Monday, February 13, 2012



I was walking to lose weight, I didn't have alot to lose.  I began May 16th, 1998.  I, also, decided to
quit smoking.  I had smoked for years, not heavy, but... I did smoke.

I had begun chewing the Nicotine chewing gum, it was working.  For several weeks I hadn't smoked and realized not smoking and walking... I should feel wonderful.  I always felt wonderful whenever I
had walked in the past.  I began taking my pulse and it was staying very high.. I knew something was wrong... but, what?

I kept walking, soon I had begun coughing.  I thought coughing was because of an allergy to something in the air.  The coughing began not long after I quit smoking.  It was a light, soft cough... nothing to be alarmed about.

In June, I noticed that I had begun to feel weak.  I walked across the parking lot to go into Walmart, only to feel like I couldn't make it any farther.  Inside, I went to the blood pressure booth to take my blood pressure, pulse.  My pulse was up to 92, my blood pressure never alarmed me.  My pulse did...
I knew something was wrong......

My cough became severe, and I constantly coughed.  Skip was transportation fleet manager at a local company in Raleigh, NC.  Sometimes he drove a truck when drivers were out.  He was gone alot but, he began to notice my cough, he noticed my weight loss and would ask me if I ate while he was gone.  I told him I did.

My cousin, Jimmy, had come from Arizona to stay with us.  He was there throughout the time I became deathly ill.... he came while I was in  'good health' and watched as I changed quickly over a matter of several weeks.  He 'sort of' watched out for me while Skip was working long hours.

I began to stay very cold in 100 degree weather... I would lay down in the bedroom without the air-conditioner, covered under many blankets.  I was so cold, I was sinking into a darkness.  I can remember in the darkness that my skin itched.  I itched all over, constantly.

In that darkness, I would hear Skip's voice asking me if I had eaten, and such things.  I would try my best to act like I was okay. 

I remember one day after my shower I was standing in the bedroom putting on a nightgown, I was so weak.  Skip walked in and saw me... I saw his eyes widen in horror.  At first, I didn't want to ask him why he had such an expression.  I did ask.... he said he couldn't believe how quickly I'd lost so much weight.  I was too sick to notice.  When he had been seeing me was at night time when I was in bed, my nightgowns were long and roomy, he didn't see my weight loss.

Skip had made appointments with several doctors, one a specialist.   I had begun to talk in a whisper, it
would take my breath if I spoke long.

I remember taking my showers, the steam would take what little breath I had.. away.  One day the steam made me lose my breath, I began crying for Skip to help me.  He was just outside the door and heard me.  I was so weak, I was dying.

My journey was just beginning.... I almost didn't live to take it.  Over time with the specialist and tests at Rex Hospital in Raleigh, NC...... no one could diagnose what was wrong with me.  Dr. Griffith, my specialist, thought it was Sarcodosis at first.  I had to go have a fine needle aspiration.  My breath would barely lift the little ball in the spirometer.

The fine needle aspiration was horrible.  I laid on my stomach on the bed while the doctor took a long fine needle, stuck it into my back to a mass that was on the outside of my left lung.  The woman doctor who performed it became very nervous, knowing she was hurting me.  She had to get someone else to come to finish it.

Later, after the procedure, I was taken to x-ray and as soon as the x-ray was taken, the nurse hurriedly made me lay down!  I knew something was wrong... I asked what.  My left lung had collapsed.  The long needle had caused that to happen when the woman was trying to get some of the mass to send off to be biopsied.

On July 13, 1998... I was scheduled to have a thoracotomy on my left lung.... Dr. Robert Peyton did my surgery.  He was a heart/thoracic surgeon.  The huge mass was laying on the outside of my left lung, resting against my heart.

I was crying though I didn't know it was 'me' crying.  I was in darkness and had just begun to open my eyes.  Somehow I was sitting up in a chair in the unit.  I could barely see Skip and the nurse who was with me.  The pain, oh my God, the pain in my chest.

I could hear someone walk heavily into the room and I could sense a big person more than see her.  She said her name was Dr. Deutsch in a loud, unfriendly voice.  What she said next I could actually 'see in my mind in giant letters'.  "YOU HAVE CANCER!  I DON'T KNOW IF YOU'LL SURVIVE IT OR NOT!"  It seemed like she screamed this so loud to me to make sure I heard her.

I couldn't see her for the fog in my head, the medicines, the surgery had done this to me. I do remember I began crying, I could see and feel Skip's hand on my shoulder.  The nurse didn't like how the doctor had come in to tell me what was wrong.... the doctor abruptly left the room 'after she did her job'.

I didn't come out of this 'dark' world for many months.  I stayed in a fog from the many medicines I had to take.  I fought taking the pain medicines, afraid I'd become addicted.  That made my oncologist angry at me ... she couldn't understand that I'd come from 'family' who did take 'medicines'.... I was so afraid to even 'begin'.

Needless to say.... I suffered badly from all the pain in my chest from the surgery.  I suffer from the pain even now, that will be there's my tradeoff to live.  Nerves were severed and such, causing
pain for 'always'.  I cope with it to this day..... though I talk, laugh.... the pain is 'always there'.

I had to go through chemotherapy for months.  I had CT scans often to see if the non-Hodgkins lymphoma had come back.  Later it did come back  inside my right lung.  I had to have a second thorocotomy surgery on my right lung one year later... July 16, 1999.

I went through chemotherapy for months once again.  I will write at another date about the chemotherapy, about losing my beautiful, long hair.... and losing it a second time.  So many different roads I traveled on.... all from having non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Looking back, I can see (I know this sounds so strange with all I survived).... that getting so deathly ill..... 'saved my life'.  I never-ever  remembered smoking a cigarette after I quit May 16, 1998.... I forgot that I'd ever smoked.  I forgot that I'd done many things having to learn to do them again through those three years.  I will write about those experiences later in time.

I will also, write about how people I'd always known would turn and go the opposite way when they'd see us.... once they had learned I had cancer, and almost died.  Some of those people are dead now... ironic, isn't it?  These are some of the people who wouldn't meet my eyes, turn and go the opposite way.

I hope that you wouldn't do that when you learn someone has been so sick... they may not be able to talk to you... if they can see you, they can 'read you' .... with their eyes.  The pain is so great, no one knows unless... they've been on this path.  It hurts so bad.  It only makes things worse, it stays in that sick person's mind affecting their well-being.

I remember Skip always trying to keep me near him, afraid something would happen to me.  He'd talk me into walking into the supermarket or a store sometimes... I remember how it hurt my heart when people that always 'thought so much of me before'...avoided my eyes... and turned away.  I still see some people now... who did that.

I don't bother to do anything more than smile brightly and have a false, cheerful voice that greets them.  I go my way... now, I'm the one who 'wants to get away as soon as possible'.  But.... I know if I saw them as sick as I was, I would go right to them.... and care...  even knowing they avoided my eyes, and turned away from me.  I would for-real care with my heart.

I have non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  I live in pain everyday of my life from the two thoracotomy surgeries, not the non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  I only complain when some days are worse but... I wouldn't trade the pain for anything.  I'm so grateful to be alive, I want to live.

I have a history of congested heart failure, the drug adriamycin affected my heart during chemotherapy.  That is another tradeoff to live.... I am grateful... sounds strange, doesn't it?

People who smoke know that it's next to impossible to quit smoking.  This will sound strange, when I quit smoking.... it began to help set off a chain of events that 'while I was dying'.... quitting smoking 'saved my life'.  That does sound strange, also... but, it's true.

I will mention one more thing before I finish my story this morning... when I began the cough, Skip took me to an urgent care office in Garner, NC.  I thank God for that urgent care doctor.  We were thinking maybe I had pneumonia... again, instead of  'just allergies'.

The doctor did x-rays on the premise... I'll never forget for the first time in my life feeling alarm, real alarm that something 'bad'... was really wrong.

He said "Mr. and Mrs. Bates, I don't like what I see... there seems to be a big mass of dead cells on the outside of her left lung.  He urged us to go to a specialist as soon as possible.  I'll never forget how kind he was.  I do remember maybe a year later... I called back to thank them for saving my life, to let that doctor know he was right.  He didn't know it, nor did I... but, he was the first of many angels on my new path in my life.


  1. I am so sorry you had to go through so much! You know I am always here/there for you. You have all my numbers all you have to do is call. I am glad you fought back and are here with us today. I love you my friend! Love, Ms. Nancy

  2. They say God doesn't give you more than you can bear, well if this is the case I think he has been extremly unkind to you. You have been through so much in you life yet you still have a gracious forgiving soul and you are one amazing and powerful woman. I only wish I could be half the woman you are.
    ♥ Nannie Gee