Category: Stories of Hope

Stories of Hope are personal testimonials from clients about their cancer journey. These posts will show on the Share Your Story page and the Stories of Hope homepage slider.

Ashley’s Story

Ashley's story tells of her experience with cancer.

Stories of Hope: Ashley’s Story

I guess I will start the story of my cancer journey at the beginning. It was about a year ago, in September. I was the healthiest I have ever been – going to the gym every day, eating right, doing all the good stuff. One night while I was cooking dinner, I noticed a knot about the size of a ping pong ball by my collar bone and mentioned it to my fiancé. He could see it too. I made a telehealth doctor appointment and was told it was most likely allergies and to take Zyrtec.

It didn’t go away, so I went to urgent care and then my primary care doctor, who both also told me it was allergies. I had a regular OB/Gyn checkup appointment, and since three doctors had already told me it was just allergies, I had to work up the courage to mention the knot to the doctor. She sent off blood work that came back ‘funky’ and connected me to a surgeon. This led to a biopsy and referral to an oncologist, who diagnosed and staged my cancer as Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, bulky.

Ashley and Cory with their dogs.
Ashley and Cory with their dogs.

I was angry and scared after my diagnosis. I asked myself why I had wasted my time trying to be healthy and what good had I done by eating right instead of eating what I wanted. I thought I was a good person and wondered what I had done wrong to deserve cancer. I also was surprised at all the buildup before treatment actually started. I thought that treatment would start right after diagnosis, but I had a lot to learn. I had no idea what a ‘port’ was or how chemo might affect my fertility.

Finally, chemo started, and I waited to get really sick. I wasn’t – just really tired. It wasn’t all that bad but did get worse as it went on. I wish they had told me not to eat my favorite foods during treatment because now I don’t want to even see them anymore. There were bad side effects to the steroids, and I had radiation after the chemo. We were also house hunting during all this and had to decide whether to keep looking for a house. We decided to keep pushing forward and figure it out as we went rather than let cancer end my world.

“We decided to keep pushing forward and figure it out as we went rather than let cancer end my world.”

After treatment, my scans showed me to be cancer-free – no evidence of disease in my body. The doctors don’t say ‘cancer-free’ or ‘cured’ because it can come back, but I call myself ‘cancer-free.’ It seems like much longer than a year ago this all started, and I have felt out of control. I felt like a burden and was in a really dark place.

I can’t really say I am grateful for having cancer, but I am grateful for all I have learned and all the support I have received. I always had the same nurses for my treatments, and they were great. I have also had the support of Cancer Care Services. They were always warm and welcoming.

Even though most of the Cancer Care programs and activities had to be virtual due to Covid, I was able to participate in support groups and activities with people in my own age group (most of the people I met at treatment were 20, 30, 40 years older than me). Cancer Care made the Zoom meetings so much fun, and we were able to do outside yoga face-to-face and a painting class.

My fiancé did some of the things with me, and he appreciated being able to spend the time together. I know how much the support I received helped me, and now I want to use what I have learned to help others – especially people in my age group because there aren’t many of us.

I am grateful to be healthy again and to look at myself in the mirror and see me. I am the same person, but I do think more about what I think of myself instead of what others may think of me. I didn’t believe I would ever be in a place like this – where I would want to help others without feeling sorry for myself or angry, but I am! I want to give other people grace now that I can.

Transcribed by Jane Melms from Ashley’s video interview in September 2021.

You can support cancer survivors like Ashley through our monthly giving club- The Hope Collective – for just $25 a month! As a Hope Collective member, you ensure that everyone gets the help they deserve today.

Claudene’s Story

Claudene's Story - Claudene and her daughter sit together

Stories of Hope: Claudene’s Story

It was the year 2017 when I started to feel very tired all the time. I thought it was because I was pushing myself to do more at work. So when I renewed my insurance at work, I learned of the free mammogram program and made an appointment from there.

In April 2018, I took a mammogram and was contacted shortly afterward. I was given the diagnosis that every woman dreads the “C” word – Cancer. The cancer was found in my right breast. My shock was so severe that I couldn’t tell my family for two weeks. From there on, I didn’t know what to expect. I ran into what I call in my life a “bump.”

After hearing the news of my medical condition, although my family was as shocked as I was, they were also so very supportive. They began to help me out during my recovery in many different and convenient ways. My family and I didn’t have a lot of money, and we did a lot of praying for assistance and support. During one of my doctor’s visits, I was given a business card for Cancer Care Services. I made the call, and two days later, I received a call to come in for an interview. My daughter accompanied me to the interview, where I was informed that they could help me. The Lord answered my family’s prayers.

I had a certain day to start my treatment because I needed chemo and radiation. I didn’t know how to get the out-of-pocket money; we tried to get loans because we needed quite a bit of money for treatment. I called Cancer Care because I was a nervous wreck. I knew I needed help and didn’t know what I was going to do. I got a call back from Cancer Care, and they told me they had found a program that would pay my out-of-pocket. I tell you, I felt like a brand-new person that day because something just lifted off of me.

Cancer Care has done so many great and wonderful things for my family and me. They have provided financial and medical assistance and delivered delicious organic meals of my choice to my home so that I could have great healing meals. They also provided a great many other services such as:

A. Massage Therapy
B. Counseling Support
C. Transportation Support
D. Bible Classes
E. Survival Classes with Support and Activities
F. Cooking Classes

There are lots of fun activities for the whole family. Most of all, everyone there always has a big smile and is always ready to help in any way possible. Today I am doing very well. Thank God for my family and the Cancer Care Family for all the love and support that they still carry on today. Because of their support, I can stand proud and say I AM A CANCER SURVIVOR!

Cancer Care has taught me how to believe, have hope, and have faith not to give up. They have seasoned my life; just like cooking, you have to season it to get it right and keep working on it. They blessed me with the Cuisine for Healing. They bought me food, cards, and at Christmas time, they came knocking at my door with the little children to sing.

It is unbelievable how much Cancer Care has helped me. I have turned Cancer Care’s name to serval people, and they have had helped them. I do not mind telling anybody that Cancer Care is the number one caring organization, and they really do care.

Thank you, Cancer Care Services!
Claudene Sales

Day’s Story

Day's Story

Stories of Hope: Day’s Story

I’ve been teaching for over 30 years and love what I do. I love the energy from students, the challenges teens bring, and the resilience they have when faced with challenges. Their examples actually helped me through a challenge that came my way in 2014 – my diagnosis of cancer.

The words “you’ve got cancer” are not words anyone wants to hear. From the initial disbelief to the tests to the plan of treatment to the resulting effects of surgery, chemo, radiation…cancer wants to strip you of everything you are and have.

From the obvious (does my insurance cover this); to the scary (will I survive); from the practical (how will I continue to pay my bills); to the emotional (am I going to lose my hair?); to the past (my mother didn’t survive this disease); to the future (I have so many things I still want to do)… each part of the cancer journey taught me about my own strengths and weaknesses, and taught me the importance of examples that have been set for me.

I had the example of my mother, who never complained publicly even when she was in pain. I had the example of my dad, who dropped everything to be with her throughout her journey. I had the example of friends who made phone calls, sent cards, and more. I had the example of doctors who were there night and day. I had the example of people who were there behind the curtains just in case.

And I had my students. I had students who gave me grace when I was trying to work 3 days after chemo. I had students who told me my head looked GOOD bald (I still prefer the shaved look, actually!) I had students who shared their stories of family cancer experiences and let me know they cared. I had teenage boys who sent me teenage boy jokes on chemo day that made me laugh (yes, laugh. They WERE naughty, but you can’t help but laugh).

And then there are the organizations that are there to support you such as Cuisine for Healing, the Texas Oncology network, and Cancer Care Services. Cancer Care Services has been a lifeline for friends going through this, for programs for youth, and for ongoing assistance for those who struggle. I have participated in National Cancer Survivors Day – a huge party designed to get people’s minds off the reality of cancer and on the reality of LIVING.

It was someone at Cancer Care Services who explained to me that one-day past diagnosis, I was and am a survivor. The journey ahead wasn’t going to be pleasant (she explained) but it didn’t matter; I was a survivor. I know that I can pick up the phone today and ask for help, and they will be there in whatever way they can. Cancer Care Services helps you deal with cancer, they offer care, and they provide or locate services for all who ask.

If you look at the Cancer Care Services calendar, there is everything; faith activities, massages, survivor resources, kid and youth resources, cooking, movies; camps for children and youth, you name it; there is support.

A final thought. While I was walking the halls after radiation (day after day after day after day) I had the opportunity to be blessed by artwork created by students from a local school. This year I had an opportunity to support that aspect of the Cancer Care Services’ program by bidding on and winning two pieces of artwork that had personal and special meaning to me in my life journey.

Those pieces will grace my walls at school as a daily reminder of Cancer Care and the people who care. There is beauty even in cancer; I learned life is a bit more precious when you know you’ve got examples and support in place, and when you get up each day a survivor.

Nikki’s Story

Nikki's Story - Nikki is surrounded by her family.

Stories of Hope: Nikki’s Story

Our relationship with Cancer Care Services began shortly after my husband, David, was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in the summer of 2017. He was only 30 years old, and our entire world was turned upside down in an instant. Not only were we navigating treatment options, pain management, leave from work, huge financial changes, and the weight of the word “terminal,” but we had three children at home.

Our entire family has received support from Cancer Care, from play therapy for the kids to individual counseling for us. Even after David died, my family has continued to receive counseling services. My daughter loves her time with Miss Kim and cherishes their relationship. I enthusiastically recommend Cancer Care any chance I get, because they have made our walk so much easier. We know that we can reach out to them for support or for resources, and we are so thankful that Cancer Care Services exists to support patients and families.

-Nikki Belshe

Shandreka’s Story

Shandreka's Story

Stories of Hope: Shandreka’s Story

In August of 2016, I had recently lost my job, and our money was extremely tight. All of my energy was focused on finding a new job when my husband, Michale, was diagnosed with stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the head and neck. We had no idea what to do or where to go for help. Like so many who hear a diagnosis like this, we were afraid that we couldn’t get the care needed for my husband to fight and survive this. Fortunately, he still had his insurance, and we were able to see an oncologist. But I still worried about what was ahead; how many appointments, medications, and treatments?

At our first appointment with the oncologist, the staff gave me a stack of paper – pages and pages to fill out and sign. The last form asked if I needed assistance with information, guidance, or any financial help. Of course, my first thought was that there was no way that we would get any help, but I filled it out anyway and gave it back.

I was so surprised when the very next day, I got a call from Margaritta, a staff social worker at Cancer Care Services. (She probably doesn’t know this, but right before she called, I was crying alone in my room – not knowing if I was going to lose my mind and my husband of 20 years… I was feeling so much stress.) One of the first things she said to me was to ask if I was ok. I thought that was a little weird because I wasn’t the one with cancer and because no one else had asked me how I was doing.

Somehow, though, I think she knew I wasn’t ok, and she started feeding me with information. She got me in touch with people like Caryn, one of their Registered Dietitians and Certified Specialists in Oncology Nutrition, who would help me understand the special nutrition needs Michale would have and what I should do to help him stay nourished.

And then – help started flooding in from everywhere! There was a great help with the medical side of things for Michale and me, and there were things to help us cope with the emotional side of things, too. We got to do things together as a couple and as a family– which was really important to me because I wasn’t just a wife and caregiver; I was still a mother of two also! From going to baseball games and couples dinners to meeting new friends who could relate to us because they’d been on a cancer journey too, we were able to maintain a little bit of normal in our home life.

Because of the help and information we received through Cancer Care Services, our family survived this. Thank you, Cancer Care Services!

Karen’s Story

Karen's Story

Stories of Hope: Karen’s Story

Cancer Care Services was a tremendous resource when my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She was 40 years old and had stage 2 breast cancer. Prior to her diagnosis, there was no history of cancer in our family.

When you hear the word cancer, you immediately have a ton of questions. How much time is left? Is it treatable? What are my options? What will it cost? We needed some guidance on how to navigate treatment. My knowledge was so limited about cancer and treatments and even how to comfort her through this scary time.

I was able to research online and found a Spanish support group at Cancer Care that could help answer some questions. At first, my mom refused to attend the support group because she thought it would be sad and depressing. It was actually the opposite.

My mom had a double mastectomy shortly prior to attending the first support group meeting at Cancer Care. The women and men in the meeting provided the comfort and encouragement she needed. She was able to hear testimonies from survivors and share her concerns with people who completely understood. Cancer Care offered my mom the kind of emotional support that no one else could. That’s not all Cancer Care Services did for her!

The financial burden that cancer adds to a family that is already struggling financially is stressful and almost unbearable. Cancer Care was able to help with my mom’s medical treatment expenses, such as the Cobra premiums and co-pays for doctor’s visits. Cancer Care also paid for my mom’s lymphedema sleeve after the insurance company called this a cosmetic sleeve and refused to cover the cost.

Cancer Care helped cover our medical needs and even helped my mom get a wig at a Look Good, Feel Good events that helped her esteem and confidence while going through cancer. Cancer Care was there to provide emotional support, financial support, and improve the overall well-being of our family. Cancer Care Services cared for our family during the most difficult times, which is why I love being able to give back in every way that I can.

Bailey’s Story

Bailey's Story - Bailey is with her husband.

Stories of Hope: Bailey’s Story

My name is Bailey McLeod, and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative during my senior year of college at 21-years-old. Although I have no family history of breast cancer, when I felt it, I knew. It was a very tiny lump, only 7mm in diameter, but I knew in my gut that it didn’t belong in my body.

I didn’t have an OBGYN at the time, so I spent the next day desperately trying to find a physician who would see me and investigate it further. I was turned down by 5 offices before someone agreed to see me for my symptom. A doctor’s visit turned into an ultrasound, which turned into a mammogram, and finally turned into a biopsy. On February 12, 2016, one week after finding my lump, I was diagnosed. Naturally, my entire family was in shock. I asked to be referred to UT Southwestern in Dallas, and from there we got the ball rolling.

First things first, we wanted to get genetic testing done to find out if I had a genetic mutation that made me more likely to develop breast cancer, such as with the BRCA gene. As it turns out, I was negative for any mutations, which was a bittersweet discovery because although I really wanted an answer as to why I got breast cancer so young, if I had been positive that meant I could pass it on to my children. It would also make me more likely to develop ovarian cancer, which would ultimately lead to a full hysterectomy.

A couple of weeks later, it was time for surgery. I decided to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction. Two weeks after that, I started the egg preservation process. Although I found my cancer in its early stages, it was very aggressive, and therefore I was advised to do eight rounds of bi-weekly chemotherapy. Chemo is known to damage your reproductive system, and my being in child-bearing years, it was pertinent that I have a backup plan for my desire to one day be a mother. The entire process took about two weeks and we retrieved 36 eggs, 21 of which were mature enough to freeze and store. A few days later, I started chemotherapy.

I want to mention, throughout all this, I was still attending my classes as much as I could. I was grateful to have professors and a wonderful advisor who worked with me to ensure I was able to graduate that May, which I’m proud to say I did. On July 21, 2016, I completed my eighth round of chemo AND got engaged to my boyfriend at the time. We had been dating for two years when I was diagnosed, and he was my rock throughout the whole thing. A few weeks later, I had my final reconstruction surgery. I was done! Or so I thought…

After finishing treatment, I thought I would be able to close that chapter and move on. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when you go through something as traumatic as cancer. Throughout my entire experience, I felt very isolated. Although I had an amazing support team, I didn’t personally know anyone my age who had been through what I had been through. I felt like I had so many emotions bottled up inside me that I desperately wanted to share with someone who truly understood.

Through Cancer Care Services, I learned of two organizations that changed my life: The Young Survival Coalition and The Fort Worth Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Coalition. YSC has been an amazing outlet for me to connect with other young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40. FWAYA has allowed me to meet different groups of young people diagnosed with ANY type of cancer.

If it weren’t for Cancer Care Services I would have never been introduced to these two amazing establishments. Meeting so many people to who I can relate has truly helped me to digress from my negative feelings towards cancer and has helped me to move on and live a happier life.

Marisol’s Story

Marisol's Story - Marisol Nunez and John Mosman are smilling at the camera.

Stories of Hope: Marisol’s Story

I was diagnosed with neuroblastoma as a toddler. I was tested with chemo, radiation, immunotherapy, and photon radiation. From the treatments, I got secondary leukemia, heart damage, ITP, anemia, kidney damage, bone and joint damage, a lazy eye, hearing damage, and many other complications. In my early 20’s I relapsed with leukemia. I never wanted to participate in any events and chose not to disclose my previous medical history.

After 5 years of marriage, my husband and I decided to seek a fertility specialist without success. A year later I became pregnant and went against medical advice and kept the pregnancy. It was extremely difficult and the delivery was worst. My child and I almost lost our lives. I was also told that I had a concerning MRI and continuous bleeding post-delivery. I returned to medical treatment where I was informed I had low-grade cancer in my center nervous system. It was a hard diagnosis, but being more actively involved in Cancer Care Services and a part of social groups has made the diagnosis easier.

I participated in the Camp Gold Retreat. It was my first time participating in an AYA (Adolescent and Young Adult) event. I was beyond excited and amazed at the close-knit group of young adults that had overcome so much. I also participated in the Chroma Services Ladies Night Out makeover. I loved the pampering! In June of 2018, my family and I attended the National Cancer Survivors Day event. It was an emotional celebration. I thank Cancer Care Services for the services and events I and my family have been able to participate in!

Theophilus’ Story

Theophilus' Story - Theophilus is surrounded by his family.

Stories of Hope: Theophilus’ Story

In February 2017, I was diagnosed with Stage IVB Right Maxillary Sinonasal Adenocarcinoma. My name is Theophilus Sackey and my date of birth is October 17, 1968. The news was very devastating to the say the least because cancer is like a warrant and very unpredictable with prognosis. The very difficult aspect of the situation was the fact that I did not have health insurance.

God being so good JPS Health Network agreed to perform the on humanitarian grounds to save my life.

After enduring a seventeen hours surgery my body was like a car that has been rebuilt. I was on feeding tube, had to learn how walk again, eat through the mouth and how to talk. In fact when I woke up at ICU and family members around me were all in shock of how I looked like some friends even had little hope of me making it back home.

A social worker at JPS Health Network introduced me to Cancer Care Services for my nutrition since I was on feeding tube but I received more than just nutrition. James Earl took care of me when I came over to the office. James took time to take me through some questionnaire and explain all the possibilities and the difficulties that can be associated with life after cancer survival and prayed for me.

I was received nutrition free of charge for six months before I started eating through my mouth. In December 2017, I needed a pet scan taken at cost of $780.00 and again Cancer Care Services took care of the cost for me.

I was not the only person that was taken care of. My children got their school supplies, we got groceries for our Thanksgiving meal, our Christmas tree was filled with gifts for my three children, my wife and myself and again had groceries for our Christmas meal because Cancer Care Services raised money to care of us.

I have had peace of mind to live and enjoy life after I was declared cancer free on August 2017. In January of 2018, I was invited for a retreat and it was a life changing experience to see people have survived and those who are still going treatment to share their stories and all the activities that went on that was great.

I want to end by extending my appreciation to the whole staff of the organization for your dedication to help alleviate the difficulties that come with cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival. I pray that one day I would be strong enough to work and be a donor to the organization to help other people enjoy the services I had.

Pete’s Story

Pete's Story - Pete and his family.

Stories of Hope: Pete’s Story

What programs/activities did you use from Cancer Care Services?
I participated in the REEL fishing and the Christmas/ New Years’ dinner. I enjoyed the aromatherapy and use it to sleep. I have an interest in food prep, massage, stretching, and meditation.

How did you initially hear about Cancer Care Services?
They sent me an invite to the fishing event at the Boy Scouts camp.

Where would you be today without Cancer Care Services?
Well, probably the relationship with wife and daughter would be more difficult. I think it gave a bigger perspective on my family what I was going through and made us closer.

What was the best thing Cancer Care Services did/is doing for you?
Giving me a sense of gratitude and appreciation of other people caring about this disease and giving me hope.

When I was diagnosed it was a surreal experience. I thought at first “why me” since I was just getting recovered from a serious motorcycle accident on 2/8/15. I was in the hospital in ICU for 3 weeks and in the hospital for a month. I was off work for 3 months. Thank God I worked for a good company that paid me through this time and also donated money to offset my medical expense and I survived.

As I said “why me” and then I thought “why not me.” I think of all the young children that have had to endure this at the beginning of their lives that should be enjoying it but don’t have that opportunity and in many cases die from it. I had support from my wife and daughter and my co-workers. Also from friends and family.

I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer and the doctors and staff gave me a lot of support from Texas Oncology. I had a 12” section of my Colon removed and had to be hooked to an ileostomy bag for a year. I went through two terms of Chemotherapy 7 months total and radiation.

Not to mention the totally dead feeling I felt every day, The ill-feeling, the numbness on my hands and feet, my skin peeling, not being able to eat. I would get sores in my mouth so bad I could barely swallow. As soon as I came home from work I would go to bed. Yes, I worked through this whole time missing only 1 day. I thought it was the best thing I could do rather than lay in bed and feel depressed. There were days I could barely walk and the miserable times of draining and changing the ileostomy bag.

Everything involved with cancer I would not wish on anyone, and I have a new sense of compassion toward anyone who goes through it that are survivors and God’s grace for those who did not make it through but kept on fighting till the end. I lost my mother to this disease in December of last year and also four friends.

But for anyone that goes through this, I tell them don’t give up don’t ever give up. I have just gotten a clean bill of health two months ago and am currently cancer-free. So I will always have hope and strength to take on this disease and never stop fighting. So now I say “why me”, but “why not me.” So don’t stop believing.