The Ottumwa Courier

October 12, 2012

Still going strong after 15 years


OTTUMWA — Editor’s Note: The Courier asked cancer survivors and/or family members to share their stories during October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

A few people have written to tell of their experiences.

We thank all the people who participated. As many of you said, you want others to know about the experience and to always have hope.

Their stories will run often this month.

In spring of 1997, I was part of a study in Iowa City of women over 60 and their eating habits. We had to have a physical first to participate. A doctor examined me and then gave me an odd look and asked would I please excuse him, he wanted another doctor to look at my screen. I knew in my heart immediately they had found cancer. Yes, they confirmed it, and I came home and made an appointment with Dr. Pulaski. I did not want to go to Iowa City or Minnesota when we had great doctors here in Ottumwa.

On July 8, 1997, around mid-day, I received a phone call I answered, screamed and threw the phone across the room. My husband grabbed me, and I was crying so hard I could not speak and proceeded to run out the door and down to the creek.

We lived on a lovely acreage east of Ottumwa just one and a half miles from Agency. We called it our paradise on earth; we had horses, a sicilian donkey, “Mork & Mindy” (two ducks), Rebel (our neighbors’ rooster from across the road) and seven Shi Tzus. It was as my husband said: Janny Mae and her critters.

Finally, Ron got me to settle down, and I told him it was Dr. Pulaski. He said I had cancer and it was maligant. He was going on vacation but would operate on me as soon as he returned. You don’t know the feeling until it happens to you. Here I was, just 62, about to receive my first Social Security check, and I would be dead. I thought of leaving, hiding all kinds of horrible thoughts. I did not want my husband to suffer my loss.

On July 9, my husband’s birthday, we spent the day at Ottumwa Regional Hospital having all kinds of tests, etc. Then about July 19, they did my surgery.

They sent me home the same day with a tube in my side and my mind in a whirl. The hospital had called — a breast cancer recovery group “Bosom Buddies” and Mrs. Kesserling from the Eldon area came to talk to me and try to be my special recovery angel. An angel she was, and she helped me so much and helped me to understand I was not going to die and the group she belonged to would help me. I joined the group, and they were wonderful; we talked about anything anyone wanted to and laughed and cried together. There are a lot more of them now than when I joined, and they meet the second Saturday of the month at the church at Five Corners.

With the assurance and warmth of Dr. Amed and 38 radiation treatments under supervision of Dr. Rothfus, I am now a 15-year survivor. My husband later got cancer and had surgery in Des Moines and took his treatments under Dr. Rothfus. I can’t remember why there was no surgeon here that we got sent to Des Moines.

If you get cancer, please remember we have wonderful doctors and care here at home.

Now we are two people free of cancer, now only through the prayers and power of our Lord and Savior.

God Bless to all and remember it is hard but you can overcome; I DID.

Janice Kester