Petersburg, West Virginia is a small town in the eastern panhandle with one stoplight and where everybody has some type of connection or recognition to everybody. I travel to this area at least three times annually for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and Independence Day. Petersburg is not a vacation spot my parents, sister, and I go to on the holidays, it is where my grandparents reside in their beautiful two story brick home they built. I have always enjoyed visiting my grandparents and the time spent together is special.
The time spent with my grandma has been particularly special this past year. In September of 2014, my grandma, who I call Grammy, was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer after having a biopsy. Her journey so far has taught me to cherish the memories made and time spent with family. My parents received the news of my Grammy’s diagnosis in the beginning of October. My sister and I’s birthdays are both in the second week of October; my parents wanted us to enjoy our birthdays, so they waited until after our birthdays to break the news to us.
I remember the moment my parents told me Grammy has breast cancer. I was in a cheerful mood from something that happened previously that day. While I was walking through my kitchen, my parents stopped me with a worried look on their faces. My mind began to race and I thought of every possible thing that could’ve happened, and Grammy having cancer was not one of them. When they finally told me the unpleasant information, I did not cry right then. I froze in shock and all the memories I have had with her ran through my mind and my heart started racing.
During the conversation, I did not show much emotion towards my parents. I went to my room and sat on my bed staring into an empty void thinking of all the possibilities and challenges Grammy may face with her cancer. My eyes began to water and a few tears rolled down my face. I then decided to terminate my tears and sadness and began to think of the challenges she faced and conquered. I thought surely if she could get through recovery for different surgeries and illnesses, she could kick cancer’s butt as well.
In October, Grammy had a double mastectomy and had fifteen lymph nodes removed from the right side, eight of which were cancerous. In November, before her Chemo treatments she had a power port surgically implanted in her chest for the Chemo injections. She began her Chemo treatments on December 1 and after sixteen treatments, she ended in May. Her power port was removed on May 26, 2015. She did exceptionally well with her treatments, without any major medical emergencies or complications.
When she got so far along in her treatments, her hair began to thin and fall out. One day she made the decision to go ahead and get it shaved. My grandpa, or Pappy as I call him, drove Grammy to a barber of whom they were friends with. Grammy sat in the chair and watched as her hair fell to the ground in thin chunks. She was looking in the mirror at her newly found bald head, when she turned around and saw Pappy sitting in the same chair with the sheet of cloth covering his body, waiting for his head to be shaved.
Grammy did not know he and the barber were also planning to shave his head and became emotional at his action. Pappy’s decision to shave his head shows he is fighting the battle with her. Grammy was scheduled to start her radiation treatments in June but she talked to the doctor and decided to wait until after our family trip to Virginia Beach in June. She always enjoys our trip to the beach because she gets to spend time with both her children and her four grandchildren, and cherishes every moment.
When our trip was over, she began her radiation treatments on the last day of July. Her 25 treatments left an area on her chest that resembled sunburn. She did well with these treatments also, only having a few days where she felt ill. When she finished her treatments on August 1st my family sent her an arrangement of bright and cheerful flowers with an attached note that explained how we were proud of her journey to recovery. I am thankful for the relationship my family has with God because He has definitely supported Grammy through her diagnosis and recovery.
I am incredibly appreciative to continue to visit the small town of Petersburg, West Virginia and see my grandma every time. Grammy’s battle to fight cancer has taught me the importance of making every moment with friends and family count. I never expected to receive the news of my Grammy having stage three breast cancer but the experience has been life changing. Through life’s struggles, it is important to have a family that will stay together and face the problem head on. Even though her cancer is not completely treated, she is a survivor and the journey continues.