Stories of Perseverance: Chelsea Weiskerger

Each year leading a handful of those in the community going through a cancer journey themselves or with a loved one share their story.  These are the people the efforts of Pink Arrow help in the community.  They’re friends and neighbors.  You may not even know how cancer has touched them.

This series of stories are written by the person you will read about or by someone on their behalf.  We thank them for sharing their story and the courage to battle cancer in some way.

If you are interested in volunteering for any upcoming Pink Arrow events please visit these sign-ups and claim a spot or two.  Help sell shirts at Peptalk sign up here.  To help at Community Day on August 17 sign up here.  Volunteer to sell shirts on game day September 8 by signing up here.  And if you’re interested in signing up to donate blood on Community Day select your spot here.  

Photo courtesy of Heather Eveland and is used with permission.  You can visit her photography website and Facebook page for more information.

The following is from Chelsea Weiskerger.  She writes a letter to her mom and finds support at Gilda’s Club of Lowell for herself.

Dear Mom,

It’s been a year since you heard those words that everyone dreads… “You have cancer”. One operation, two rounds of radiation, three cancer doctors, and countless appointments later, the fight continues, and we are all so grateful for that. You have been nothing short of inspirational through the process, and our entire family is so proud of you!

The memory of the day that you got your diagnosis is still so clear in my mind. It was a warm, early July day. You were at home in Denver, and I was at school in East Lansing. I went to my office at MSU, hoping to get some work done for my graduate school research, but knowing that very little would get accomplished until I heard from you after your doctor’s appointment. When the call came, and you and Dad so bravely told me about the diagnosis and plan for treatment, it took all that I had not to break down on the phone. I knew what I had to do; I was on the next flight home because I wasn’t about to let you go through this without me.

The diagnosis was stage 4 lung cancer that had metastasized to the brain. Within the month that I was home, you went through surgery to remove the brain tumor, physical therapy to regain your strength, and one round of radiation. We were going to doctor’s appointments every day, sometimes more than once a day. It was clear that you were tired, but I’ll never forget what you told your radiation doctor when he talked about the treatment plan – “do what you have to do, I want to be back to normal.”

Your recovery from surgery and response to treatment was incredible to watch, even from 1,200 miles away. It was almost like you willed yourself to get better. Dad and I still joke about the day that you came home from the hospital after your brain surgery; we had to chase you around the house and force you to take it easy – you just wanted to get back to your normal day! You even came through the second round of radiation glowing and with all of your hair still on your head. And in December, we received a Christmas miracle – not only was the cancer under control, but it wasn’t active in your body anymore. Doctors use so much jargon when talking about cancer that it can be difficult to understand what it all means, but this was the best news that we could have received. We were lucky enough to be together during the holidays, and we celebrated the wonderful news while looking forward to a much better 2017.

Like any cancer journey, this one has not been without hiccups. In October, you found yourself in the hospital for dehydration after a bad reaction to your chemotherapy treatment left you without an appetite for two weeks. After that trip to the emergency room, you stopped your chemo treatment in order to regain your strength. It was a wake-up call to all of us, a reminder of the intense impacts that cancer treatment can have on the body.

For the first half of 2017, the brain and lung cancer have remained inactive, but we discovered a small tumor near your kidney in March. While this was not the best news, you tackled it just like you had before, telling the doctor “I have stuff to do, let’s get this treatment done so I can get on with my life!” You were lucky again, in that you have been able to take a chemo pill throughout your treatment, and not experience many of the side effects of traditional chemotherapy. In typical Mom fashion, you have powered through the ongoing chemo treatment and you are now “stable” – none of the tumors are changing.

It has been a year full of terrific highs and devastating lows, but the common factor has been your determination and strength. You are an absolute warrior, and I am so proud to call you my mother. Even though the fight is ongoing, it’s clear that you have what it takes to beat this diagnosis, and please know that you have the support of everyone around you, always.

But I know that you don’t need to be reminded of the support and strength that you have. Throughout the process, you have been worried about me and how I was dealing with the journey. The first few months were tough, especially when I had to return to Michigan for school in the fall. It tore me apart that I couldn’t be there to take care of you and help out around the house. Even tougher, though, was being so far away at school. When people would ask why I wasn’t acting like myself, I would tell them what was going on. Most people would react by saying that they were sorry to hear the news, or they would tell me a story about someone that they knew with cancer. While I appreciated the support, it all seemed generic… they were saying what they thought I needed to hear, because they didn’t truly know what it is like to directly deal with cancer. That made me feel very much alone, and the feeling of loneliness grew as time passed.

It wasn’t until November that I fully realized the toll that it was taking on me, and I recognized that I couldn’t continue to deal with it alone. Mom, you are so strong… you’re the one going through treatment, and yet I’m the one who needs support! I was extraordinarily fortunate to have found Gilda’s Club in Lowell. Their cancer support group has given me advice, kept my spirits up, and provided a community of people who are battling the same condition. Sometimes, going to Gilda’s Club is like going to therapy, it’s an outlet where I can say what I need to say and confront my emotions head-on and without judgement. Other times, I just take in the stories of those around me, appreciating that there is a group of people to support one another on this journey. Through my Gilda’s Club family and their stories and encouragement, I have found strength and inspiration. So, I know that you will never stop worrying about me, but I’m doing well; now it’s time to leave the worrying to me!

Cancer is not a joke and has undoubtedly turned our lives upside down, but your story, strength and positive attitude are so amazing. So Mom, with your spirit of positivity and strength in mind, I want to wish you a happy cancer-versary this July, in the hope that there will be many more cancer-versaries to celebrate in the future.

I love you so much and miss you every day,

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