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In 1987, we moved from Illinois to Colorado to open a hardware store. Early the following year, 1988, I found a lump in my left breast. After tests and a biopsy, it was determined to be cancer. I had a lumpectomy followed by a mastectomy later that year. Luckily, no further breast cancer has occurred. I had what they then called “mild chemo” to treat this cancer.

Wait twenty years to 2008, living in Wisconsin, and I was doing well, but feeling somewhat bloated (looking fatter but not gaining weight). Changing the linens in the bedroom with the TV on one day, I saw an announcement that they had finally found symptoms of ovarian cancer – and bloating was one of them! I very seldom had the TV on during the day, and that was the first and last time I ever saw that announcement! I called my doctor who sent me for the tests and my CA125 was very high. She recommended that I see a gynecological oncologist. Since I had a hysterectomy in 1981, the doctor did an oopherectomy, which means removal of the ovaries. This time I had chemotherapy and lost my hair. I wore scarves or a wig and went on with my life.

Years ending in 8 seem to be my downfall! In 2018, I was having some abdominal pain. I had had surgery for a bowel obstruction caused by adhesion from the oopherectomy and I figured there was some problem after that. I talked to my oncologist, who sent me for another CT scan which showed a mass. A biopsy showed that it was ovarian cancer, but now on my bladder since I no longer had ovaries. Additional surgery was done by the gynecological oncologist, but with an urologist in the operating room to do the work on the bladder. All went well and I healed quickly, and then started another series of chemotherapy treatments.

I had an easy time with the chemotherapy sessions. I had been working as a “Meals on Wheels” volunteer and a hospice volunteer, but after my surgery in 2008, I decided I wanted to work with cancer patients. I had my treatments at a Vince Lombardi cancer center and applied to work there, where I have been volunteering ever since. In 2018, I worked on Wednesdays and had my treatments on Thursdays! My job consists of asking if patients would like a snack, bringing them a pillow or warm blanket, and cleaning and disinfecting the chairs when they leave. The part that to me is most important is telling them, I’ve had cancer three times, I’ll be 82 in May, 2020 and I am still able to be active in my community.

I hope to continue this work for a long time to come, and I’m going to watch out for 2028!

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