One Patient's Story
Athletes endure tremendous strains to the mind and body, and rise to the challenge in sacrifice to achieve their goals. However, there is nothing “glorious” in being diagnosed with cancer and coping with the outcome.
I am an athlete that has been affected by skin cancer. At the time of my diagnosis I was training to challenge a National Tennis Singles title. My life was completely thrown upside down with emotions ranging from frustration to fear of the unknown.
I was blessed to meet and work with Dr. Robert Behar, a brilliant and world renown cancer specialist at North Cypress Medical Center, who emphasized the importance of maintaining my movement and flexibility before, during and post treatment. Due to the location and size of my cancer, I was told radiation treatment was my only hope.
It has now been almost three years since treatment and I am proud to announce that, after having two suspect areas treated in simple form, I have remained cancer-free. Although I had overcome the challenge of conquering my cancer, I was soon faced with another…now what? How do I return to what I used to call “the norm”?
Months after my treatment ended I attempted to get back into tennis. Dr. Behar not only saved my life, but he also protected the flexibility of my arm and shoulder, which granted me the opportunity for future athletic endeavors. Unfortunately, I was faced with a kidney stone following treatment and affects from the drugs and so much time off from sports prevented my ability to return to tennis.
Since competing in tennis for so many years, answering the common question of “Now What?” among cancer survivors became especially challenging. After treatment the feelings of helplessness, the need for such a tremendous amount of physical and mental support from others, and the final “enormity” of the entire situation became immensely overwhelming.
During this rough period in my life, my body and mind seemed to stand still. I would not allow myself to admit these feelings of helplessness because I did not want to appear weak to others. I remained in a state of “limbo” which left me hopeless, and unable to cry or find joy. Once I realized I could no longer go on living this way, I decided to seek help. Admitting the realization that I needed help was a major milestone for me in returning to a normal lifestyle.
The impressive support network at North Cypress Medical Center is never-ending. The North Cypress Oncology Social Worker understood my struggle and immediately offered me guidance. I explained my feelings and symptoms and was quickly reassured these feelings were normal affects after treatment. She explained how North Cypress offers options that could help me cope.
The best option for me at that time was to seek individual counseling from a therapist at the hospital. The counselor I had the pleasure of working with was able to immediately identify solutions to the physical and mental affects I was experiencing. I directly owe my full mental and emotional recovery to these counseling sessions and directions from which I was sent away with. I currently, a year later, still utilize the counselor’s suggestions to better manage all that life has to offer.
These counseling sessions allowed me to begin living my life again and helped me return to the person I once was. Since I was now unable to play tennis, I decided to turn to something that had always been a passion of mine—Powerlifting. After only a six month venture in this sport I have proudly won 3 World titles, a second World record and been honored as a “Best Lifter” at three different meets (including World meets).
From a personal and athletic perspective, this experience has been humbling, humiliating, embarrassing and a learning process. It does not just take courage and stamina to survive, but the necessity for full support is imperative. My loving husband, family, coach and friends provided more than I could ever have asked and strengthened me during my journey. I continue to take nothing for granted, embrace the moment and strive to make a difference in the world.
I strongly wish someone would have given me advice before my cancer treatment and am honored to share my advice with those struggling to find their place after treatment. For those that are about begin their battle with cancer, acknowledge to yourself and everyone around you that you will need support throughout your journey. Don’t be afraid to ask for whatever type of help you may need. Although it may seem impossible at times, try to focus on the positives of each situation you may encounter. During your journey, stay true to yourself, your spouse, family, doctors, and close friends. The people in your life need to know how you feel and you need to allow them to help. Accept the fact that there may be changes to your overall being. Whatever these changes may be, face them with love and remain willing to adapt to these changes as needed. Lastly, utilize all tools of support offered to you from North Cypress Medical Center. This gracious support can help you through this extremely difficult experience.
I am certain I was placed in this situation for a reason and can only hope I do what was intended. The Lance Armstrong Foundation has allowed me to volunteer for the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Initiative, and I plan on speaking and writing as much as I can to promote early skin screening and evaluation. I will make that difference in the world and uphold the spirit of LIVESTRONG by protecting myself and informing others.