Humor and Strength in the Battle Against Cancer

Cancer Survivors Day was earlier this month. The battle with cancer is very personal, and each individual approaches it their own unique way. The weapons two people supported by Mosaic brought to the fight against it included humor and grit.

For Phyllis House, a cancer survivor served by Mosaic in Grand Junction (Colorado), her sense of humor is part of her strength.

“She loves to joke around,” said her host home provider, Christina Aldaz. “One of her favorite things to do is joking around with people who she loves and cares about. She laughs a lot–-that’s what makes her strong.” 

It’s been more than seven years since Phyllis faced her diagnosis of stage three colon cancer. Her surgery and follow-up were a bit complicated. 

“Coming out of the surgery, she had a colostomy bag as a portion of her intestine was cut out,” Christina said. “It was temporary. She also went through chemotherapy for about a year. 

“The colostomy bag was probably the worst for her. She is allergic to adhesive tape, and we had a lot of irritation. We dealt with a lot of leaks from the colostomy bag, which meant we had constant showers and changing the bedding.”

The diagnosis scared her, but she was prepared to fight. She’d had surgery before, so that didn’t concern her. She questioned why she had cancer, but didn’t complain that she had it. And throughout the battle, Phyllis kept her sense of humor (Christina calls it “feistiness”) and had a great attitude. 

“She is very strong—she didn’t show any side effects,” Christina said. “She never complained that she wasn’t good. She was a very strong lady during the whole process and never complained that she was in pain.”

 

When asked how she feels today, Phyllis laughs and says, “I’m good. I don’t have cancer no more.”

Peggy Nolan is supported by Living Innovations, Mosaic’s affiliate in New England. Her sense of humor was a source of strength also.

“I told the doctor if they didn’t do a good job, they would get no paycheck and have nothing to eat,” Peggy said in describing her response to the cancer diagnosis. “I’m in the Nolan family. We fight, we are determined, and we are stubborn.”

Peggy was diagnosed last year with stage two colon cancer. She said cancer runs in her family, and one brother has had several surgeries for it. The diagnosis was scary to hear, Peggy said, and she was upset because she didn’t think she would get it. But from the start, she determined that cancer “would not win” because “that’s the way we are.”

Treatment for Peggy was simpler than Phyllis’s. “I had surgery and I didn’t have to go through chemotherapy,” she said.

The surgery removed all the cancer, but within two months, she had another scare. Doctors found a large mass on her ovary. Thankfully, the surgery showed it was only a cyst and not cancer.

Peggy credits Lee Sargent, her host home provider, and the Living Innovations staff for helping her get through it all, noting how often they’ve come to see her and check in.

The cancer helped spur a healthy change for Peggy, though. She’s now lost more than 100 pounds, and she’ll happily show you her “before” photos. 

“She’s gone through a lot,” Lee said, “and she’s doing really good.”

“Thanks to everyone who helped me,” Peggy said. 

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