Just One Thing
Patient Name : Earlene Cavendar
The excitement of being a grandmother flooded through Earlene Cavender’s heart. I’m going to be a grandmother! She just could not wait. To hold him. To help care for him. She would buy cute clothes for the child. They would be such good friends. Only nine months and she would be a grandmother.
The doctor’s diagnosis shocked her. At first, they thought it was a stomach virus – the bloating and feeling full after only a couple of bites of food. This time the CT scan revealed ovarian cancer. God, I just want to see my grandson. Please let me live long enough to see my grandson. Earlene pleaded in prayer. A hysterectomy and aggressive chemotherapy treatments rid her body of the ovarian cancer and provided the opportunity for her to see her first grandchild.
In 2000, medical oncologist Nikita Shah, MD, at MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando discovered Earlene’s ovarian cancer had returned. This time it attacked her colon. Fear did not grip her at the mention of cancer as it did the first time; her faith grew with her first battle. “I was where I needed to be at MD Anderson – Orlando. They took care of me,” Earlene says. Gynecologic oncologist Thomas Castaldo, MD, performed the successful surgery removing the cancer.
Earlene received her six aggressive treatments of chemotherapy in the ‘chemo pod.’ “I didn’t feel like I was going through this experience by myself,” she says. Earlene enjoyed being with others and encouraging one another through their individual experiences with cancer. “Seeing others surviving helps relieve some of the fear.” Though she felt nauseated from the chemotherapy and had other symptoms typically associated with chemo treatments, she knows her reactions were not severe. “I can do this. I will do this. They give this to me for the good of my health,” Earlene reminded herself through each treatment.
In June 2002, Dr. Shah discovered a cancerous mass inside her lung. “This is something else I will survive. It gives me deeper faith and trust,” Earlene countered at the new attack of cancer. Cancer built into her greater determination and faith. She again underwent six aggressive chemotherapy treatments. The mass responded to the treatment and shriveled. However, in October of 2003, the cancer returned on the outside of her right lung. This time the best course of action necessitated surgery. Surgeon Alan Johnston, MD, removed the portion of Earlene’s lung affected by the cancer. The surgery was successful and needed no additional chemotherapy treatments.
At her latest check-up, Earlene showed no signs of cancer. “You live with the knowledge that it may never go away,” she says. She continues to share her story with other women who have reoccurring cancers stemming from ovarian cancer. She encourages others with cancer, “Don’t give up. Don’t despair.”
Earlene tears up when she remembers her prayer seven years ago to live to see her first grandson. Emotion swells when she realizes not only did she live to see him, but also she has survived to see and help care for her second grandson. She is grateful for this extravagant blessing.
“I thank God. I thank the doctors at MD Anderson – Orlando. Through Him and them I have become a survivor."