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Meet MaryAnne...

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September - days start to get a little shorter, kids go back to school and we get to meet another incredible member of the CancerConnection community. Meet MaryAnne and read about her cancer story and where she finds herself now...

“...cancer can’t take away the things that matter most.....”

So a little background...

April 2016 I woke up in the middle of the night in horrible pain. I live in a very small rural town so my husband took me to the nearest medical facility where the concern was that I was having an appendix attack. I was sent to the nearest regional hospital. After a few investigative procedures I was told I actually had a ruptured cyst and it had to be dealt with.
This was the beginning of my journey on the cancer train.
I was eventually diagnosed with granulosa cell tumor, a rare form of ovarian cancer. After a complete hysterectomy, a bowel resection and chemotherapy, I was on my way to remission. I returned to work 3 months after I finished treatment and focused on returning to life "before cancer".

In August of 2021 I ended up in emergency again. This time my potassium levels were in "critical crash" and I had a large ulcer on my tongue. When I was admitted I was dying and they couldn't quite figure out why. After anti-biotics and IV fluids I was healthy enough to be sent home. I had been referred to an ear, nose and throat surgeon and he ran a battery of tests/procedures. Literally on the day I was being told I had reached the 5 year mark of being NED and was being released as an out patient at the cancer clinic, I was being told by another Dr that I had oral cancer and would have to have surgery. This time it meant losing all of my teeth (as a precaution, due to the damage radiation can cause to bones) 2/3 of my tongue and multiple lymph nodes. I had to learn how to talk again, eat, chew, swallow. I had scaring on my throat that made me look like the bride of Frankenstein, not to mention having lost my teeth I went from looking like a 56yr old woman to a 90 year old. The impact on my psyche this time was worse, I think, than the physical damage. I had to take my treatments 3 hrs away from home so I was away Mon-Fri and then home on the weekend.
Again, after the completion of treatment I headed home to recover and figure out what my new normal was going to be...obviously returning to life before cancer was not an option. I had no teeth, could barely talk and nerve damage as a result of the lymph node surgery, left my right arm weak and the shoulder in pain 24/7.This was December 2021.
It's now March 2022 and I notice a lump on my throat. I wonder if it's been there all along, some form of scar tissue. Just in case, I bring it to the attention of my GP, as well as a couple other concerns.

I had to bring it to his attention a couple times, but by June I had an appt. with my ENT. I showed him the lump and the world took off, yet again. Ultra sound, CT scan, PET scan and the resulting diagnosis on August 8, 2022... metastatic cancer. Scalp, lymph node, neck, lungs and spine.

My current status is prognosis, terminal. I received this news August 8, 2022. I began targeted radiation on my spine on Aug 11 and completed last week Aug 24. I have since begun immunotherapy as of Aug 26 and this treatment will continue as long as I tolerate it and it does what its supposed to. Life expectancy with successful treatment is 6 months to a year and a half.

Part of me is angry. I've already been through 2 devastating cancers and fought my butt off and now I get a terminal diagnosis? Especially after 5 years of being NED. Part of me is just resigned. We all have an expiry date, I just have a better idea than most, what mine is. None of us are getting out alive and I had a feeling the first cancer diagnosis that I probably wouldn't see 60.

How we respond to cancer is personal. But we have to respond in a way that keeps us emotionally healthy. I mean, really, we were born dying...we are dying every day, every breath is one of the last we will take. That's the nature of mortality. We just don't know when our time is going to run out. I think what having cancer has taught me is we all need to start living like we're dying. I don't mean some vague thought that we're all going to die some day, but that we are literally dying. It's ok to have bad days...but don't let everyday be a bad day. don't throw the time you have left away.

Stop obsessing about a tomorrow that might not come. Stop sacrificing today, for a future that may not exist. Take the trips, take the risks. Live within your means, but make sure you are living. Are you living for work or are you working to live? A job will replace you in less time than it takes to post your obituary. Make sure you are putting the people who will write that obituary first. Ask yourself if the things keeping you awake at night today are things you will even remember being important enough to keep you awake, when you're lying in your bed, breathing your last breath. Ask yourself if the people you surround yourself with today are the people that will be surrounding you when you've run out of tomorrows?

And when it comes to making decisions remember, its your cancer train. Your friends and family are passengers, you are the engineer. They will have opinions about your decisions, what you should or shouldn't do. These opinions are based on their own need to keep you with them as long as possible. A selfishness that comes from love and fear of losing you. You need to make choices based on what's going to be best for you. I have an awesome support group. My husband and kids are 100% behind me. After 2 previous go rounds with cancer I honestly think they might be surprised I've chosen treatment at all...but they back me up all the way.


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Being a part of cancer connection has helped immensely as well. It started as a chance to maybe talk with people experiencing the same things as myself, maybe reaching out to those going through the same thing for the first time, to just being able to share with others where I am now.

This has been quite the journey over 6 years and its not over yet. I guess my hope is that someone reading this right now can feel a little better about their own journey and maybe even about themselves. It's not all doom and gloom...even when it is. Its a chance to really laugh, to really love, to truly dance in the rain, its a chance to tell the people closest to us how we really feel. Its a chance to forgive and its a chance to say good bye.
My take away is literally a cliché “...don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today...”


Thank you so much for sharing with us MaryAnne and for the way you share your story throughout the community. Your last line may be a cliché, but it is a good reminder that does not hurt the rest of us to hear, every now and then.

If you are interested in sharing your story and being featured in a future Meet Your Neighbour, please reach out to Lianne at cancerconnection@cancer.ca




Comments

Jlo
Thank you Mary Anne for posting. Your positivity and courage is awe inspiring. You have reminded me to make every day count. I do try to find Joy in every day and spread joy. You are surrounded by your family and I am sure they help you make every day count. Sending you positive vibes and blessings. Joan
  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 07:14 PM EDT
Thank you for sharing your story. I'm sorry it's gone this way. I think what you've written here is a lovely legacy and should be recommended reading for everyone who is diagnosed with cancer.
Runner Girl - aka Gayle
  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 02:32 PM EDT
MaryAnne
wow! what a great meet the member post. and many thanks for sharing the pic's of your lovely family.

I have come back 3 times now to read again....there is a lot packed into this short story of your cancer experience.

THANK YOU for sharing. I am going to print this also....this is the type of essay that I know I will refer to often.

you indeed are the engineer of this trip; thanks for letting us all be passengers in this stretch of the ride.

toot toot & warm hugs from me
su

#cancertrain


  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 02:12 PM EDT
nel
Hello MaryAnne
I want to thank you for your courage. I have learned a lot reading your post. You have just added courage in me when it's starting to fade. You have reminded us that relationships like family and friends are so important. Prayers, hope and trust...
Taking one day at a time.
  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 05:37 AM EDT
All each of us has is one day at a time. Nothing beyond that is guaranteed. Each morning we're allowed to wake up is a chance at a do over. Friends...family and life lists deserve your time and attention now more than ever...regardless of our prognosis. We shouldn't have to be dying to be reminded of that fact...just live ❤️
  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 06:55 AM EDT
MaryAnne
With your permission, I'm going to print off your post. Such an important reminder that we are our own engineer on the cancer train. Each of us have a terminal diagnosis, for some of us, we just know what we will die from.
You are a woman of strength and courage. You have a life full of living for as long as you are here. Some, don't live life - they just exist.
I want to THANK YOU for showing us that being vulnerable also is courage.

Your post has spoken to the very heart of me. Thank you. Kim
  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 02:17 AM EDT
Hi Kims1961
The whole purpose of Cancer Connection is to share and support, so yes, by all means print and share away 😊
  • Posted Thu 08 Sep 2022 05:10 AM EDT

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