“My Voice” by Diane Huddleston

Diane Huddleston - 'Survivor'

My name is Diane and I am a 4 time cancer survivor! For me to be able to write that is a MIRACLE! I feel so blessed to say I am a survivor.

My story began by being born as a premature twin weighing only 3lbs. and 14 oz. about 2 months early so right from the start I had to fight to live being in an incubator as well as needing help to breath I was told.

I grew up fairly healthy outside of an episode at around age 7-8 where I had the WORST stomach ache you can imagine running around playing so after a trip to the ER didn’t find anything life went on until at age 17 when I had another one that I can never forget! I had blood in my urine too so I knew there was something wrong? A family friend took me to the ER where I was living in Baltimore at this time in my life. ( I am now back in my hometown of St. Louis). I had a CT scan or some x-rays I think which did show a mass on my right kidney so they wanted me to be admitted to the hospital soon to do further testing. Long story short after going through some scary tests it was decided that kidney was no longer functioning so it needed to be removed. I am pretty sure the doctors knew it was cancer yet my family did not. I can remember the day of my surgery laying on the stretcher waiting to be taken in seeing the doctor talking to my mother who began to cry and thinking, what is wrong? I am going to be okay mom! He must of told her then.

I was in ICU after my surgery for awhile til I was stable as they removed that kidney along with the mass I believe at that point was the size of a baseball. After I was in a regular room one day I asked the nurse if they ever figured out what was wrong with my kidney…she told me I had CANCER! I was all alone with nobody around. It didn’t really hit me what these words meant. I learned I had a rare form of what was normally a childhood cancer known as a Wilm’s tumor and for someone my age to be diagnosed with it was very unusual! I along with other family members think it was there from the episode early on at age 8 when that first tummy ache hit me. I was taken straight from St. Agnes Hospital to John Hopkins to begin chemo once I was strong enough. I went through 6 months of very strong chemo. I had to go 5 days a week 4 times out of those months to get one chemo drug that had me bedridden with the side effects. I would go for chemo then go home to bed that whole week. I had a high cure rate then so once it was all over life went on as normal.

In my mid to late 20’s I was shown a tiny lump during an exam by a nurse who said that would mean starting mammograms early in life then forgot about that til a few years later when it was more noticeable after a shower when putting lotion on, my hand ran over it. I immediately got in to see an internal medicine doctor for further evaluation. The mammogram didn’t show it was cancer, he told me I was too YOUNG to have it. His suggestion was to watch it, if it grew to call him back. I ended up seeing a few different doctors/surgeons who examined me, did needle aspirations etc. who still claimed no cancer, you can live with it or have it removed, I knew something was wrong so chose to have it removed. I saved my own life as it was found to be cancer! Chemo again for me along with 33 radiation treatments after a lumpectomy was performed. It was Stage 2B invasive ductal carcinoma. Very aggressive under a microscope. The Doctor who treated me told me my case was very unusual having a Wilm’s tumor then breast cancer.

I kept up with my yearly mammograms after that so when something was found during mine in 2003 it was upsetting. They did a needle core biopsy that same day that had me worried. The following week I got the call I had breast cancer again this time in my other breast. Chemo and radiation after another lumpectomy. I got through all of it again somehow with the inner strength I am proud to say I carry no matter what. I have my bad days of course yet keep fighting these battles!

Then my world came crashing down the day I got a call saying my twin was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer! This can’t be! I was more devastated to learn that than ever hearing those words for myself. My oncologist wanted me to have my ovaries removed once he learned of my twin’s diagnosis. The plan was to remove them, send them off immediately for testing to make sure I didn’t have it as well since there was a cyst on one of mine plus I had also had some signs something was wrong yet tests didn’t find it months before. It was found that I did have cancerous cells being misdiagnosed as metastatic breast cancer on my ovary so they closed me up with no further biopsies taken. I was told of the findings and didn’t know what to feel? I went to my twin’s to spend some quality time with her after getting out as it was my favorite time of year, Halloween. I got a call while there that my diagnosis was much worse than expected I too had Ovarian cancer. My world really came crashing down again! I had to go through chemo again for the 4th time in my life. How can my poor body handle MORE chemo? I also wanted to add my twin and I both were tested after we both were diagnosed to learn we do carry a gene mutation known as BRAC1 which explains my breast cancers and both of us having the ovarian cancer.

I could go on writing yet all I know is life is a gift that I cherish. I love spending time with my family and friends, doing things that make me happy every chance I get. Being a survivor after all I have been through as I said is a miracle to come out on the other side to enjoy what is good in life. I hope my story can make a difference to others in their own battle to show we can make it! Keep fighting! You can do it! For each person just find what brings you joy that will take you away from what your going through to a happy place as I do with music to heal my mind/body/soul.