Radiation: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

My radiation oncologist once told me that radiation is the gift that keeps on giving. I’m finally beginning to understand what he meant. Three bouts with cervical cancer, radiation, chemotherapy, and multiple surgeries have left my body with a major issue…bowel obstructions. I had my first one in September 2016, and since then have had four more, each one requiring hospitalization. My last one was in July 2017 and it was the worst one yet. It came on with no warning at all and I have been told it will continually get worse.

I’m not an easy person to get an NG tube down. It’s a very traumatic experience for me and anyone involved. It took my general surgeon six tries to get it down the last time. He has come to the decision that I can’t tolerate NG tubes. What does that mean? What will we do when I have another bowel obstruction? Which, by the way, he says another one is inevitable. He suggested a PEG tube, better known as a feeding tube, to be used for decompression. Next time, instead of trying to put a tube down my nose, they can use a small tube on my abdomen that is coming from my stomach. YES! No more NG tubes! He actually wanted to wait until I have another obstruction to do it. I, however, decided to be proactive. Why wait until then? Let’s schedule surgery and do it while I’m well. So, I made an appointment to see him in his office. He and I had a good talk that day, and he agreed to schedule me for surgery and do the procedure. Yay me… I think?!

He is not my original general surgeon and is not the least bit excited to operate on me due to my extensive history. He actually told me the first time he met me that he wouldn’t touch me with a 10 foot scalpel. My body is so damaged. He also said that a bowel obstruction will probably be what kills me. WOW…REALLY??? Deep down I knew this, but to have him hold my hand and look me in the eyes and say that made it all very real. He had no plans to do the procedure if I had plans to use it for feeding purposes later on if needed. He got no argument from me in this. I have no desire to be kept alive by tubes and machines. My surgery is scheduled and for some reason I am having mixed feelings about it. I know I need it and I am not about to change my mind. However, isn’t it ironic that I’m getting something that can help me, but in the end won’t save my life??

In reality, I wish people had a better understanding of what this cancer and its treatment can do to our bodies. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s not easy at all.

Laura Fletcher is 44-year old, 3-time cervical cancer survivor from Leachville, Arkansas. Read her Cervivor Story here.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: Cancer & Self Image

I have learned so much from cancer. They say, “Through darkness comes light.” I really believe that’s true.

In remission for the third time, having to lose my hair due to chemotherapy was hard on me as a woman. I know most will say, “It’s just hair.” Even I say it too, just to convince myself to stay strong. But, in fact, it sucks. It truly opened my eyes to everything I once wasn’t happy with.

Having cervical cancer reminded me of how I was so hard on myself and picked myself apart. I know I’m not the only woman who’s ever felt that way. I look back and think, “Wow Jill, you were so beautiful. Why didn’t you see it? Why did you pick yourself apart and not embrace your hips that measured 44 inches, or embrace your Roman nose?” After all, it’s my personal features that give me my character. Don’t get me wrong, I had confidence, but I still found things that I thought weren’t “perfect.” Nothing is perfect!

Every now and then I like to look back on pictures of myself before cancer. Why did I complain? I was fine the way I was. Now I’m fighting something more meaningful. I’m fighting for my life. I’ve learned to embrace life’s changes, how my body has changed and how I’m Mrs. T (bald) once again. Or how going #2 is completely different from before. Because I have a colostomy bag, this is now totally different.

So my advice to other women, especially women with cancer is to love WHO YOU ARE. Be happy with how you were created; focus on what you HAVE and NOT what you DON’T. Believe me, there’s something greater out there for you, if you believe. I’m a people watcher, sounds creepy I know. I often wonder to myself whether or not the person I’m admiring knows how eccentric he or she is. Being in the city regularly due to my medical appointments, I get to see all colors of the rainbow. The culture differences, the true beauty behind just how different we may look. But internally we’re all the same.

No matter what type of cancer you have ladies, just remember, you’re beautiful inside and out. Your inner beauty will always be there. We might need time adjusting to our shiny new heads or new gadgets attached to our bodies. But, with all the hardships that come along with our new appearances and emotions due to cancer, just remember how bad ass we truly are.

I hope to inspire other women dealing with Cervical Cancer to share their stories and true emotions without fear. Tell it how it Is; don’t hold back. Our cancer is tough, but somehow being painted as “easy.” If I can reach you with my story, just imagine who you’ll inspire by sharing yours. Let’s come together, share our stories, and help one another through our battles. We can help prevent future cases of Cervical Cancer, the one cancer that can often be prevented with a vaccine.

From now on, I’m going to love every inch of me because I’m beautiful inside and out. I will also remind my friend’s how beautiful they are as well. You have one life. Live it, love it, embrace the changes, take care of yourself, and be kind to yourself and others.

Now that I’ve gained my confidence back, I’m going to rock my bald head, wear my wigs and not care who’s looking. Because they could really be thinking, “Wow, she’s so fierce.” Those stares may not have anything to do with my cancer.

So gentlemen, don’t be afraid of our appearances, we’re strong women who know how valuable life is, how anything can change but we still ride the waves. How special love truly is. If you see a friend or a loved one going through the changes of cancer, please remind them how beautiful they are.

Jillian Scalfani is a young 34-year-old mother with an incurable form of cervical cancer. She and her children have a great support system when it comes to her friend’s and family. Read more about Jillian here.