Cancer is something everyone in the world has heard about. Not only is it a life-threatening disease, having affected 14.1 million new cases and 8.2 million cancer-related deaths worldwide in 2015, but it's also something very difficult and expensive to treat. According to the National Cancer Institute, the expenditures used to treat cancer in 2017 costed an estimate of $147.3 billion. Because of cancer, many families become heartbroken, terrified of what will happen to their loved ones, and face financial crisis.
Cancer sadly affects every family, but the deadly disease hits home for me due to my grandmother and step-sister being survivors. For this article, I asked them a series of questions in order to show their stories and share their inspiration throughout the internet, in hopes to help people who are in similar situations.
My grandmother, Robbie, was first diagnosed with Melanoma in 2006 due to sun damage. Afterward, she was diagnosed again in 2012 and for a third time in 2015. In order to treat this aggressive cancer, she had to go through chemotherapy, prescriptions of Opdivo, as well as prescriptions of Yervoy.
After years of fighting the monster we call cancer, she has been announced cancer free and now takes extra precaution whenever it comes to going into the sunlight. She wears long sleeves, pants, hats, etc to ensure she's protected and to ensure she stays cancer free.
Since being diagnosed, she has learned that "you can't give up because you've been told you have cancer. You have to be a fighter". She also learned that you definitely need your family right with you, and with being cancer free you learn to live your life one day at a time. "Live it as if today is the last. First, you thank God for the healings and all the prayers".
My step-sister, Mikell, was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis on May 26th, 2015, just days after graduating high school. Upon being diagnosed, she was told she had "most likely had it her entire life because the tumor was the size of her fist". She had brain surgery to remove part of the tumor, and after that, she began simple radiation for a few weeks. Upon the new treatment, she discovered that instead of shrinking the tumor, it caused it to grow. Therefore, another surgery was needed.
During her second brain surgery, they tried "gamma knife" radiation in order to stop the tumor.
Besides her two brain surgeries, she has had a shunt implanted into her head to drain fluid off of her brain and into her stomach, she has had an implant put in behind her vocal cord to keep her from choking on food, and she's also had a very large tumor removed from her upper spine.
Neurofibromatosis changed Mikell's life forever. She wasn't able to go straight into college as she planned, and she became blind in one eye due to the brain tumor. Before the tumor, she had hearing problems, but now she has to wear a hearing aid.
Mikell states her insecurities by saying, "I'm not able to just do whatever I want because of my walking and the fact I can still get choked on food easily, my smile gets to me the most. It's brought my self-confidence down a whole lot".
But she also spoke about the positive things. She said, "It's taught me to really appreciate the small things in life to a new extent. People don't realize how the simple things such as eating, walking, and basic daily things are needed so much until it's gone. I've learned just how far I can really push myself. Some days [in rehab for therapy] were so stressful".
She explains how it also strengthened her relationship with her fiance and taught her the true meaning of love.
There are many negative things that cancer does to a family, but one thing it does is strenghten them and show them hope. I'm beyond proud to know these two strong women and by knowing their struggles I am beyond grateful for everything I am able to do.