God has a plan for all of us | A Survivor’s Story | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | September 2, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: August 30, 2017 at 10:26 am
Walterboro woman sees battle with cancer as ‘another chance to live’
Heather Stone watched her grandmother suffer with lung and breast cancer. She always swore when she turned 35, she’d start getting mammograms and keep up with precautionary measures.
She never even thought about cervical cancer. In fact, she’d not had a pap smear in eight years.
But in February 2016, her life changed forever. That long-procrastinated pap smear showed stage 1 cervical cancer.
Her life since the diagnosis has gone from normal to spending her time in doctors’ offices and hospitals.
Initially, doctors wanted to do a hysterectomy, but then discovered spots in lymph nodes, so the treatment plan changed to chemo and radiation. The radiation wasn’t so bad, Stone said, but the chemo was a different story. Turns out, she was allergic to the drug. “I’d have to go in the hospital because I had a reaction to the chemo. I would look like a cherry tomato with a rash from head to toe,” she said. Doctors ended up stopping the treatment two months early because the doctor was afraid she’d eventually go into anaphylactic shock.
There were also the side effects. “Chemo keeps you weak and sick and tired. And it’s hard to be a mom when you don’t want to get off the couch,” she said. “And you lose all your hair — not just on your head, but everywhere. You don’t know how much you need nose hair until you don’t have it anymore. On the bright side, I don’t have to shave my legs.”
“I finished the treatment last August, and they said everything was clear,” Stone said. But then in December, they discovered another spot — which was biopsied and came back negative. But the February scan turned out to be a different story — the cancer was back and had spread to her lung.
She had a lung wedge resection, which involved removing the cancer from the top lobe of her right lung laproscopically. Plus a radical hysterectomy and more chemo using a different drug.
Then one more hurdle: a recent pet scan showed another spot on a lymph node next to her bronchial tube. They are still deciding if they can remove the node surgically or use radiation.
It’s been a really hard time for the Stone family. Daughter Victoria Campbell, 14, “understands and helps me out a lot.” And she stays busy with her first year in the Band of Blue. Eight-year-old Braylon, however, “worries a lot. He tells me he loves me like 1,000 times a day and constantly asks how I’m feeling.”
And then there’s her husband Sean. “He’s my main caretaker. He goes to every doctor visit, goes to the hospital with me. I feel like he has it worse than I do — knowing the person you love is so sick and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Stone said.
But through all the whirlwind of treatments and doctors and hospital stays, Stone has tried to remain positive. “I know God has a plan and a purpose for all of us, and that’s what keeps me going. I’m not always happy — it’s depressing. I’m a young woman and I have a husband and a family. And you’re not happy when you don’t have hair!” she said.
But she has a wonderful church family from Nova Church who has rallied around the Stones. Plus she’s found a new mission in life in educating those she meets about the dangers of cervical cancer.
“You mainly hear about breast cancer,” Stone said. “Nobody wants to talk about pap smears. I went eight years without one. If I’d gone and gotten checked, I wouldn’t be where I am today. All my friends, everyone I meet, knows all about cervical cancer now. It’s really common.” She hopes by telling her story to those she comes in contact with, she will make a difference and keep another from going through the struggles she’s faced.
“But in a way, I’m grateful, because of my new outlook on life. I look at my kids, my husband, and love them so much more. It makes you really, really appreciate life so much more,” she said. “You get cancer and you think, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to die.’ But that’s not the case. It’s another chance to live.”