Cancer Stories – Remembering my aunt

Submitted by: Tunde Nyarfadi. Tunde is Natural Light Photographer in York Region.
Twitter name: @TNy_Photography
Follow her: TNy on Facebook

“Hi, I am here to share my story of  how I have been touched by cancer. I am lucky, touch wood, fingers crossed, I do not have cancer. I am really blessed and lucky to say this, unlike many other people.

I was about 18 years old when I found my aunt, my father’s sister, had brain tumor. She was only 37 years old, young, beautiful woman. I do not have much memory of speaking to any of may family members about it a lot. It was something really scary to think about, something awful I did not want to deal with in any way. I tried to block it out of my mind and just pretend it is not there. Thinking of it now, I feel like I was a coward.

My aunt was always a bubbly person, she had 2 children she left behind. Those children needed her. She needed them too.

I do not like to go to hospitals, really, who does? I do not like to go to funerals. I actually refuse to go to funerals. You may ask why. Allow me to tell you.

After my Aunt had a few chemo therapies and was taking really hard drugs, she did not look like herself at all. One day I visited her at home after she got out of the hospital and I was shocked, Was it the same person I saw? Was this woman my aunt, I wondered as I stood in the doorway petrified. I did not want to move closer to her. She did not know who we were. She was sitting in a armchair in her living room, with a scarf on her head. She lost all her beautiful hair. The scarf was more than an accessory. It was covering up more than just a head. Her face was all swollen.

She had some sort of a furry thing on the arm of the chair and I remember her calling it a cat…she was delusional. That was the moment when I decided I do not want to see her like this. This person in front of me is NOT my aunt, it can not be. This is when I knew I did not want to remember her like that. I wanted her to be in my memory as when she was healthy. That is all, healthy, not young, not beautiful, not old, not ugly, just a healthy person.

I saw her in my dreams a few times just sitting in her chair, her head covered with a scarf. Shortly after she passed away I went to England to be a Au-pair. I stayed with my father’s godmother who looked very much like my aunt. When I arrived at her house with my uncle, she was sitting in her kitchen. She just washed her hair and had a towel on her head. She looked like my late aunt. When she got up to great me I did not cry happy tears to see her,. I had tears in my eyes because I saw my father’s sister in her.

I did not go to her funeral. I do not go to funerals. It is not a lack of respect, it is a way of protesting against death, that I have no control over, but at least I can remember people the way I want ….they way when they were happy and alive.”


Cancer Stories – Becoming a mom without a mom

Submitted by: Marci Warhaft-Nadler. Marci is the creator of Fit vs Fiction, She travels the country inspiring young men and women to be who they want to be, and not who they think they’re supposed to be
Twitter name: @Fit_vs_Fiction
Follow her: Fit vs Fiction on Facebook

“I was about 1.5 hours into my flight from Montreal to Vancouver, when a flight attendent reached over my lap to grab the”empty” coffee cup from the passenger seated next to me. Unfortunately, the cup wasn’t empty at all and I ended up being covered with spilled coffee! I think the flight attendent was expecting a reaction from me, I just don’t think she was expecting the one she got.Instead of being angry, I started to cry, REALLY cry; actually I started bawling my eyes out! She looked at me like I was a bit insane, my reaction seemed a bit over the top. What she didn’t realize however, was that I wasn’t crying because I’d have to spend the rest of the flight covered in wet coffee or because the coffee had stained the brand new maternity dress I was wearing.

I was crying because I had just come from seeing my mom for the last time before Breast Cancer would her away from me.I knew the Cancer was back and it was aggressive, but she had kept from me just how Bad the situation was, because I was pregnant for the 3rd time, after suffering through 2 miscarriages, and she did not want to risk upsetting me. My mom was a single parent most of my life and we were as close as a mother and daughter could be. She was my hero and my best friend and she wanted so badly for me to experience the gift of motherhood and did not want to upset me.

When she couldn’t keep things from me anymore, I got the call to come home and I left on the first flight available. I had just enough time to tell her I loved her, show her ultrasound pictures of the grandchild she’d never get to meet and tell her he’d be named in her honor. Saying goodbye to her was devestatingly painful and I was afraid that if I let myself truly believe what was happening, it would be too much for me to handle. I feared that if I started crying, I wouldn’t stop and was trying to be as brave and strong for the son I was carrying as I felt I needed to be.

When the poor flight attendent accidentally let the coffee spill from the cup, it was like every emotion just came pouring out of me with it. I was crying for the mother I lost but still needed.

It’s been 13 years and I miss her every day,I have 2 sons now and we talk about their grandmother often, they know how loving and fun she was and how she’s watching them from Heaven during every soccer game they play or Tae Kwon Do match they win.

A friend of mine lost her mom to breast cancer 25 years ago, I lost mine 13 years ago and have a friend battling it now. Still waiting for a cure…..”

Marci and her mom, Shirley

The Big "C" (Coleen’s Story Part3)

I got the results of my biopsy on Tuesday night. What I expceted would be a quick 15 minute appointment telling me all was well, turned out to be an hour and a half appointment getting devastating news. I was diagnosed with Cancer. likely early stage 3 thyroid carcinoma with suspected metastasis, if you’re anything like me you’re probably wondering what the heck that means. It means that I have a very aggressive cancer that they know has spread locally (within the same area as it started) with a good chance it is moving fast… They won’t know more until after the surgery so I am still kind of playing a waiting game.

My Dr. spoke to me about my options as I sat ther eall alone without my husband to help me with decisions. He was home with the kids. She explained that they can do a partial removal of my thyroid and hope that some can be salvaged. The down side to this is that they may have to go back in again and take out the rest later. So I elected to have her remove the entire thyroid to avoid the possibility of a second surgery.

I go for surgery to remove the cancer on July 20th and after that I will begin radiation.

When I got home from getting the results I told only my hubby and my best friend. I opted to withhold the info from my family until after the Canada Day holiday as we had some really fun family plans. I hated the thought of ruining it for everyone. So I plastered a huge smile on my face and enjoyed the day all while constantly thinking about this cancer in my body. When I did tell them it was the most blank stares I ahve ever seen. They all seems completely dumbfounded by the news.

It hasn’t sunk in yet. I am still trying my best to come to grips with everything but I get the feeling everything is about to change for my family.

I CANNOT DIE, I have too many things on my plate and not enough time to worry about dying.

I’ve been Biopsied (Coleen’s Story Part 2)

Since the last post I have been back to my family Dr. who sent me back in for a second set of ultrasound images. Once they had come back he sent me to a specialist in Oakville who immediately did a biopsy on the lump and found that I had two lumps. She biopsied both of them and was able to get fluid and tissue samples. The fluid freaked me out as it was black, when I questioned it she would only say it was “abnormal”. She also told me that because the location was considered a “danger zone” she did tell me that it could be cancer but not too worry just yet. She said she wouldn’t sugar coat it because it wouldn’t help me to think everything was going to be just fine if there was a chance it wasn’t. She told me it may be a couple of weeks before I head anything back regarding the results.

I have a bad feeling…

Mystery Lump (Coleen’s Story Part 1)

A couple of months ago I had a really bad cold and while while rubbing my sore neck/throat I found a lump in my neck. I was shocked that it was there but the Dr thought it might have been a swollen lymph node courtesy of my cold. I was told to keep my eye on it for the next few weeks and in that time if I felt any tenderness or noticed it growing or getting hard I was to go back to see him again. I had a really bad feeling about it and even though time passed with very little change I went back to my Dr. I think just to appease me I was sent for an ultrasound. I was told my Dr would touchbase with me if anything urgent came of it but that I could schedule an appointment to go over the results either way if I wanted. I didn’t but was a couple of weeks later I found changes in the lump. Back I went I mentioned that the lump was now painful and hard and had actually started growing. He said that because the images from the last ultrasound were not the best that he would send me again. I went on Friday and the woman said she was sending it off to be reviewed by Radiology at Credit Valley Hopsital and that my Dr would likely have the results by the end of the next week (meaning by this coming Friday).

Well Yesterday the people who did the ultrasound called me to ensure I had heard from my GP, I said I had not, so she told me she was sending the results again via fax and that I was to call them to make an appointment with him. This really worried me. I called them and they were closed for lunch and in the afternoon I got busy, by the time I was done work and had a minute to call they had closed. I tried again today and the Dr is not in the office today but she made an appointment for me tomorrow.

Everything is rattling around in my brain and I am really worried about it all.

Despite the fact that I NEVER try to self diagnose I couldn’t help looking it up. Of course I only googled it to see what other “non-scary” things it could be to reasure myself. Turns out that the most common reason for this lymph node (right supraclavicular lymph node) to be swollen are three types of cancer and not a single viral or baterial reason is presented as a common reason.

Here is just one of the sites I reviewed for information. It says:

Right supraclavicular lymph node
Location: Located on the right side in the hollow above the clavicle, just lateral to where it joins the sternum.
Lymphatic drainage: Mediastinum, lungs, esophagus
Common causes of enlargement: Lung, retroperitoneal or gastrointestinal cancer

all the other sites I looked at pretty much say the same thing. What scares me the most is that other lymph nodes give simple infections as the possible reason for swelling. But not this one.

I’m scared.