Cancer survivor Amy Wharton and Yampa Valley Medical Center Cancer Services Director Jan Fritz smile during an infusion treatment.
Steamboat Springs Cancer is a thief. It robs its victims of their health, their hair and, more often than not, the contents of their stomach after a chemotherapy treatment. Despite cancer’s best attempts to destroy, it inadvertently unleashes something beautiful. No matter how much cancer ravages the human body, it can’t destroy the human spirit.
More than 12 million Americans are fighting back against this dreaded disease and winning. Here in Northwest Colorado, Yampa Valley Medical Center helps more than 100 courageous patients wage their battles every year. This week, many of these patients celebrated National Cancer Survivors Day.
Hospital volunteers baked fresh cupcakes every day for the celebration. In between clinic appointments and chemotherapy treatments, patients found time to eat a small treat and share some of their sweeter experiences.
Lester Welch was diagnosed with lymphoma and esophageal cancer four years ago.
“I’ve found I work with a great bunch of people at Moffat County Road and Bridge,” Welch said. “When I’m at work, my co-workers keep an eye on me. Anytime I need to take time off, my bosses just let me go, no questions asked. They’ve also helped me financially.”
Jane Sacher learned she had colorectal cancer six months ago.
“I’ve had so many people come to the forefront and do so much for me; we haven’t had to cook since my diagnosis,” Sacher said with a laugh as she described the outpouring of love. “Having lived so many places, I’m on prayer lists across the country, and they are all praying hard.”
Amy Wharton described herself as one of the new kids in YVMC’s Infusion/Chemotherapy Center. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in March.
She has a long list of blessings that include: The Board of Directors at Yampa Valley Bank pitching in to pay for a cleaning service; her 11-year-old son’s lacrosse team wearing pink wristbands in her honor; almost a dozen friends of her two oldest boys shaving their heads on her first day of chemo; and one of her friend’s waxing and detailing her car while she was receiving treatment just so it might feel nice when she drove home.
Wharton said her cancer diagnosis has made her three boys much more sensitive, caring and aware.
“When I couldn’t lift my arms, my 17-year-old made the best ponytail, my 15-year-old did a really great job painting my toenails for me and my 11-year-old and I have had a role reversal. He crawls into my bed and reads me stories.”
National Cancer Survivors Day recognizes that life after a cancer diagnosis can be meaningful and productive. Cancer survivors take it one step further, YVMC Director of Cancer Services Jan Fritz said.
“I think they look at life a little bit different and they celebrate every day. Cancer changes your perspective in a good way,” she said.
No one knows that better than Jeanie Peterson. She’s been battling cancer since 1997.
“I guess it shows your mettle. It shows what you’re made of and what you can fight,” Peterson said. “I knew I could beat it, but I didn’t know how hard I could fight until I had cancer.”
Although these patients have four different types of cancer, live in different cities and come from different backgrounds, they all believe that there is power in survival and that cancer can be defeated.
Welch summed it all up: “You can’t mess around with cancer; you have to do everything and never give up. The conquering spirit is alive and well right here in this clinic.”
Melissa Phillips Boldman is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org