- Oncology Professionals
Betsy's life was rich. Her three children were grown with homes of their own. The office she had been asked to open for her employer was doing well. This had been a challenge, moving her from her native St. Louis to North Carolina. It was all rewarding. Little did she know her life was about to change completely.
Betsy noticed blood in her urine. Although she had no pain or other symptoms, she decided to consult with her doctor. Tests indicated kidney cancer, and three days later she had surgery to remove the affected kidney. After surgery the doctor said that everything looked clear, and no follow up treatment was necessary. Betsy went back to the work she loved and put her cancer experience behind her.
One year later Betsy experienced an inexplicable weight gain. She had not changed her eating or exercise habits, yet her waistline was expanding. Her doctor drew fluid from her abdomen and had it biopsied. The tests revealed that the fluid was cancerous. Betsy decided to go to a major New York City cancer center. She chose the center because of its reputation and because her three children had settled in the Northeast. She knew that she would need family to help her.
Betsy had renal cell carcinoma, the most common type of kidney cancer. The cancer from the previous year had spread to five organs in her body. The fluid in her abdomen was from the cancer spreading to her stomach lining. Far more horrifying than the diagnosis was the doctor's statement that she was "too far gone to treat" and to Betsy's daughter's question of how long, he responded, "weeks."
Betsy's response was, "They have no idea how tough I am." She went for a second opinion. While not overly optimistic, the second doctor offered some hope. He told Betsy of a doctor who was doing interesting things with renal cell carcinoma and biological therapy using interferon at a medical center in North Carolina .
With nothing to lose, Betsy made an appointment with the doctor in North Carolina. Like the doctors before him, he did not think that things looked good for Betsy, but he wanted to try treatment. He prescribed high doses of Interferon. She returned to her local oncologist who followed the recommendation of the specialist. Betsy began taking Interferon and shortly thereafter, her CT scan was clear of signs of cancer. Betsy continued the high dose Interferon for 2 years and continued at a lower dosage until Interferon therapy stopped. Betsy's main side effect from the Interferon was total exhaustion. Treatment took so much out of her that she was "knocked off of her feet and out of a job." The fatigue was very hard for Betsy but she still feels that she would go through it again if that is what she needed to do.
It took more than three years for Betsy to regain her strength. During her recovery, as she gradually grew stronger, she developed a new positive attitude towards her life. Her children, who were living in the Northeast, came down to North Carolina nearly every 3 weeks to see her. Two friends, Mary Jane and Fay, came by every day to check on Betsy and took her to weekly healing services. She feels that God had an enormous impact on her recovery.
Along with her family, friends and spirituality, Betsy has incorporated exercise into her routine. It lifts her energy level and promotes her cardiovascular and bone health and she encourages everyone to follow an exercise regimen of his/her own.
Betsy wanted to help others who might be going through the despair that she felt. She heard about Cancer Hope Network at her local hospital and called to volunteer. During the years since her training as a Cancer Hope Network support volunteer, she has been matched to many cancer patients including some of the most difficult cases that have come into the office. She helps them through the despair, proof that there is life after a cancer diagnosis.
Betsy did return to work with her former employer, as a recruiter of investment brokers. Today, Betsy has eleven grandchildren, consisting of 6 girls and 5 boys, ages 1 to 13 and an active life of work, volunteerism, exercise, and travel when she can.