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Agnes Harris Page #l June 21, 2006 Page #l


Having cancer is the best and the worse thing that ever happened to me. It changed my

lifestyle and opened doors I never thought were open to me. While cancer can have a crippling

effect on its victims; it definitely can become the catalyst of a new life. Before it struck, I had a

job. I managed a forklift and heavy equipment parts department. I knew my job and performed

it well during my 24 year career. Then, I received the news from my doctor, “YOU HAVE

LUNG CANCER,” and I was devastated. Without a doubt, this disease affects people

emotionally, physically, and intellectually.

When presented with the ill-fated news, one of the first things the word “cancer” will

affect is a person’s emotions. One may feel depressed, afraid; or have no idea what to say or do.

Some feel they are in a trance because they do not see and hear anything for awhile. Others are

in such shock that all they can do is cry and feel sorry for themselves. To these people I say,

“Stand up and fight for your life. There is hope.” When I found out about my lung cancer, I was

shocked, scared, and confused. All I could think was, “What do I do now? Is this the end or the

BEGINNING?” My mind was in constant turmoil. I didn't know who I could talk to about all of

my fears. Certainly I couldn’t confide in my family. I tried to hide my feelings from everyone

including them.

After the fist wave of shock, the next couple of months for many patients are full of doctor

appointments and tests to find out the extent of the cancer. Tests for lung cancer may include

blood tests, an MRI, CAT scan, breathing test, and also a PET scan. When the tests are done, the

victim and some of their allies are ready to visit the surgeon. This phase may go better than

expected or worse depending on the results of the multitude of tests conducted. Patients may not

be prepared when the surgeon questions, “What do you want me to do if during surgery I find

evidence of more cancer?” In my case, the only thing I could reply was, “Remove whatever you

have to in order to eliminate it.”

Finally the day cancer survivors have waited for with apprehension arrives. Upon

awakening from the ordeal, many are surrounded by family and friends. This group may be the

ones who share the results of the procedure with the still groggy patient. For some the news will

be the best they could hope for, while others will find the extent of their illness to be more

serious than anticipated. Either way, recovery from lung cancer surgery can involve a great deal

of pain.

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I was not prepared for the pain I was in after they took me off of the morphine drip. The doctor

checked my wound, told me to hold my breath and not to move no matter what, and then

removed the chest tube which had helped remove fluid from my lungs. The pain was

excruciating, and I cried like a baby. Like other patients, I would need the emotional and

physical support of others to be able to leave the hospital the next day and cope with my needs. I

convalesced at my son and daughter-in-law’s house. Just standing to go to the bathroom resulted

in panic attacks which took away my breath making me think my oxygen was not functioning

properly. I learned to breathe all over again. Their assistance comforted me as I healed


While healing, some cancer patients are able to return to work, at least part-time, while

others require an extensive medical leave. The emotional issues can escalate if for some reason

people lose their jobs. I received a call from work about an important meeting. Little did I know,

they were laying me off because the business was not doing well. How would I survive now? I

had no job, no money, and only half a lung. Before this I grossed $14.50 an hour and now I had

nothing. Things suddenly changed from bad to worse. Was cancer a punishment or were new

doors opening to me? I couldn't think of one good reason to thank God for bringing me through

this ordeal. In other words, all I did was lounge around feeling sorry for myself, suck on oxygen,

and stress about all of the bills that needed to be paid. My body was beginning to heal

physically, but emotionally I felt like I was near the bottom of a deep pit.

For cancer survivors, a stimulus for change can be the beginning of emotional healing. My

renewal came in the form of my grandson. One afternoon after school he burst in the front door

and asked me if I would attend school with him the next day. Why not, I thought. I had nothing

better to do. I accompanied him to school the rest of the school year. My new door had opened.

His first grade teacher, the children, and staff all made me feel welcome and needed. One act of

kindness toward my grandson turned into a life raft for me. I was determined to help him and

his classmates become proficient readers, problem solvers, and lovers of learning.

Cancer does not need to end the life it invaded. The disease may cause the owner to

reevaluate life. Some survivors change careers, others become involved in raising money to

research the disease, while some become involved in community activities that take on new

meaning during their illness. For me, lung cancer gave me a new beginning. During my

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recovery, I needed to be needed in order to feel like I had a purpose. Besides, one doesn’t have

time to dwell on personal problems in a room full of energetic first graders.

As strange as it seems, cancer had a positive impact on my life. I thank God, my grandson,

and his first grade teacher for taking advantage of all the skills I had to offer. I may be helping

others, but they have helped me in ways they may never know. Even though cancer invaded my

body and played with my emotions this ordeal has helped to mold me into the confident person

that I am. Because of cancer and my time at school, I was empowered to return to school as a

student. I realize from the time I spent in the upper elementary grades this year that I have the

ability to learn new skills. Like the kids, I just need to apply myself and believe I can. Yes,

every cloud has a silver lining. My cancer cloud set me on a new path in life, and I am

recovering physically and emotionally while I grow intellectually.

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Wow Agnes. What amazing words you shared today. Thank you so much! We all need to hear this. As a caregiver, it is so hard to open the mind of the one with cancer...they are like you in that they wan to protect us, and in some odd way, heal us from our pain. Thank you for the insight, the passion, and the inspiration!


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Agnes wow, great writing and a great story. Are you going back to school for writing? You have a talent , that's for sure! This should be under "My Story" also. So glad you found us and shared.

Donna G

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