This month, in recognition of Mother’s Day, we’re honored to share Arcelia’s story as a cancer survivor and caregiver to her son who lost his battle to cancer at the young age of 32.
The journey from diagnosis to survivorship and beyond can be filled with difficulty, frustration and pain, regardless of the stage of a cancer diagnosis.
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 an estimated 609,640 women and men will die from cancer in 2018?
Arcelia’s son, Beemeth (known to family and friends as Bee) was starting the fall semester of his senior year at Arizona State University. He was excited to be entering his last year as an undergrad and begin the second half of his journey—medical school—but this semester was proving to be different….
...Bee hadn’t been feeling well…
He visited the doctor and they thought the stress of school combined with a cold were the culprits. The seasons changed, and Bee’s health was not improving.
This young man from the Bay Area was used to the drastic change from the Phoenix summer HEAT to the cold desert nights, so his poor health and lack of recovery were unusual and wreaking havoc on what should have been a regular semester. As the weeks passed and the holidays approached, Bee still didn’t feel well.
The only saving grace was that he was going home to the Bay Area to spend Christmas with his mom, Arcelia, who was growing increasingly concerned for his health. She remembers telling him, “You’re a very healthy boy!” but her instinct was telling her something was wrong.
She was right!!!
Within 24 hours of Bee’s second doctor’s visit, he was diagnosed with Leukemia. Arcelia immediately packed her bags and relocated to Arizona to be with her only child. Mom to the rescue!
Arcelia’s #1 goal was to support her son. As she puts it, “the loving heart of a mother always deserves to be with her child. [He] was my complete focus.” For months the two of them battled his heartbreaking diagnosis. Arcelia’s love for her son was critical to his battle against cancer and despite the fear and pain she stayed strong for the two of them.
But…Arcelia was starting to recognize that her health was becoming an issue.
You see, what Bee didn’t know was that his mom had noticed changes in her health even before he started to experience his own decline. Arcelia was an avid lover of the outdoors and as a result lived an active lifestyle with a healthy diet.
….she was also adamant about keeping up on her annual mammograms. As time passed and she continued to be her son’s caregiver she could feel her strength “dwindling and dwindling very quickly”. After months of telling her doctors that her poor health was more than the side effects of stress and exhaustion…
...she was diagnosed with advanced Stage 3 Metastatic Breast Cancer
“We were both having treatment at the same time, and even at one point,
we were at the same hospital and he was on one floor and I was on another.”
For close to 2 years, this young man who loved giving back to the community through his fraternity, driving racecars, and studying, fought the good fight. Every step of the way, his mother was by his side and he remained her #1 priority even when she was sick from her own treatment; Arcelia stood by him until his very last breath.
Bee passed away a few months after his 32nd birthday. There are no words to describe the loss of your only child.
Arcelia, heartbroken, was still being treated for Stage 3 Metastatic Breast Cancer. One day, after 6+ hours of treatment, she hit her breaking point but received a revelation. In her words:
“…I got to a point where I felt my world had really fallen apart. In terms of “What now? Where do I go? Who can I turn to for support?” And while the care I was receiving was excellent care, the spiritual part of me, the emotional part of me, somehow was eroding and eroding very quickly. I was on my way out, and I remember [saying] a prayer: “God, just give me something to hold onto so I can feel a sense of purpose and find the courage to live one more day.”
And, as I’m crying, I remember holding onto the counter [in] my attempt to keep myself up, and I slipped because my hand landed on this brochure that was very glossy. I halfway slipped to the floor and…I just broke [into] tears. I thought “What else! What else can happen?”
But, in the midst of tears…I remember seeing the word “support”. I mustered up the courage to call the number on the brochure and spoke [to] Tracy [Sr. Dir. of Programs and Growth] at Cancer Support Community Arizona.
…it was a voice that I had not heard (because of course I was not familiar with the Cancer Support Community) but it seemed so familiar because it gave me the feeling that I was accepted, that I was supported, that I was listened to and that life was [going] be okay.
She said, “Come on over!” and I thought …Right now? Who could possibly open their arms in such an instant really without knowing me? But… that’s how it happened. I was able to…for the first time…[walk] to a group, a support group, and my life changed.”
Healing from Depression…
Arcelia was in a deep state of depression. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to live. She was lost and thought, “Where could I go? Could there be one person? Could there be one place? Could there be something that I could hold onto that stood for what I needed so desperately?
[Cancer Support Community Arizona] was the answer…it gave me courage and it wasn’t a courage that roars (that all of a sudden, the depression was over), but rather it was a very gentle courage that is that quiet voice inside you that gives you that sense of hope to try again tomorrow …and tomorrow …and the next tomorrow…”
Unity in Community!
The once active Arcelia felt her strength diminishing even before her diagnosis.
After her many treatments, it was almost impossible to complete the activities she once loved.
And our healthy lifestyle classes—modified to accommodate those currently in treatment and post treatment—made it possible for her to move freely and regain confidence.
“There is no other place where I can get the movement that I need…that really understands the limitations of having cancer.
Prior to diagnosis, I functioned from day to day, meeting my goals. After being diagnosed that was taken away from me and I lost a sense of what it is to have hope and courage and just a sense of purpose and to me, being here, has given me that.”
In addition, Arcelia has enjoyed our cooking classes and education presentations. She has found the information to be rich, critical and valuable. With the information she’s received she’s felt empowered to have a voice in her own cancer care. “I have had the self-confidence to be able to approach a medical person. The information I received here impacted my care.”
For Arcelia, attending our education, mind-body and support programs made her feel “incredible” and despite her many setbacks due to treatment side effects, she’s able to attend most programs at almost any point in the series and still feel welcomed, appreciated and supported.
The approach that I have experienced here is a sense of community and for me much more I see the word ‘unity’ in the word community [yet] it’s so much more than unity.
…for me, it’s more of a family base and I say that very sincerely, very humbly…I have no other children and I have no other siblings and lost my mother… so really my family is Cancer Support Community Arizona…[in] every sense of the word, this is my home, this is my family.
With the support of Cancer Support Community Arizona, Arcelia has been empowered by knowledge, sustained by community and strengthened by action.
Your gift today will make twice the impact!
Button = GIVE HOPE TO ARCELIA 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.