At this time of year, we naturally reflect back on the many cancer survivors that we have had the honor of “meeting” over the past 19 years. We have also been blessed with an amazing staff, nearly half of whom are survivors themselves. We thought it’s about time we introduced you to some of them, as each one has a powerful story to tell!
Choose Hope Survivors – Rita’s Story
Rita came to Choose Hope in 2007 and quickly became a valued member of our staff, proving herself indispensable to all of us. Her optimism and love of life drew us all in and made us better people. She quickly became everyone’s ‘best friend!’
We have always said everyone walks through our door for a reason, and Rita was certainly no exception. Less than two years after arriving at Choose Hope, she went in for a routine mammogram. The results came back and and Rita was shocked to learn that she had stage 1, aggressive cell, breast cancer. At the young age of 43, she underwent surgery and 6 weeks of radiation.
Thinking all was well, Rita went on with her life, raising her two girls and spending time with her husband, Jeff and her dog, Presley. Life was good, but little did she know that another cancer diagnosis was lurking around the corner.
Exactly one year after treatment for breast cancer, Rita began having digestive issues. Because of her younger age, doctors were reluctant to schedule her for a colonoscopy. Her medical team was convinced that it was IBS or gallbladder issues, but Rita felt that something else was very wrong. Finally, after four months of tests and seeing multiple specialists, Rita was diagnosed with stage 3B colon cancer.
Two cancers in less than two years was simply not the way Rita saw her life playing out. But in her usual positive way, she quietly underwent surgery and 6 months of chemotherapy. Other than taking a few days off after surgery, Rita continued to work and exercise. We were all amazed at how well she handled her treatment protocol, but again, as we were learning, that was simply Rita’s way. The CH staff stepped in and made meals, sent cards and gifts, and visited her on a regular basis – after all, we are family.
Life After Cancer
Like most cancer survivors, Rita looks at life very differently now than she did before her first diagnosis. She realizes how fortunate she was to have such good health care and, while she was always a proponent of preventative care and being your own best advocate, she is even more so now. She makes sure everyone is up to date on mammograms and colonoscopies here at Choose Hope!
When asked what she took away from the two cancer journeys, Rita says, “ Enjoy today because you don’t know what challenges tomorrow will present.” Advice we can all take to heart.
Rita assists in managing the warehouse here at Choose Hope. She has a wonderful way of getting everyone to work together with more love and compassion than anyone we know. She also handles the social events and makes sure that all birthdays and cancerveraries are celebrated, as she realizes first-hand the importance of milestones in our fragile lives.
Just this spring, Rita was able to celebrate her daughter, Kelsey’s wedding, something she wasn’t sure she would ever live to see. It was a beautiful day filled with mixed emotions and many blessings. Rita and her family look forward to making many more wonderful memories, one day at a time.
So two cancers and nearly 10 years later, Rita is grateful for all that life has given her. She truly embodies the spirit of someone lives every day to the fullest and changes the lives of those around her. All of us at Choose Hope are better people for knowing Rita.