By Anna Kultin
It is virtually impossible to find anyone who hasn’t heard of cancer. We still celebrate every person cured as a miracle and honor those people who have survived as courageous fighters. One of them is Red Crosser Nancy Watchie.
“It was excruciating. I would go down the hall in my apartment and back, holding my sister’s arm, and that short walk made me immediately exhausted,” said Nancy Watchie, a former runner and athlete, and now a cancer survivor. Ten years ago she led a seemingly healthy life, but on her 50th birthday she received some bad news that completely changed her life: she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“One day I looked in the mirror and there was no hair on my head, after the chemotherapy. I was down to 118 pounds which for an athletic body type like mine was horrible. I had realized how sick I was but I thought: ‘I am not going to die like this!’” From the moment that the doctor prescribed six months of chemotherapy and subsequent surgery, Nancy bravely accepted the fight. It would put her life on hold but she was determined to win the battle.
“I never thought I am going to lose the battle,” she admitted. “We all have a choice to make, either the cancer takes you or you take the cancer.”
She described days when she couldn’t walk or eat and had “chemo brain,” days when she couldn’t work and could hardly think straight. It was a completely different world whose existence was hidden from most people and only revealed to cancer warriors.
She devised her own combat plan, which was based on a simple principle: be focused on something positive and something good that you have achieved through the treatment. She slowly learned how to deal with the side effects, depression and nutrition.
She received lots of support from her family as well as coworkers at the Red Cross. After finishing chemotherapy, she went on a celebratory cruise with her sisters.
“Now it’s a new world for me. The things that people worried about in an office or in their life are so insignificant. I call it the petty things. Every day is a gift, it is a journey. People have to calm down and appreciate what they have.”
Nancy won her battle. First it was a short walk in her apartment hallway, when she cried out: “It is awesome! I have made it!” Then every day after the surgery she continued to progress and now she has run the three-day, 60-mile Susan G. Kolmen race seven times. “I have a goal to be in better shape than I have ever been since college, and I am going to make it through another ten healthy years!”
More than 1.68 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment. To find a blood drive near you, visit http://www.redcrossblood.org/give/drive/driveSearch.jsp.