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Front Page » April 5, 2005 » Business Scene » Cancer Survivor Part X
Published 4,344 days ago

Cancer Survivor Part X

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Connie Witthun

On Jan. 7, 2004, I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor at Castleview Hospital and transported by ambulance to the Huntsman Cancer Institute. On Jan. 8, I underwent eight hours of brain surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible. The surgeon who performed the operation was Dr. Randy Jensen. I spent four days in the neurological intensive care unit and then was transferred to the rehab portion of the hospital under the care of Dr. Janet Balbierz. I spent three weeks doing physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and recovering from the surgery.

Around Jan. 20, I started doing radiation treatments five days a week under the care of Dr. Gordon Watson. I was released from the hospital Feb. 3, 2004, but I had to stay in Salt Lake until March 4 to continue radiation treatments. I started chemotherapy on March 18 under the care of Dr. Deborah Blumenthal.

I have five treatments a month, having received the last one on March 26. On April 18 I will start another treatment and then go back to Salt Lake City in May for another MRI. Depending on the outcome of the tests, I may be able to stop the chemo treatments.

Cancer is no stranger to our family. My mother died of lung cancer. My dad's sister died of brain cancer. I have cousins and others who have also been affected by this disease.

This is something that people think will never happen to them. It makes one think that this shouldn't be happening to me. Going to the store once was an easy task. My husband Richard, had to take over all the responsibilities. I just don't know what you would do without someone to help you.

The whole life change has been such a challenge. Results from the surgery have left me with partial paralysis in my right side leaving not much feeling. I'm left handed so that's not too bad. One of the hardest things is how I have been so limited in some areas. Driving, walking, reading and recognizing words have become challenges. My speech therapist, Jeff, has taught me a lot. I can pick out a lot of the words and can now write a letter, reading it is more difficult. I can go walking, someone else goes too just for safety. I can exercise and use the equipment without assistance. I've also started scrapbooking.

Because of my vision problem, I have help with cutting and gluing. I can vacuum, fold laundry, dust, and do some cooking. I can play some games on the computer, this helps to stimulate my mind.

I used to work at Four Corners Mental Health as a substance abuse counselor, and at Castle Dale Elementary for several years. I loved it, the kids were so fun. I'm able to go down to Four Corners once or twice a month to visit co-workers.

My doctors have been fantastic. My daughter has come and stayed with me. My sister and stepdaughter (who is also taking chemo), were at the hospital and have been by my side. My neighbors, Shirley, Becky, and Cali have been such a big help. My co-workers, my family (of six), and 10 grandchildren call and check on me regularly. I have such a great support system.

Cali has helped me a lot. You would think that most teenagers wouldn't want to spend their time coming to sit with someone who is sick. But Cali comes over at night and helps me. At Christmas time, she came over and helped me put up the tree and decorate it. Then she came back after Christmas to take down the tree and put it all away. She even grew her hair out to have it cut off to donate to Locks of Love in my honor.

If I had any advice to give you, it would be this, keep a positive attitude. Fight for your life! When someone offers help, let them. Don't let your pride get in the way. When you get feeling down or your attitude starts to change, you pop it back right away.

I was very independent. I'm still the same person as I was before, I just have different needs.

My family and friends would not allow me to be put into a nursing home. They have been so good and so helpful to me. God bless every one of you.

My first diagnosis was three to six months. I showed them!

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