of him talking to them. When my sister would ask, “ah… and just what did grandpa tell you?” they would respond with things like “Make sure the emergency brake is on while your getting the boat back on the trailer.” This is the exact type of practical, outdoorsy thing grandpa would have been teaching them!
My mom took on a lot of grandpa-like duties herself, making sure that the boys had 4-wheelers, bb guns, bows and arrows, and as much rough and tumble wrestling as they could take! She made sure they knew him very well and kept a piece of him alive inside of them. When those boys lost her, one even admitted that grandma was his best friend. And not many grandmas… or kids… can say that these days!
I think we should educate doctors and nurses about cancer symptoms they may encounter as ER or urgent care cases. When someone comes to them and knows “something” is wrong, believe them. People know their bodies, especially women. Give more money to research and make treatments available to those who can’t afford it.