What works for one person surviving cancer won’t work for all, which is why we’re glad to share stories from people who’ve been there. For Beth Mills, time away from her new role as Woman with Breast Cancer has been critical: “People who I work with and my friends in general, they don’t understand the importance of normalcy when you’re going through this.”
During National Cancer Survivor Month, we’re sharing some of the stories of people who’ve leaned on Hancock Health during their journeys. A stunning 16.9 million cancer survivors live in the United States, and that number is expected to top 22 million by 2030. Earlier detection and improved treatments are shifting those rates, but we still have a long way to go. In the meantime, let’s celebrate a few of our survivors.
Callie Weber can keep up with her kids again.
Callie was four months pregnant with her second son when she discovered lumps in her neck that turned out to be cancer in her lymph nodes. She started treatment 10 days after her son was born in May 2016, and her next five years were a rollercoaster of remission and treatment. These days, “life is pretty much normal” for Callie.
The experience gave her a new appreciation of her kids’ energy, her family in general, and a nurse who has been by her side throughout the process. It also shifted her perspective on life.
“You’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” she said. “This diagnosis made me go about each day a little bit differently. I don’t know if there’s going to be another cancer diagnosis. You don’t know. You’re still going to have crap days, and your husband and kids are still going to annoy the mess out of you. But I try to go to bed every night in good spirits feeling that I lived the day well. I really try to do that.”
Paul Litten leans on family.
“Without family, what do you have, honestly?” Paul Litten married his wife, Linda, almost 60 years ago, and the couple raised five kids together. He gives her credit for giving him the strength to recover.
A bad fall sent Paul to the emergency room, and a CT scan found pancreatic cancer. He had enough on his hands recovering from the fall, but he also found the resolve to start treatment at Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center, where he says his team is “like family . . . because of the way they treated me. They’re all super.” Still, he has hard days where he’s more likely to sit in a chair and cry than keep up the busy schedule he takes comfort in.
“I would say that every cancer patient has their days when it’s good and bad,” he said.
Still, he’s back to driving a school bus: “I can’t do everything that I used to,” he said, “but thanks to the amazing people here, I still do what I can.”
Beth Mills looks with optimism toward the long road ahead.
For Beth, who discovered a hard lump in her breast during the already scary time when the COVID-19 pandemic was just beginning to spread, having seen her brother survive colon cancer 20 years earlier provided hope.
“He has been a rock to me,” she said, “and he’s given me lots of good advice. He told me my attitude would have a lot to do with my healing process. I believe I’m going to get better. I’m in good hands. This treatment is going to work, and I’m going to be in remission this time next year. So why dwell on the negative?”
Beth’s chemo treatment meant driving every other Wednesday to Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center, which is a mere eight minutes from her house and became a normal part of her routine that, while not something she would have chosen, also became soothing: “It’s like going to see part of your family,” she said, “and they’re going to take care of you.”