Angela’s Cancer Story: Hey World, I’m Back! My City of Hope, Part 2
In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From His temple He heard my voice;
my cry came before Him, into His ears. Psalm 18:6
It conjures up awful feelings. It’s a devastating thought, and even more so, it is a devastating disease. For people like Angela, it is reality.
Angela is a cancer survivor. She is married and a mother of three children.
When I asked Angela, “How did it start for you?” she said, "I was active and working out. I started to develop a limp." That was April 2016 and in January 2017 Angela was diagnosed with having a tumor in her right leg. After further testing, it was confirmed. Angela had cancer.
In July of 2017, Angela traveled to the City of Hope, near Pasadena, California. She said, “They gave me mega doses of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was brutal. I was throwing up. I was hooked-up to a machine to filter blood and collect stem cells. They collected enough stem cells for two transplants, in case they needed more.
The next day they gave me back my stem cells.”
What was that like?
“Stem cells can rebuild in a new cancer free body. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, takes you up to death’s doorstep. Your entire immune system goes down to zero. Basically, on a cellular level, you die.
Stem cells start to bring back your system, then your immune system begins to rebuild itself. I was tired. I got a fever and it did not want to come down. I thought I was dying.
My assertion was, ‘I’m not going to make it. I was crying, even though I was on anti-anxiety meds.’”
Angela’s husband, Tony, said, “Let’s call your therapist.” The therapist did breathing therapy with Angela for 30-minutes over the phone. It helped Angela relax and her anxiety came down.
“I was at City of Hope for 18-days. Tony slept in the hotel, which Kaiser paid for.
During my recovery, I was able to stay in an apartment with Tony until I developed a fever and had to stay in the hospital.
When I finally went home, I felt like a zombie. I was on the couch for two weeks recovering and having withdrawals from all of the stem cell medications. I had no energy even to pick up the remote.
Tony took care of me.
I felt like I was never going to get better. Tony slept on the floor next to me. He was afraid something would happen to me; that I would fall and get hurt in the middle of the night.
One day, I woke up. I said, ‘I’m okay. I feel normal.’ It was a miracle.
I said, ‘Hey, world. I’m back!’"
Did you experience any anger?
“A little bit, but I heard God speaking to me. I did not spend a lot of time on self-pity. I didn’t want to die angry of resentment.
I remember when I was in the shower I would think, ‘What if it comes back?’ Still God said, 'I will take care of you then, too.'"
Why do you want to tell your story, Angela?
“Telling my story helps me heal. It helps other people. It’s my testimony of why God put me on this earth.
First, God gave me so much hope: my husband, his family, my Dad, my friends, my kids. Everyone encouraged me to keep going and it gave me hope.
I’m also grateful for advanced medicine. God created people to care for us and to give us medicine."
How has sharing your story given other people hope?
“I had a grim diagnosis because they said it’s treatable, however it’s incurable.
I was scared. I provide hope to others, because I am still here."
Are you in remission?
“I saw Dr. Fonsteca at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. He is the best in the world. Doctors are not allowed to say ‘cured.’ Dr. Fonsteca told me, ‘You fit the profile of what I would consider close to cured patients.’
My husband was ready to kiss the doctor!”
What’s next for you, Angela?
“I want to help people. My next move is to be a patient advocate, because I’ve learned to advocate for myself and I want to help others advocate for themselves, as well.
I have the ability to interpret research and I am good at finding resources.
I’m planning to further my education, become an advocate, and help other patients. I am in the process of filling out the multiple myeloma coach application. This is a year-long commitment that will give me the opportunity to share God with others. The fact is patients can be their own advocate for their disease.”
What resources would you recommend for patients diagnosed with myeloma cancer?
“Focus on the facts and seek out myeloma specialists. There are websites that list the specialists in the world. Actively ask many questions about everything. If it’s a medication, research it."
Angela, you have three children. Did you experience any challenges as a parent with cancer?
“Not being able to be fully present with my kids was hard, because I had to focus on being healthy. I felt selfish.”
What about your relationship with your husband?
“It has made us stronger, better. It brings life into perspective. I don’t take people for granted. I don’t get mad at little things any more. We are not on this earth forever.”
What advice would you give to parents who are going through cancer treatment right now?
“Cherish every moment, even if it means sitting on the couch with your kids next to you. Cherish the moments. Be love!”
Angela, as we get ready to close, I want you to share another blessing that happened to you during your cancer journey.
“I got married! I was with Tony, who was my boyfriend at the time. When I found out I had cancer we had hard conversations about this is where we are and what is going on. We talked about insurance. We talked about the fact that he would not be able to be with me during my time at City of Hope, since we were not married. This was real.
Tony proposed to me on his birthday and we got married on my birthday. Getting new stem cells was also a new birthday for me. For Tony it was his birthday of being clean and sober.
How can you not believe in God with all that?”
Any last words of advice?
“I really want to remind and encourage people, if you experience physical pain, be persistent with your doctor. Get the tests done. Never ignore pain in your body.”