It was a sunny day in July when the phone rang at work and I saw the call coming in was from Maine Maine Center. This was the call I was waiting for. The voice asked “is this Terri Brown” to which I replied, “yes”. The doctor on the other end said “Ms Brown, I’m sorry to tell you but you have cancer”. Those were the last words I heard as my mind raced thinking how will I tell my family, how will they react and what can I do to let them know I’ll be ok. At the time I received this news, I was living at home with my parents, as my father was dying from asbestosis (a lung disease).
I was finally snapped back into reality when the voice on the other end said “Ms Brown, Ms Brown, are you ok”? I felt like asking if she was an idiot but thought better of it. I did hear something after that about someone would call me in the afternoon to set-up appointments for something.
As I raced home from work to tell my parents, I only hoped I’d get there first before I received the follow-up calls, setting up my hundreds of appointments. As I turned into the driveway and walked in the backdoor, my mother and father looked at me and said “what are you doing home?” I answered with those 3 words you never want to tell your family “I have cancer”. The silence could have been cut with a knife, as I watched the blood drain from my mother and father’s faces. While they were still trying to digest the news, I quickly added, “I’ll be fine, I’m going to beat it”.
Over the next month, it was a whirlwind of appointments with oncologists, radiology oncologists and I’m sure I met with a janitor or two in all of those appointments. Luckily, my mother and sister Roberta went along so they could take notes and we could compare them once we got home.
The day of my surgery came all too quickly but I knew I needed to face this challenge in order to “beat the dragon”. As I said my good-byes to my father, while trying not to cry, my mother, sister and aunt all climbed into the car for that short ride to Maine Medical Center.
After I was checked in and was donning my fashionable hospital johnnie and robe, I felt like I had so much to tell them but we sat there in what seemed like dead silence as we waited for my turn to come. Finally, they came to get me to roll me into the next holding area but not before I kissed each one on the cheek, told them how much I loved them and I would be just fine.
Soon I was on my way to the “official” operating room. Does anyone know why they keep those rooms so cold? I was glad I would be sleeping through this because my teeth were already chattering.
In what seemed to be only a few minutes, I heard someone calling my name. I woke to find my family, all with smiles on their faces, in my room. My first ever surgery was finally over and I came through it just fine!!
After my recovery period ended, it was time to take the next step, the dreaded chemotherapy. The days that followed would prove to be some of the hardest I would ever experience.
My first trip to the chemo room was met with smiling faces, lots of other cancer patients and the dreaded medication. To this day, I can still see the syringe containing the red Kool-Aid chemo, the nickname I gave it. Through it all, I kept a positive attitude and smile on my face because I knew I would “beat the dragon”.
It didn’t take long for my hair to fall out and the fear of going to work wearing a turbin set in. Yikes, the talk, the stares and most of all the unwanted sympathy. Like a child starting school on their first day, my mother assured me all would be fine, I could do it and it would only get easier.
The walk into work that first day was everything I had anticipated, the stares, the talk and the sympathy. The high light of the day came when my teammates had a surprise party for me, complete with gifts and food! I couldn’t wait to get home to tell everyone and show them my gifts (just like a child after their first day of school).
With the completion of my chemo treatments, it was onto radiation but I knew I was home free because how bad could it be? As I walked into the radiation room for the first time and they strapped me down, I thought how am I going to do this? 30 days of this torture? As I neared the end of my radiation and fatigue set in, my father’s health took a turn for the worst and on a sunny day in January, he passed away peacefully.
As the weeks passed following my father’s death and my treatments, I found an inner strength I didn’t know existed in me, which would be put to the test at my final oncologist appointment when my doctor turned to me, looked me in the eyes and said “you weren’t supposed to make it”. I will never forget those final words he spoke to me; however, I won the battle, I slayed the dragon.
I am now 12 years cancer free and have learned to live each day to its very fullest.
If you remember nothing else about what I have said, please remember to get your cancer screenings, keep a positive attitude and always tell your family you love them.
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