The Ottumwa Courier

October 20, 2012

Cancer stories: Mother has strength and courage


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.


My name is Missy Smallwood, and I’m writing about my Mom, Geneva, who everyone calls “Ma” because she is such a wonderful person.

My Dad passed away Feb. 8 and then shortly after that, my mom told the family that she had breast cancer. What a shocker!

Mom hadn’t been to a doctor in over 40 years. She’s always been healthy. Mom took care of our dad while he was sick right up until the day he was gone. So what a surprise to hear now that Mom had breast cancer.

Come to find out, Mom knew something was wrong, but for many, many months, she had kept that a secret from us all because she wasn’t going to take a minute away from Dad for herself. That’s the caring and loving mother she is. Mom is always thinking of others before herself.

About a week passed, and we found ourselves at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The doctors were all so great with us. They said Mom had Stage 3 cancer. Mom had a “team” of doctors working with her. I’ll never forget the day — Friday morning, we were all in the room waiting for the doctors to come back in from her last exam and all three doctors said to be back on Monday (June 4) for her big surgery.

It all happened so fast, so soon. But the big day was about to be over. We packed up, went back to Ottumwa,and were back up to Mayo on Sunday.

The surgery was nine hours long; she came out of it like nothing ever happened. She was such a trooper! She had no fear whatsoever.

We gathered together that morning in the hotel and said a prayer. God answered all our prayers! She had so much strength and courage with her.

I want to thank our Pastor Bill and the church for all they have done for Mom and our family through all this.

The next morning by 10:30 a.m., they released Mom from the hospital, but we had to stay one more night in case something went wrong.

Everything went well. Better than to be expected. The doctors were amazed at how well she was. We got the OK to go home.

A few weeks later, Mom started chemo. She had a couple of days of being sick, but nothing too bad. She is down to one more chemo and then radiation.

What a journey she has traveled. I want her to know how much faith and strength she has shown all of us. We are so proud of her. We love you, Mom!

Missy Smallwood