This One’s For Cheryl… And Amy… And…

It’s true, the world is a sadder place these days.  Two dynamic women have lost their lives to cancer this week, and both of them touched me.  One fought valiantly until there was nothing more to fight with. One didn’t. The end result is they’re both gone.  The cause of their deaths? Cancer.

I simply accepted that Cheryl Cook Vincent and I would grow to be outrageous old ladies together.  Now my partner in crime is no more and I am so sad. I cannot think of a single purpose her death served.

Or maybe I can. Let’s take a little detour from the usual ckd related material and talk about cancer.  It’s my way of honoring both Cheryl and my cousin, Amy Bernard-Herman.

Cancer is defined by the World English Dictionary as, “any type of malignant growth or tumour, caused by abnormal and uncontrolled cell division: it may spread through the lymphatic system or blood stream to other parts of the body.”

One of these women went to her doctors regularly; the other hadn’t been in decades. Had she gone, she would have been told pretty much the same as the one who did.  Cancer is treatable in the early stages, sometimes even curable as with skin cancer, the most common form of cancer.  Sometimes, it is not as with some breast cancer which is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women. For men, the second leading cause of cancer is prostate cancer.

It seems that cancer really covers over one hundred different diseases rather than just being a disease all by itself according to medterms (http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=2580). Even though it may appear in different parts of the body once it’s metastasized (spread), it’s referred to by the site where the tumors first appeared.  For example, back in 1988, my father died of pancreatic cancer.  The cancer had metastasized throughout his body by the time he died, but it was still referred to as pancreatic cancer.

Being an English teacher and a writer, I wanted to know why it’s called cancer. I found the most informative answer to my question at: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Why_is_the_disease_cancer_called_cancer. Basically, the tumors themselves have a crab like appearance.  In the zodiac, the crab is called cancer. I enjoyed the etymology more than I should have, but that’s my ‘thing’ so I won’t bore you with it here.

Colon cancer caused Cheryl’s death, directly or not. How could she have known she had this disease? According to the Mayo Clinic, these are the symptoms (although the disease may be asymptomatic in the early stages in which case a colonoscopy would have detected it):

  • A change in your bowel habits, including diarrhea or constipation or a change in the consistency of your stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in your stool
  • Persistent abdominal discomfort, such as cramps, gas or pain
  • A feeling that your bowel doesn’t empty completely
  • Weakness or fatigue

Their address for more colon cancer information is: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/colon-cancer/DS00035.

You may need a reminder as to just what these parts of the body are.  According to WebMD, who also provided the picture, the colon is the last part of the digestive system.  This is where fluid, salt, and some nutrients are removed from your body’s wastes as the digestive process occurs.  Peristalsis, or the movement of the muscles lining the colon, helps with this.  You can read more about this at: http://www.webmd.com/colorectal-cancer/default.htm.  The rectum is the last four inches of the colon, ending with the anus.

Cancer has stages just as CKD does. MedicineNet has a better explanation of just what this is and why it’s done than I could have come up with: “The stage of a cancer is a measure of the extent to which a cancer has spread in the body. Staging involves evaluation of a cancer’s size and its penetration into surrounding tissue as well as the presence or absence of metastases in the lymph nodes or other organs. Staging is important for determining how a particular cancer should be treated… cancer therapies are geared toward specific stages. Staging of a cancer also is critical in estimating the prognosis of a given patient, with higher-stage cancers generally having a worse prognosis than lower-stage cancers.”  They are on the internet at: www.MedicineNet.com.  You’d have to know which type of cancer you are dealing with since there is no general cancer site at this address.

Cheryl told me she could never do what I did.  She was talking about researching my diagnosis, writing a book about it, and urging all others with chronic kidney disease to pay attention to their condition.

After having to research each sentence of this blog, I see what she meant. It was heart wrenching.

And I never got to tell my most excellent buddy that I was able to raise my eGFR from 50 to 60 in just three months. She would get so excited about good medical news for me whether she understood it or not.

Rest in peace Cheryl… and Amy… and every other person who has died of cancer.

To those of you who remain behind, I offer you every bit of good energy I can find. After all, if we’re not here to help each other, why are we here?

No book news today, folks.

Until next week,

Keep living your life – for yourself and those around you.

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Published in: on October 15, 2012 at 11:13 am  Comments (5)  
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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hugs to you, Gail, on the loss of such a special friend, a lovely lady
    !

    • Thank you, Karla. The Memorial Service is Friday, October 19th, at 5 p.m. at The Creative Living Fellowship Church. That’s 6530 N. 7th in Phoenix. You and everyone else who’d like to attend are welcome. Michelle asks that food to share be dropped off at her house before the service. For those of you who can’t physically make it, the service will be streamed at http://www.creativelivingfellowship.com.

  2. I just found out about Amy while I was emailing a lot of friends to tell them a friend of ours has brain cancer. One of the replies was about Amy. I knew her for 20 years, she worked in my agent’s office here in LA and was also my travel agent. I couldn’t make one trip without her, the internet sites be damned!

    She was always kind and lovely and I’m truly sad for her husband. They had such a great relationship.

    I’m sorry about your friend. And of course, Amy.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Suzy. There aren’t many Amys or Cheryls in this world and now there’s one less of each. That’s a hard one to get used to.

      I’m in contact with Jeff who seems to be holding his own.

      I’m curious how you came o the blog.

      • I was googling Amy’s name, trying to find out how she died, and your blog came up.


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