This month we recognize Dale and her story as an Ovarian Cancer survivor but also her role as a Cancer Support Community Arizona volunteer. The journey from diagnosis to survivorship and beyond can be filled with difficulty, frustration and pain, no matter what stage of a cancer diagnosis, but with the help of Cancer Support Community Arizona it can be a bit more bearable.
It’s also a time to ACT so that everyone facing this serious diagnosis can have every resource to confront it, and win the battle!
Did you know that approximately 22,240 women will receive a new diagnosis of ovarian cancer this year?
Dale’s story has been a long, windy road of many diagnoses and complications. During the Fall of 2013, Dale was having
difficulty walking. Little by little, her mobility was becoming more restricted. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, she decided that she had enough and was motivated to take action. She asked a friend to drive her to the ER where she was immediately admitted. After several tests and a scan, Dale’s doctors discovered she had swollen lymph nodes. The next day, Dale had surgery to remove tissue from the muscles in her thigh and lymph nodes from her neck. Biopsies were performed, and although her results had not returned, she was discharged on Wednesday so she could celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. Through the weekend, Dale was on Prednisone which allowed her to walk a little better than before.
By Tuesday midnight (after her first hospital stay), DALE COULD NOT WALK. She knew something was wrong. She called 911 and was immediately admitted to the ER then ICU. Dale was scared.
Dale was hospitalized for two weeks! Although it’s a bit of a blur, she knows when she was admitted, she was in kidney failure, and the pathology report from the tissue from her neck revealed she had stage 4 Ovarian Cancer. Ovarian Cancer diagnosis from the neck? In Dale’s words:
“Nothing that’s happened to me has been normal. I had an offshoot of this [ovarian] cancer which caused my muscles to weaken. Which of course I didn’t know until later down the road. It was my muscles, and my nerve endings, [they] were affected in addition to having cancer. So, I had been suffering from 3 different things all at the same time. I was automatically Stage 4.”
The journey was only beginning…
Dale had to “literally learn how to walk, again.” After a 2 ½ week stay at an acute rehab facility, she walked out of the building with the use of a walker. Progress! From there, it was in-home physical therapy and the start of chemotherapy. Dale returned to the same hospital from which she had two stays to have a porta Cath inserted in her chest. She remembers “it didn’t feel right,” but she also thought, “well, I don’t have anything to compare it to.” After her first round of chemo, Dale felt she was “going to go through the roof” because the pain was excruciating. After several weeks of chemo, the entire process still didn’t feel “right.” In fact, the area surrounding the porta Cath was not healing. Dale finally asked the wound-clinic doctor to take-a-look. He immediately instructed her to go to the ER.
Dale was in the hospital for two additional weeks. During that time, the port Cath was still inside her chest, but now she was starting to have complications because of a flare-up of her diverticulitis. Finally, her infectious disease doctor ordered the port Cath be removed. It was then the hospital discovered the port Cath had MRSA.
Dale was now fighting an infection in addition to her stage 4 cancer.
After fighting the infection; fighting the cancer, and fighting for her overall health, Dale’s body was starting to heal. She’s now in “excellent health” and although she continues to have blood work every three months, she’s had no recurrence of infection or the cancer.
THEN ONE DAY… Dale decided she wanted to attend a cancer support group and if possible, a group for stage 4 ovarian cancer survivors. One morning, she discovered Cancer Support Community Arizona reading an insert in the Arizona Republic on health and wellness programs throughout the Valley. She immediately signed-up for our Weekly Participant Support Group
where she was grouped with newly diagnosed, those in survivorship and those up to 18 months post-treatment. In her words, the support group “gives you hope because you learn and become thankful…because it could always be worse. I’ve lost some people that I’ve gotten to know very well because of that weekly group. They were in bad shape, but they were trying. They lost the fight, but I do think of them.”
As for our Ovarian Cancer Learn & Support Group, she learned “cancer doesn’t necessarily have to be a death sentence. You have to ‘maintain.’ There is life out there, and you have to live it!”
Dale gives back!
From her first weeks at Cancer Support Community Arizona, Dale knew she wanted to volunteer, and she knew she wanted to do office work. She knew it would be a great way to get out of the house. “I gotta be around people!” And, she knew it would keep her administration skills “somewhat fluid because if you don’t use it, you lose it.” She wanted to give back to the facility that had helped her so much.
For Dale, she likes the flexibility and freedom of a volunteer and is grateful that Cancer Support Community Arizona allows her to “go at my own pace, so I feel very comfortable here. Working in the office has really been my favorite. I like to get on the computer, all the data entry stuff. I enjoy it! I have to think! Getting the mind to work again! It also helps with my dexterity because I have neuropathy in my hands and feet. I enjoy the people, the office staff, and the other volunteers.”
Cancer Support Community Arizona is more than a home, it’s sacred ground for the thousands of people who have walked through our doors these past 18 years. And, it’ll continue to be sacred ground with your support. When asked if there’s any one moment that sparks a beautiful memory, Dale stops and thinks, then continues “all of the Cancer Support Community Arizona staff are my “sparkle.” Everyone is friendly, honest and helpful.”
With the support of Cancer Support Community Arizona, Dale has been empowered by knowledge, sustained by community and strengthened by action.
Button = GIVE HOPE TO DALE AND OTHERS LIKE HER AND GET AN $800 CHARITABLE TAX CREDIT
The State of Arizona offers an INCREDIBLE opportunity for YOU to get involved and receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for your donation up to $400 ($800 per married couple). The Qualifying Charitable tax credit offers a select number of nonprofits with a proven track record of serving Arizona families, strong fiscal responsibilities and commitment to quality each year with this easy to submit tax credit donation. These donations enable Cancer Support Community Arizona to open many doors to hope, courage, and community for those impacted by cancer and we are honored to be a proud of member of this opportunity.