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Courage and Strength ... One women's battle with cancer

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

(Photo)
Lisa Curtis at work at Subway in Salem where she has served as the supervising manager for the passed two years.
When kids return from school after winter break, it's customary for teachers to ask what they did over the holiday season.

There's always a few who go to Utah or Colorado to go skiing and snowboarding with their families.

Many say they went to visit grandma and grandpa.

Others don't have much to report -- they just lazed around the house, relishing the fact that there was no school.

However, when the question was posed to Lisa Curtis' sons they shrugged and said, "I shaved my mom's head on New Year's Day."

In November 2001, Lisa Curtis went to visit her doctor after she had sustained some back injuries from a recent car wreck. Besides an aching back, Curtis said she felt fine.

During her examination, Curtis said she remembered that a pea-sized knot had popped up along her right collarbone.

"I asked the doctor about it, and he said we should just deal with one thing at a time," Curtis said.

When she returned to the doctor a few weeks later, the knot demanded attention. Curtis said the physician looked at the lump and examined the inside of her throat. "He immediately said he wanted to take some chest X-rays; so I knew it wasn't good," she said.

After a biopsy and multiple gallant scans in which radiation was injection into her body to highlight questionable cells, Curtis was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The prognosis didn't look good; Curtis' cancer had spread heavily. "I was at a stage three out of four stages," Curtis said. "The only place (the cancer) hadn't gotten to was my bone marrow."

Curtis said she was scared, but she didn't cave to the illness. "I was lucky because (Hodgkins Lymphoma) is the easiest cancer to cure. I didn't let the situation overwhelm me," she said. "I'll worry about what I can control -- I just worked through it and took care of myself."

Curtis soon began chemotherapy treatments at Batesville. After the second round of chemo, she began to lose her hair. "It started coming out in handfuls, so on New Year's Day, I let my boys shave my head," Curtis said. "Blake, 17, did one side and Michael, 16, did the other."

Losing her hair wasn't the hardest part, according to Curtis. "Chemo is rough. After a treatment I couldn't even keep water down. After about four days I could finally eat soup," she said. "It also made me really weak. And taking chemo thins your blood, so I was always cold."

After eight rounds of chemotherapy that lasted over a five and a half month period, Curtis was clear.

On April 1, Curtis passed the five year mark. "On April Fools Day it was five years. After being clear five years, they say you're cured. My boyfriend took me to Tunica to celebrate," Curtis said.

Though at times it was difficult, throughout the whole experience, Curtis said she tried to keep a positive attitude. "(Hodgkins Lymphoma) is an indiscriminate type of cancer. It usually affects males, and when I got it, I didn't fit into the typical age category -- I was kind of an uncommon case," she said.

"Because of that people would ask me, 'Don't you wonder why it happened to you?' No I didn't -- why not me? I'm not any different than anyone else. The Lord let me have this for a reason -- if for nothing else, to be a positive example," Curtis said. "People need to realize, cancer's not a death sentence. Prayers and a positive attitude can get you through."

What's next for Curtis?

"Thursday (May 17) I'm going to Florida for a well-deserved vacation. I promise, I'll enjoy myself," she laughed.



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