Reflections: My Stroll Through Hell at Warp Speed

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It was 10 days before American Sand Sculpting and I was the vendor coordinator – I had 2 Fresh Markets in full swing and the Saturday events at Santini Marina Plaza, of course I was stressed. Rolaids had been my favorite candy for years, it worked! Little did I know what was brewing in my body.

Halfway through Sand Sculpting I stopped being able to swallow solid food. I resorted to smoothies and kept on going. Must be stress!

On December 5, 2013 I took a bite of steak and spent the rest of the day waiting for that bite to go down. No kidding. Still, I didn’t even go to see my doctor until early January. Christmas, you know! Denial is a powerful human coping mechanism!

An upper GI revealed a Stage One Malignant Esophageal Cancer tumor the size of a lemon. Apparently I had graduated through Barrett’s Syndrome and G.E.R.D. and was smack in the middle of ESOPHAGAEL CANCER. Two incomprehensible words.

Now, I want to assure you that this upper GI procedure is absolutely painless with no aftereffects whatsoever. The mechanism is terrifying, looks like a garden hose with a flashlight on the end when you are on your side on the gurney, with oxygen in your nose and an IV in your hand, but, truly, it’s a piece of cake.

Then the journey began; Thank God I was directed, through my friend Linda, to Dr. William Harwin, Florida Cancer and 21st Century Oncology for radiation. Aggressive Chemotherapy and daily Radiation began, platelets and white count became drastically low – Chemotherapy is one rough run, collapsing veins, endless nausea and you are surrounded by patients in Chemo and Radiation who know the reality of a “Really Bad Day.”

Next assignment was to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa to consult for surgery that would remove my esophagus, then give me a month in intensive care followed by a 3-month stint in Tampa before I could come home with a home health nurse who would feed me through a tube. I refused the surgery. Quality of life was an easy decision – they gave me 3 months to live.

Deanne Lansey, my darling friend, chose to be my Cancer Partner and carried me through every Chemo, Radiation and endless doctor visits. She is nominated for sainthood forever; being a Cancer Partner is tougher on the partner than the patient, I believe that!

Here’s what they don’t tell you: My hair fell out so I looked like an albino coconut for months, balance and memory are history; the energy drop is devastating. Nausea is incessant and a weight loss of 40 pounds makes you look like Maxine!

When your veins fail you get a mediport which, in my case led to a collapsed lung and a week at Health Park and 3 deep vein thrombosis resulting in daily tummy shots for 2 awful weeks to dissolve the clots. Mediport removal resulted in a tunneling wound – oh and, chemo makes healing impossible, seems you need platelets to heal and chemo murders platelets.

I have been so blessed to have a precious and priceless group of friends who ‘stepped up to the plate” to carry me through some very dark months. My friends, and vendor friends absolutely carried and prayed me through this ongoing journey. Hugs are priceless, sunrises are a daily blessing and friends and family are more precious than ever.

My latest exam revealed that, although the tumor is gone (and mid way in this journey I had a glorious 3 month remission) there are still malignant cells on the scar tissue caused by the radiation so it begins again…round 4 of chemo, but, I am going to survive this. A fine medical team and a flurry of Angels praying for me are saving my life, Praise God. A meteorite is taking me out, not cancer – I’m safely in God’s hands and He is doing a really fine job.

I am grateful to Al and Kathy Durrett for believing in me and allowing me to work from home during radiation and chemo treatment so I could continue my job for the Santini Marina Plaza events.

I want to help others avoid this cancer journey I’m on. If you have gastro issues, indigestion or acid reflux, ditch the Rolaids and Tums and schedule an upper GI – just do it!

It could save your life!

Bonnie Roberts