Neighbor Battles Cancer – guest post

Last summer my neighbor and good friend was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.  She decided to be treated at the community hospital where I worked for 20 years.  So I knew all of her doctors and many of the nurses and technicians caring for her.  Chris does in home daycare.  So I most often see her in the summer when my granddaughters are spending a lot of time at our house.  We would always walk down when the kids were playing in the drivewayMy girls would bring their bikes or scooters, toys, dolls, and cookies to share.  We would sit in the driveway and watch the kids, exchanging news and neighborhood gossip.  She and her husband are self-employed so they had less than optimal healthcare options, part of the forgotten America the healthcare reform bill was meant to serve.

Chris started a Caringbridge page in addition to her Facebook updates.  When I read her January post, I felt I had to republish it here.  Like so many of us making a year’s end assessment, she has focused on the blessings as much as the suffering that cancer brings.

New Year, new me

Hello everyone,

I have never been so glad to see a year end !  2012 Will be a new year with new beginnings for me.  I finished all of my treatments just before Christmas.  It was a perfect time to wrap treatments up.  After  12 weeks of chemo and 36 radiation treatments I am finally finished.

My Oncologist said they have surgically removed, poisoned (chemo) and burned (radiation) every cancer cell that they could.  I am considered in remission.

It is frustrating  though because with Triple Negative Breast cancer that even though it is the worst kind of breast cancer, very aggressive ,there are no blood tests or other test  to prove it is all gone.  The treatments are like an insurance policy they tell me.policy.

They cautioned me that most women experience depression when treatment ends. I however refuse to let myself go there. I do feel somewhat anxious now that the heavy duty treatments have ended and I am somewhat on my own.  Will it come back ? What do I fight it with currently ?

I know I have a wonderful support system to rely on and now that treatments are over. Also I plan to rely on my spiritual side to continue to help me stay strong. I have felt empowered by all of you with your kindness and prayers. My niece pointed out that it is like everything I have ever done for anyone has come full circle back to me. That is very true. It has been overwhelming all the love I have felt.  I could never have imagined how kind everyone would be !!

I can honestly say that more good has come from the last 7 months than bad.  I have seen many other patients in much worse shape than myself and it made me feel like one of the lucky ones if there is such a thing with cancer. Lucky  however I did not have cancer when my sons were young, the situation my late Mother had to endure.

There were so many rules to follow during treatment that I now feel free at last. Free to try to return to normal. For example free to eat blueberries and other antioxidants once again.  Free to take supplements, free to wear a bra !  Free to use a regular toothbrush because there are no more blisters in my mouth from chemo,Free to wear a deodorant that might contain aluminum…even though the aluminum is not good for any of us.Free not to force myself to consume 64 oz of water, free to drink WHATEVER I want like wine  🙂 AND free to watch my hair slowly growing in now. Free to have my hair colored again, that is as soon as I grow enough to color !  Did I really expect it to grow in blonde ?? I have never seen myself any other way.

I see one of my 3 oncologists  in 2 weeks and I will continue to be watched closely for a while but basically the worst is behind me.

In fact the day I “graduated”, they even gave me a diploma, from radiation my husband Tom went out and bough me some graduation presents ! Some beautiful Susan Komen Breast cancer jewelry that are now dear to my heart.

Speaking of hearts…I am so happy to mention that Tom is also doing very well after his Open Heart Surgery.  What a pair we are.

His surgeon said that people often die from what he had and it was  a very serious situation. Dr Storey said it is a very slow recovery, 3 months, but Tom is doing very well.

We are both truly  blessed to have such good outcomes from such a scary time. A new year and renewed health for both of us !

Again, Thank you so much for your support !


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.

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