Relay for Life, which will be held in Grove Friday evening (see the Grand Lake Weekend Section in Friday’s print edition) brings the issues faced by cancer victims and their families into focus.
Although miraculous medical breakthroughs have saved many lives, unfortunately, there are some who do not win the battle.
Those who do win the battle come away with wisdom that can help others who are facing similar battles.
One local survivor, Letha Fisher, beat the odds and won her battle against uterine cancer. Letha was diagnosed in 2004 with one of the more difficult cancers to diagnose. While there are tests for ovarian and cervical, there are none for uterine. With this disease, a family history is usually a common factor for most, and it would seem that Letha's family was plagued with it. At the time she was diagnosed, she had lost her mother-in-law six months prior, and then eventually her father, brother and uncle as well. Letha said that she actually waited one year until all of her treatments were finished to tell her 85-year-old mother. Amazingly, while going through Chemotherapy, Letha said she continued to stay active participating in Jazzercize. She said her outlook on life was different, and she has become bolder since her experience. “You only get once chance. Every day is a blessing,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give to someone who was recently diagnosed, she said “Surround yourself with friends, don't lock them out. And not all cancer is terminal. I am proof.” Letha plans on attending this year’s Relay For Life event, and has participated in Relay for six years. Her first was the night of her last chemotherapy treatment. Keeping your faith and staying strong is the advice from Pat Hughes of Jay. Pat was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 after a biopsy showed malignant cells. Even with the shock of her current situation, Pat says she did not break down right away because she knew she had to stay strong for her family. It wasn't until she went home and saw her son sitting on the porch. “He's really tall, and of course I'm small, but I just gave him a huge hug and told him it would be okay,” she said. Within a week of the findings, Pat was off to surgery and began numerous rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. “The chemo made me sick, but once I learned to take the pills I got used to it. I was able to come to work, but only stayed for an hour or so. I was able to take work home with me.” Pat says one of the hardest parts was the radiation. “It really took me down, I couldn't work for two weeks after and I was really tired at night.” During her radiation treatments Pat began losing her hair. “I already had my wigs ready, I knew it would eventually happen.” During a weekend fishing trip when Pat's husband was gone, Pat took a courageous step and shaved her head using her dad's clippers. “I wanted to wait until I was alone. Cutting my hair off was something personal,” she explained.
She said that once she did that she felt stronger, knowing that was one thing she was in control of.
“I put my wig and my scarf on and went off to church,” she said. Hughes has worked for the City of Jay at the utilities office for thirty-eight years. She plans to retire very soon. The advice she has for others is this: “Keep your faith, stay strong, and close to your family. If you don't have faith, it is really easy to get absorbed with self-pity. It hinders your healing process, don't let it get you down.”