“Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”
Allen Saunders (made famous by John Lennon)
The year was 2013 and Support Volunteer Teres was busy making plans. Her son was graduating college. After years of dreaming, discussing and planning, she and her husband were preparing to move their family to North Carolina.
Then, she was diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
“The doctor said ‘you have a tumor,’ Teres recalls. “That just shattered me. I wasn’t feeling ill. Other than giving birth, I’d never been hospitalized. Suddenly, I’m getting radiation and a six-week course of 5FU chemo in a pump I carried with me 24-hours a day. We were discussing my ostomy and all that would entail.”
Like many patients, she began her treatment believing she was mentally and physically prepared for the side effects she’d discussed with her medical team. The reality was much more difficult than she’d expected.
“All I would do was cry. I got really depressed and I remember saying to my husband and my kids, ‘I’m not going to get through this, you’re going to have to put me away somewhere.” It was at that point Teres called Cancer Hope Network.
“I loved my cancer support group, but they couldn’t relate to me specifically on colorectal cancer and having an ostomy, especially as a woman. When I called CHN, I was matched with someone in my age bracket, who had had the same treatment and was five years out.”
That Support Volunteer shared a perspective Teres desperately needed. “I’d never met anyone or talked to anyone who had an ostomy. I didn’t know if it was a handicap where I wouldn’t be able to do anything. I had no idea how it would look for a young person who is married. It was so nice for her to say ‘This is what you can expect’ because the unknown is so scary.”
Today, she has embraced her “new normal,” paying forward the information and courage that was shared with her. “It’s hard to have a conversation with someone who has never had this (ostomy) experience. It’s been really great to talk to other ladies and share my story. I can reassure them that their lives are not going to stop.”
During treatment, Teres was surrounded by a loving family, her “rock solid” husband and “lots of prayer warriors who were constantly encouraging me.” An independent person, more accustomed to managing responsibilities and keeping a tight grip on the reins, it was a big adjustment. “I had to humble myself at that time and rely on others to help me through the process.”
Today, despite the detours and challenges, Teres’ and her family are finally settling into their new South Carolina home and she offers these words of wisdom, “You will be ok. It’s something people say to other people all the time. But I have to say that it’s true. Have hope. Have faith. Fight and know that you will be ok. My treatment was tough, it was so very difficult, but it saved my life. I’m still able to function, to have a quality of life as good as or better than before my diagnosis.”
Cancer Hope Network provides free one-on-one emotional support to adult cancer patients and their loved ones by matching them with trained Support Volunteers. Each of CHN’s 400+ volunteers is at least one year post-treatment or successfully undergoing maintenance therapies. CHN serves cancer patients in the United States and Canada. To speak with Teres, or another Support Volunteer, call 877.467.3638.