“My Voice” by Diana Parker

Diana Parker - 'Survivor'

My name is Diana Parker, I live in Ohio. I am 47 years old; I was diagnosed when I was 44. My story begins a lot like everyone else’s, go in to get something checked, and the doctor said honey I’m sorry you have breast cancer. I was diagnosed with stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (IDC) Breast Cancer October 2007, to the left breast. Talk about a kick in the teeth, I went numb and I couldn’t hear a word he said after that. If I had ever thought of cancer I thought it would hold off at least until I was 70. I thought of my husband and my kids, I didn’t want to tell them. Who would help my husband with our autistic son? I need more time to help him.  I told my doctor what if I walk out of here and do nothing? He said honey please don’t do that to me. I just wanted to hide and pretend nothing was wrong, I can’t have cancer I’m not sick.

So many things spinning in my head, IDC, stage 3, grade 3. People said write it all down but I couldn’t think straight to write anything down and even if I did I couldn’t have read it. The one word I held onto was treatable; I kept saying its treatable right?

They said you will get very aggressive treatment. My treatments included a full left breast skin sparing mastectomy, 5 reconstruction surgeries, 4 A/C, 12 taxols & 26 rounds of radiation. Now I’m on Tamoxifen for 2 years. Chemo was very hard on me and the anti nausea meds didn’t work but I made it through.  After treatment, I thought that I was in the clear but then, the following year October 2008, I suffered from chemo induced congestive heart failure; my heart was working at about 12%. I had over 47 pounds of fluid on me. If I dug my grave every time the doctors told me to, I would have 5 or 6 graves dug by now. By God’s grace & my family I made it through

Sometimes numb is a good thing, especially if no one is giving you any hope. I put on a brave front but inside I felt like crawling into a hole and just going to sleep. I said okay what do we do about it; let’s get it over with so I can get back to my life. Onto the biopsy and then I was in surgery for a mastectomy. My tumor was large 5.7 cm and it had spread to at least 4 lymph nodes. Even after surgery I kept thinking they made a mistake I can’t have cancer I’m not sick. My doctor said it’s good that you’re not sick now you can fight it; I said what if I can’t fight it?

Now onto MRI’s and CT scans, for me that was the scariest part. I cried for the first time in that machine. I felt so alone in that machine and the sound that it made, made my skin crawl. When I asked what the chances were that it had spread, they wouldn’t look me in the eye. My hopes kept getting shot down; I really didn’t think I would live more than a year. The scans came back clear but the doctors said it really doesn’t mean anything, it can still come back.
My granddaughter was born right after my last radiation treatment. I was so angry that cancer was taking away one of the most important moments of my life. I was so sick and my wig was hideous but I watched that angle come into this world on July 5th, 2008. It’s a strange feeling, feeling so blessed and mad at the same time.
I didn’t want to be a survivor; I didn’t want to put myself into that category for a long time. It seemed like I was tempting fate by saying “I’m a survivor” or maybe by saying “I’m a survivor”, I would have to face what I had been through. So here I am a cancer survivor. I have a few battle scars and I still get afraid that the cancer will come back. At first every ache and pain made me wonder, is it back now? It’s getting better with time, but it creeps in when I least expect it to.

I look fine to everyone and my hair grew back, so to them life has moved on and everything worked out. To me I will always carry it with me, more than just the scars from surgery. I worry about my daughter and granddaughter; I pray that they don’t have to go through what I went through. Lying awake at night wondering about all of those who are just beginning their cancer journey. Hopping they will do better than I did and dreaming of a world without cancer. No more chemo, radiation or surgeries.

What does being a survivor mean to me? It means putting my feet on the floor every day, and being thankful that I have one more day to enjoy my life. It means watching my granddaughter take her first steps, taking my dogs for a walk, and knowing how very blessed I am. It means decorating the Christmas tree, and remembering when I thought it would be my last Christmas. Survival means spending time with my family, knowing full well what they are made of and how far they will go for me. Surviving used to mean getting by, but now it means living life. Pushing when your body feels like it can’t go on, hope when you are given no hope. Surviving means putting the pieces of your life back together, even if you have a few chips and cracks. I think it was John Wayne that said “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway”. So to me being a survivor isn’t about surviving surgery, chemo, radiation, and cancer, it’s about having the courage to live your life after it’s all over. Cancer cannot, and will not win, it doesn’t matter if I live or die cancer didn’t win. I’m a Survivor and cancer can’t take away who I am, and it will never define who I am, or who I will become. I am going back to school soon and get my STNA (State Tested Nurse Aid Certificate) cancer and heart failure may have slowed me down but it will not stop me from living life; if anything it made me more determined to LIVE my life.

I won’t say that I’m happy that I had cancer but I will say it has taught me that I’m stronger than I ever thought I was and that doctors don’t know everything.
God Bless