How cancer changed my life

Andrea Johnson DEV 0032-158 November 1, 2012 How Cancer Changed My Life Cancer can make a change in anyone’s life. It has been in my life for as long as I can remember. Many of my family members have had several different types of cancer and have lost their battle, but the one that impacted my life the most was the recent loss of my best friend. My friend’s name was Elke, and she battled brain cancer for almost 10 years. She was only declared in remission a couple times, it just kept coming back, and the last time the doctors said that there were no less than 11 tumors.

This brain cancer took her away from so many people who loved her so much, including me. Watching my friend go through her cancer battle affected me in so many ways including making me more aware of my own health, my role as a caregiver has been expanded, and she inspired me to appreciate what I have and be thankful. Elke found out that she had cancer when she was only about 25 years old, age does not matter to cancer, and it does not discriminate. The thought of watching her go through this at such a young age was just unimaginable.

I have learned to start being more aware of my own health, after seeing her have to fight so hard, I had no choice. With the history of cancer in my family and what she went through, I decided to be proactive and the day after she passed away I went for a mammogram because the earlier cancer is detected, the better the outcome. I have an appointment to have a hysterectomy, and have had many MRIs to scan for migraine problems and check for cancer. Elke battling so hard just opened my eyes to see how fast things can happen and with no warning.

She had to go through many tests, chemotherapy, and she was sick all of the time. The medications and chemotherapy and radiation break down the immune system and made her more susceptible to other illnesses. I didn’t want to have to go through all of that, it was awful to watch her go through it, but she did and never stopped. I have decided that I will not stop either, and I am not giving myself another choice. Elke went through many tests and trials over the years while fighting her biggest battle. She was feeling very sick, and it finally got to the point where she had to accept extra help.

She was so special to me and had been in my life so long, it only made sense for me to help her in any way possible. Her girls were starting to see how weak she was getting and that is when it hit them hard, because Elke was the one who always took care of everyone else. Being able to help Elke was rewarding to me because I got to see another side of her. I contributed by taking food over many times so they didn’t have to worry about cooking, volunteering to assist in cleaning, and taking her to appointments. In May of this year we participated in Relay for Life, and it was another eye opening event.

While staying up all night, I assisted her in getting around from place to place, going to the restroom, and getting up from sitting or lying down. I have also helped by being there for her girls; they are only 12, and 17 years old. They have always been able to come to me for advice, as well as many other issues that went on with them, but this is new for all of us now that Elke is gone. Kayla, her oldest daughter, just came to me and asked if she could live with me when she turns 18. I wasn’t sure what to do about her moving in with me, but I will never turn her away, the mother in me will not allow it.

If there was a need, I have always tried to be there. After seeing what Elke went through during her battle, it has made me appreciate the things I have much more. Too many people just don’t realize what comes with a battle with cancer, and so many things are just overlooked or taken for granted. I will hug my children tighter, spend more time doing things we all like, and being together as a family is the most important. Life is too short to worry about the small petty things, but embrace what we have and make it better. Elke’s motto was F.

R. O. G. meaning Fully Rely On God, and she also loved frogs. Now every time I see a frog it reminds me to stop and think about what I am doing and what is going on in my life. I remember there are others who have it worse and have fought harder than I ever thought I could. I am sure that if something like this happened to me, that I would remember Elke and how she stayed positive through it all. Nothing is more important than living each day to the fullest, because life is so unpredictable and way too short to not enjoy it.

Elke taught me so many things during her life. There were so many things that she did that I would love to see again, but I know she is in a better place, away from the pain of cancer. The affect cancer has on our lives can be devastating, but we have the choice to make it empowering like Elke did. The cause of cancer is never known for sure, but is linked to so many different things depending on the type of cancer it is. I will be sure to enjoy what I have and take all the precautions possible to be healthy, so I can be here for my children as long as possible.

I miss my dear friend, but the last time she was able to speak, she said to me “I love you my best friend, always,” and every time I saw her after, I could see it in her eyes. Seeing my best friend lose her battle to this nasty thing was one of the worst, but also the best times of my life. I was able to see her embrace life no matter what she was going through in her health problems, she just never stopped. I miss Elke, and as we always said F. R. O. G. Always, and one day we will meet again.

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