After The Diagnosis
By Tamara L. Dean, PrayHers
"It's Just Cancer"
Darshonnia Lee, Survivor
It was six o’clock on a Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed after an already very busy weekend. Why? To join a sea of excited, loud, and pumped up individuals for a 5k run/walk to raise awareness, and funds for pancreatic research.
November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month, so on November 6th hundreds of people gathered in downtown Dallas, TX decked out in everything purple: T-shirts, wigs, tutus, even faces were painted purple. Many carried signs honoring the names of loved ones, and banners that read, Wage hope.
So, who was the cause of me getting out of my comfy bed so early on a Sunday morning? It was one of my dear, sweet sister-friends, Darshonnia Lee, a two-year survivor of pancreatic cancer. For her it was well worth it.
Prior to the walk I sat down with my friend to get her story, hoping to bring awareness and encouragement to those who might be in a similar battle. Pancreatic Cancer is the third-leading cause of death when it comes to cancer. It was what took the life of Apple Computer’s co-founder, Steve Jobs. Only 8% diagnosed survive past five years. But, that doesn’t seem to bother Darshonnia Lee. As a matter-of-fact when I sat down to chat with her she said, with a huge smile on her face and hope in her voice, “It’s just cancer.” Waiving it off as if it was powerless compared to her faith in God. Every time we meet up she is smiling, upbeat, and positive. She makes you wonder if she ever has a bad day.
Well, on May 23, 2014 Darshonnia not only had a bad day she had a day that would alter the course of her life for days, weeks, and months ahead. She stood in total disbelief as her Doctor diagnosed her vomiting and diarrhea symptoms as pancreatic cancer. “I just cried,” she said. She cried uncontrollably. The news shook her to the core. She was afraid. Uncertain. And Confused. She had so many questions, and very little answers. Was her life about to be cut short? Will she be around to enjoy the milestones in her children's lives? How will this affect others? She left the Doctors, went home and mourned for days. She was selective in the beginning who she would share the news with, being the person she is, she didn’t want people to worry.
Darshonnia couldn’t tell me how long she cried, or how many days, weeks, or months she was torn up by the news, she only knows it was, “a lot of days.” But, what we do know is that eventually that resilient, bubbly-spirit, deep down on the inside of her, which those of us who know her are familiar with, began to fight back with a declaration of, “I will live and not die!” And that is what my friend began to do, she began her fight to live.
On July 17, 2014 she had her spleen and the tail of her pancreas removed, which did away with her symptoms. After two years she is still fighting, with a smile on her face! Never mind that every three months she boards a plane from Dallas to Chicago to undergo the process of radiation injections at Cancer Centers of America as a precautionary measure to make sure she remains cancer free. A process that last four days, and leaves her exhausted. Never mind that in the midst of fighting for her life she was also fighting to save her marriage. A fight she eventually had to call quits. But, because she is such a fighter…she hasn’t allowed any of it to destroy her.
However, in talking with Darshonnia, she said something to me that had me a tad bit dumbfounded. She said she at times have survivors’ remorse. She actually feels guilty at times over the fact that she is still alive, while others that she has met since her diagnosis, is no longer here. I had to consider who was before me saying this. It was a woman, who when I first met, made me feel as though we had known each other for years. Although, she is relatively young, 46, she has a great-grandmother like spirit from the days of old. The kind of spirit that welcomes everybody with a hug and a smile, regardless to who they are. She genuinely loves people. At the walk, I watched how she stopped to talk to fellow survivors, Doctors, and family members of those who had gone on, and then it made more sense to me why at times she experience survivors remorse. It’s her heart of gold that is filled with so much compassion and love for others.
So, what gives Darshonnia so much hope? How has she been able to cope with such an intimidating prognosis? Her answer? First and foremost it’s her faith and trust in God, and a strong support system of loving people. She joined a support group where they get together for social events and emotional support. She also spoke with such great passion and gratitude on how helpful, and encouraging all of the staff and Doctors are at the Cancer Centers of America. She could not say enough about how much they care about the totality of their patients. Treating the mind, body, and soul. They speak life to their patients giving them hope, and a desire to live.
In conclusion I asked Darshonnia what she would say to a person after a cancer diagnosis “Stay encouraged. Don't allow the prognosis to dictate your life. FIGHT AND TRUST GOD…DON’T GIVE UP AND ENJOY LIFE.”
Darshonnia Lee with Dallas Maverick's head coach Rick Carlisle
Pep Talk before the foot walk
Klyde Warren Park