Angela "Still Fighting"

Photography by    Randy Bacon

Photography by Randy Bacon

At the time I was diagnosed with cancer, my life was in full speed. I was working at a good company and working my way up the corporate ladder. I thought I was happy. I was always on the go with my children and we were having a good time, until I started getting sick. And then things would slow down but then pick up again. If my doctor wasn’t worried, I’d try not to be. But even my supervisor was noticing something wasn’t right and asked me if I was ill. I’d told him no and went back to work. Knowing in my heart, I had something wrong with me. But as long as I kept pushing it off and pretending I was okay, then I didn’t have to face the facts. My grandfather had passed from colon cancer and and I kept thinking about how my mom told of the day she’d walked into the bathroom and he was cleaning up blood. That was becoming my normal. I was thirty six and yet I couldn’t believe I wasn’t bleeding to death somehow.

The final time I got sick before my diagnosis, my daughter and I had sushi for lunch. Surely I’d gotten food poisoning. I could barely make the twenty minute ride home. But I did and my daughter sat on my bed as I vomited and such. The worry was clear on her face. The next day went pretty much the same way and a friend finally talked me into going to the doctor. He said let’s give it another day or two. If you’re still sick, we’re running some tests. That day came and tests were ran. He ordered a colonoscopy and in I went. I was nervous because it’s a colonoscopy. No one willingly wants those. But I’m glad I did. The cancer was found during the test and within 24-48 hours, I gained some eleven doctors. From a gastroenterologist to an oncologist, my life felt like a nonstop hurricane.

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I couldn’t stop crying. People were in my space I didn’t want there, poking me, telling me things I don’t remember and didn’t know I needed to know. My fear had come true. I became so angry and upset. Cancer had upset my life and I was sick from the chemo and radiation. My kids cried a lot and my family was always in the scene to take me to radiation treatments, make sure I ate something that made me vomit.

I was so sure I’d never make it anymore. Every day, depression set in more. I wasn’t able to work and my ability to take care of my kids was getting harder. My daughter went to work to help pay the bills her senior year of school. That wasn’t alright with me but the fear of homelessness was real at that point. It would be again a few times on down the road as well. But she got so bitter from it. From helping her mom shower, taking over the house as an adult versus a student. My son would sneak into the bedroom and touch me just to make sure I was breathing and sometimes, I’d wake up and he’d be sleeping next to me. It was undoubtedly far from fair to my children.

One night, the kids were gone. And I’d planned it all out. I knew the pills would work and a knife. I was sick and sick and tired of being sick. I hated life. And I recall saying, “Lord, I’ve heard of you my whole life. And I don’t know if you exist but if you do, now would be the time to do something.” A feeling like I’d never felt before came upon me and my life hasn’t ever been the same.

The Lord used me and still to this day uses me to advocate for medical purposes, for cancer awareness, to be a voice of help with others who feel alone. I never went back to work at that company. It wasn’t as good as I thought and I wasn’t near as happy as I let myself believe. I’ve learned what I can regarding my diagnosis.

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Two years ago, I lost my best friend. She passed winning the fight against colon cancer and in a way, it shut the door on my role. It’s been a long road of trying to recover her loss. Some people you never do, and I kept her phone number a long time expecting to hear from her. But that text or call no longer comes and sometimes I miss her so much, it hurts. She was a blessing in my life like none other.

I’m still fighting this disease. Seven years in, I’ve had one stable year that left me wondering what to do with myself and I finally got a part time job. It was brief but I got out of the house and away from treatments until the cancer started moving again. Now it’s not just stage 3b rectal cancer. It’s stage iv rectal. I’ve had part of my liver removed, part of my left lung removed, an ileostomy and takedown, hysterectomy, appendectomy, gallbladder removal, radiation to my pelvic area, radiation to my chest and right shoulder.

I wish I’d had the colonoscopy years before I did. When I first started seeing blood. But I didn’t and chances are, I’ll go out with this disease. But it won’t be because I didn’t fight. In the end, I hope people say I fought the good fight. And I tell people to know your history. It wasn’t just my grandpa on my moms side that had colon cancer. I also lost an uncle on my biological dads side to colon cancer. You’re never too young for cancer.

June 2018

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