This is from one of our survivor/warriors, Ann Tisdaley. She recently wrote this about a stage of her cancer journey. We hope you are inspired by her bravery and faith...
“...cancer saved my life…”
"My journey with cancer began months before I told anyone. I at first thought
I had cut under my tongue with a chip or something. It wasn’t painful, it was just there. I continued to smoke and pretty much live my life “normally”. Pretty soon the “cut” grew bigger and I felt a small lump on the left side of my tongue. I had lost a filling in one of my back teeth so I thought that my problems were caused from that. As time went on the cut and the bump grew as did my fear that I was really sick. Ibuprofen became my food because I could no longer eat or talk right and mouth wash became my best friend.
I would swish it around in my mouth and it would dull the pain for a small while. I was working in a remote bank drive through, most of the time alone, and I couldn’t talk to my customers. All I could barely say was, “Have a nice day.” My weight began to drop rapidly. When all was said and done I was below a size 0. Yes, I kept smoking. I couldn’t eat or talk but I could still smoke.
Finally in July of 2011 I told my husband that we were going to have to do something because I thought I was dying. I think he felt relieved and frightened all at the same time. He immediately got out of bed and called our doctor but the doctor had no openings so he called a dentist because he too chose to believe that it was my tooth. The dentist saw me right away. My first question to them was “Is it cancer?” The answer was “No.” We were so happy and relieved, even though I knew it was far worse. I was told that it was a severe case of periodontal disease and that they were going to pull all of my bottom teeth and fit me for dentures and I’d be good as new. So that’s what they did. I had all of my teeth on the bottom pulled and even though the floor of my mouth was basically gone from the can-cer, they fitted me for dentures. The pain was horrific and I started bleeding heavier and more frequently from my mouth. The pain never stopped. It didn’t matter what they gave me.
At this point I knew that it was cancer and that I was dying. The dentist couldn’t figure out
why I wasn’t healing so he sent me to a specialist. My first question to him was “Is it cancer?” Once again I got the answer I wanted: “No.” He was going to put me to sleep and go in and clean my gums again but instead decided to do a biopsy.
The next week was a very long week, waiting and waiting on the phone call. The specialist called my husband at work and told him that I had cancer. He then referred me to CENTA. He assured my husband that it was the best place for me. Now he had to tell me. First my sister came over which was odd, but I didn’t think too much about it. But two of my sisters-in-law came over and I remember saying, “I’m dead. I have cancer.” Steve then arrived home. My son was the only one that wasn’t there. I remember looking at my baby
girl and trying to make plans for her. She was ajunior in high school and still needed me. I began formulating plans in my head. I asked one of my sisters-in-law to take care of my family after I was gone. I wasn’t going to fight it. It was too much emotional and financial strain on my family.
Lying in bed that night, I gave my heart to God. I had to, I wanted to. I asked Him to please take it all and just love me. That night, my life changed forever, not because I was now a “cancer patient” but because I gave it all to my Papa. I had a sense of relief. No matter what, I was going to be OK, either here on earth or in heaven. It was a win, win!
Steve, Vicki, and I made the trip to CENTA, I think the following week, and met with Dr. Kroviack. My diagnosis was Stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma. He told me, “You are not
going to die. You are going to live. It’s not going to be fun, but you will live.”
My first surgery was on September 1st. They removed 2/3 of my tongue, rebuilt the floor of my mouth with skin from my forearm, added a free flap to my tongue from skin on my leg, put in a metal bar, removed my whole jaw on the left and part of my jaw on the right and replaced it with titanium.
They also removed 47 lymph nodes which, by the grace of God, the cancer had not spread to. It was a twelve hour surgery. While I was in recovery the doctors met with my family and told them that they had gotten all of the cancer but that I would not talk or eat by mouth again. God had other plans because I do both quite well!
After that surgery, I had 6 chemo treatments and 37 radiation treatments. It was horrible but doable because I was alive, talking and eating!
Eventually the radiation caused the metal bar to go through my lower mouth. In April 2012, I would have surgery to remove a bone in my leg to replace the bar, and skin and muscle from my leg to replace my chin. In all of this, I asked God for one thing and that was to be able to see my girl graduate high school and I did. I looked horrible but I saw herreceive her diploma.
As horrible as all of this sounds, I don’t dwell on the pain and fear. I concentrate on His love for me and how big it must be, because I know, I know that without Him I would not be writing this.
I could tell you of so many signs and miracles that He sent our way but it would take another three pages. Let’s just say I know God is real and I know He is full of love, mercy, and grace.
Cancer did not kill me, it actually saved my life."
This is Ann today, her and her husband are volunteering and speaking for Gilead Ministries. She is also sharing her story in churches and with all who will allow her to encourage them.
If you would like to have Ann or one of our survivors speak to your group, please contact us by emailing us from our contact tab located at the top of our webpage.
Below is a picture of Ann's first time eating in public after her surgery.