by Amber Recker
In 2010, when she was just 34 years old, Chelsa Demarchis heard four words she thought she’d never hear: You have breast cancer. At the time, her two boys were still babies, 2 years and 4 months old.
“I was nursing my youngest and we started having a difficult time,” Chelsa says. “I thought it was a blocked duct; so did my doctor at first.”
Chelsa had an ultrasound right away and then the whirlwind began. The doctor asked her to come back for a mammogram after the ultrasound and that’s when they discovered she had stage 3 breast cancer. She was having a hard time breast feeding because the tumor was a massive 6 centimeters. She started chemotherapy immediately and in early 2011, she had a mastectomy, followed by radiation treatment.
“I was completely blind-sided,” explains Chelsa. “Never in a million years did I expect this to happen to me and my family.”
Chelsa’s husband Dan took the news especially hard. He experienced an array of emotions, but mostly anger. “It took a lot of convincing on my part and from our family and friends before Dan believed I would be okay. He was so angry this would happen to me at such a young age with such young children,” Chelsa says.
Once the initial shock wore off, Chelsa, Dan and their family faced cancer head on. Dan’s parents moved to Fort Wayne to help with the children while Chelsa underwent treatment, and her mother and 3 sisters from Michigan took turns coming down to help, as well.
“We were shown incredible support from our family and friends,” Chelsa says. “My husband is a teacher at Canterbury, and that community was amazing. People prepared meals and brought them to us every night. They even showed up to watch the boys so we could enjoy some down time.”
Chelsa and Dan were open with their oldest son during the process and tried to explain it to him so he would understand. They told him cancer was like alien bugs attacking mommy’s body and the medicine she took attacked the bugs back. They also told him the medicine made her hair fall out.
“It was a big deal to me when I started losing my hair. I had thick, long curly hair. The night Dan helped me shave my head, our son walked in. I asked him if I looked pretty and he said ‘not today mommy,’” Chelsa relays, laughing at the memory. “It was an emotional moment, and he put a smile back on our faces.”
Last year, Chelsa organized a team of her family and friends to participate in Lapper. “It relieved a lot of stress knowing that Cancer Services was there for me during my cancer journey. When I needed questions answered, I simply had to call my Client Advocate. Just knowing that was enough sometimes,” she explains. “So participating in Lapper was a great way to help support the organization and also do something with my family and friends to acknowledge what we all went through with my diagnosis. I love the community feel of the event and can’t wait to participate in Lapper 2012.”
Today, Chelsa has reached the 6 month post-treatment mark and things look good. “You know, my son saved my life,” she says. “If we hadn’t found the tumor when we did, it may have been too late.”
If you’d like to join Chelsa and others at Lapper 2012, register today!
April 1, 2009, is the day life changed for Kara McKinney and her family. She received the news all women dread: “You have breast cancer.”
“I don’t remember much after hearing those words,” Kara says. “All I could think about was my children- three and one at the time. I was afraid they would never know their mother.”
Kara knew she had to fight. “I strapped on my seatbelt and started on this wild roller coaster ride. I cycled through all of the emotions…denial, fear, anger, sadness and finally acceptance,” she says. “And then, I found the biggest change in my journey. I gave it over to God and my inner soul started breathing again.”
Kara had a lumpectomy and fortunately, the cancer had not spread; however, she had to undergo chemotherapy. “I lost all of my hair and had side effects that I can’t even mention,” she explains. “It was hard.”
But Kara also had good days. She was able to bake a cake for both of her children’s birthdays during her treatment. And because of her husband’s strength and resolve to carry his family through this difficult time, Kara and her children were given a refuge in the backyard during her treatment, which he transformed for them into a playground.
“I am so grateful for Brad. I cannot begin to tell you how much he means to me,” Kara says. “He is my soul mate, through sickness and health.”
Kara is also grateful for the help she and her family received from Cancer Services. “My Client Advocate, Maureen, is an angel sent from God,” she says. “Not only did she provide emotional support and two wigs, she also helped me secure insurance for me and my children through Medicaid. She was relentless in her pursuit to open doors for me.”
Shortly after Kara was diagnosed with cancer, her husband’s company changed their policy and discontinued insurance coverage for dependents. “There’s no way we would have been able to pay for my treatment and regular doctor’s visits for my children,” she explains. “Maureen saved our lives.”
Today, Kara is done with the surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy and is starting to feel normal again. “I still have struggles,” she admits. “Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and wonder ‘who is that woman?’ I often joke with my husband that he has a new wife. But in all seriousness, cancer has changed me, mentally and physically, and that takes some getting used to.”
With each day Kara gets stronger. “Cancer provides unexpected blessings,” she says. “I have a new appreciation for faith, family and life. I am blessed.”
We would like to thank Kristin Christoffersen for donating $49 to us last week. Kristin, age nine, collected the money by going door-to-door. She hopes this money can help support people experiencing cancer in our community. Thanks for all of your hard work, Kristin!
Here Kristin is pictured with Peter, the advocate for her grandmother, Dorothy Carson.
by Gail Hamm, program director
“I strongly feel that the people at Cancer Services have done their best to make me feel supported and you all have kept in touch with me to make sure that I am ok. Thank you for reaching out to me when I didn’t reach out to you.” ~ A Cancer Services client
Clients say it better than I can. When you are diagnosed with cancer and do not know what to do next, call Cancer Services. A friendly, knowledgeable professional advocate is here to assist you.
Knowledge is power. Knowing what to expect before you travel the unknown paths of treatment and recovery can lessen the stress and help you heal faster. Dealing with financial issues, employment issues and day-to-day pressures is so much easier when these concerns are shared with a Cancer Services’ client advocate.
The first call to make after a diagnosis of cancer is: (260) 484-9560 or toll free (866) 484-9560
If you did not attend the nutrition seminar last week, “Healthy Eating for the Holidays,” you missed a real winner. Chris Moore, Registered Dietitian from Parkview Hospital, has presented this particular Fall event for several years. Scrumptious samples of healthy foods and Chris’s expertise make it a perennial hit. A new series of nutrition seminars will start in the Spring. Watch your Cancer Services calendar for dates and topics.
If you are having difficulty maintaining your weight, contact your physician for a referral to a dietitian, and contact your Client Advocate for additional information related to nutrition questions and solutions. If you‘d like a copy of the recipes Chris served, email firstname.lastname@example.org
by Gail Hamm, program director
I watched a webinar last week and the presenter talked about the Oz effect, as in The Wizard of Oz. You know the story. The characters traveled to Oz to meet the wizard hoping that he could solve their problems and give them what they needed- a way home, a heart, a brain, and courage. What the characters ultimately discovered is that the wizard was a sham and that he was unable to give them anything more than what they had come to him with.
They had the answers, the abilities, the strength and courage all along. It was inside each of them and they just had to discover that. When a person is diagnosed with cancer, she starts looking for the answers and the courage. Sometimes, out of the void, she is given the answers she needs. She finds superhuman strength to persevere. She endures experiences that a few weeks before would have seemed impossible. A cancer patient often finds within, more than would be thought possible.
When faced with a crisis, we discover our true selves. In addition, we discover our true friends and family. An additional source of strength and support is a Client Advocate from Cancer Services. Don’t hesitate to make that connection when you need it. When we don’t know if we have the strength within us, an understanding and knowledgeable friend can be a wonderful companion on the journey.
by Nimal Gernando, cancer survivor and Cancer Services client
One beautiful day in June 2008, I was attending a conference in Indianapolis and developed a slight and sudden pain in my lower abdomen. I tried to shrug it off, but it didn’t go away and actually got worse. I had a bad feeling about it, so I decided to head home. I called my wife on the way, and she suggested that I call the doctor. The doctor saw me right away, but he couldn’t find anything and suggested that I get a CAT scan. The scan showed a tumor blocking my colon, so I had a colonoscopy, which confirmed the tumor and I underwent surgery to remove it immediately. That was the beginning of a new life for me and one that has been humbling and challenging.
After my diagnosis, I found Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana, which has been a huge source of support and encouragement to me and my family. My Client Advocate, Brandon, has been there at every turn and has never hesitated to provide the information that I need. I have also been enjoying the massages provided through its new program, Caring Touch. The experience is so relaxing and comforting. I am thankful to Cancer Services for the support and services provided on my journey.
My life goes on and I am enjoying it to the fullest. I have learned to look on the bright side and have been counting my blessings. I have two boys: Nathan (8) and Nelig (7). My wife, Shanthinie, has been strong and is taking care of me and the two boys with much courage and perseverance. She is scared, yet she has been there to support me and take care of the family throughout this journey. We do not have family in the area, so she has found strength in the community, especially from our church family, which has rallied around us and offered encouragement and support. Life is a struggle but I am keeping my hope alive.