Stephanie Lex, Stage IIIB Patient/Survivor
I was a month shy of my 41st birthday and my 1st wedding anniversary when I was diagnosed. I was absolutely shocked! I’ve always been active and eaten well, and there is NO family history of cancer, so I didn’t know how this could possibly happen to me!
I’ve been a flight attendant since 2001. My job requires me to be away from home for days at a time, and can sometimes include pretty long days. I absolutely love flying, so having to be off work during my treatment was pretty rough. I would hear about other cancer patients going to work while having radiation or during chemo, but I was “grounded.”
My treatment started with 26 days of radiation along with oral chemo (Xeloda). I won’t lie, I hated it! I was so, so tired, and I lived on rice, saltines, bananas and peanut butter for five weeks. Every once in a while, some grilled chicken. It sounds crazy, but KFC was a lifesaver for us that summer. My husband loves the crispy chicken, and the grilled chicken with a little bit of mashed potatoes was perfect for me, and neither of us had to cook.
Radiation was followed by a colectomy. I did not have to have an ostomy, which I still feel pretty lucky about! I couldn’t believe I only had to spend three nights in the hospital. We actually asked if we could take our patient care assistant home with us, she was so nice! My chemo port was placed in my chest during my surgery, 2-for-1!
About six weeks after surgery, I started chemo. I had chemo every other week, and I would bring it home for 48 hours. I remember being so scared on my first day, mostly from just not knowing what to expect. The nurse could not have been more patient and kind, and she made me feel so much better. Chemo wasn’t easy, but I got through it with a lot of support from family and friends, especially my husband.
My husband was amazing throughout the entire process. He let me cry, he made me laugh, he called friends and asked them to come over when I was too afraid to ask for myself. He offered to give me an enema the morning of my surgery. I politely declined the offer! On Jan. 13, 2012, I finished my last round of chemo, with my husband and my dad with me. As exhausted as I was, it was a great feeling, and I’ll never forget it.
Since then, I’ve been diligent about getting my colonoscopies, and other screenings. I’ve completed a few 5Ks and mud runs, and I still love my job as a flight attendant. Surviving cancer definitely changed my perspective about even the crankiest customers. For one, I just never know what’s going on in their lives. Second, I know that I can handle so much more than I ever thought possible, so if they want to be cranky, so what? I’ve seen worse!
What One Million Strong Means to Stephanie
I want to help people who are going through what I’ve gone through, and I want to be an advocate for screenings. People seem to be so afraid of a colonoscopy, but I know it’s really no big deal! I always tell people; it’s like taking a really great nap!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When it comes to your health, there truly are no stupid questions! I found it extremely helpful to keep a journal of questions that came up between doctor appointments, so that I wouldn’t have to worry about forgetting.
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