Cancer changes more than what it says on your medical chart

-A A +A
By Angye Morrison

Family has always been important to Shirley Vickers. But now that she’s had to face some of her worst fears, her family – and her life – have gained new meaning.

Vickers went in for a regularly scheduled mammogram last October, and was called in for a second one. Then she received a call asking her to come in for a sonogram. The day after that, her doctor called again, asking her to come in to the office.

“I told her I just couldn’t come in, and she asked if she could just give me my results on the phone,” Vickers said. “The doctor said the biopsy showed it was cancer.”

Vickers said the tests had shown she had a pea-sized growth, and she was somewhat scared. But she took a logical approach and decided to do whatever had to be done.

“I’m not the bravest person in the world, but I’m not stupid either,” she said with a laugh. “I decided I wasn’t going to put it off. I want to go ahead and do what needs to be done.”

Vickers then psyched herself up for some very difficult telephone calls – she had to call her family, who were all anxiously awaiting news of her test results.

“I said, ‘I’m not going to cry, just keep talking,’ ” she said. “I just called them all and told them.” Her family reacted the same as Vickers had – do whatever has to be done.

After being told her options were a lumpectomy or a mastectomy, Vickers chose to have the lumpectomy.

“It’s one of those things, you think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me. I’m not going to get this.’ But when it does, it’s like a slap in the face,” she said, adding she can’t remember ever crying or becoming upset.

Vickers had surgery and the lump was removed, and she began 34 treatments of radiation in January, which lasted nearly 7 weeks. She went in five times a week, mostly with her daughter, Donna, and said after a while, she and Donna began to enjoy their special lunches together.

“We were mostly having fun having lunch out,” she said, with a twinkle in her eye, adding that she truly appreciates all of her family, who were all with her every step of the way.

One of the most sobering things about the radiation treatments was seeing the other patients at the Radiology/Oncology Department at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. Some of them had obviously been fighting cancer for some time, Vickers said.

“When I was taking the radiation treatments, I felt guilty. They got it and I’m OK,” she said. “I thought maybe I shouldn’t be taking up space here. There were so many others there who had been struggling for so long.”

Vickers says her doctors tell her now that everything looks good, and she will go in for another checkup this summer. She’s taking the 5-year pill, and feels good physically and mentally.

“I’m more grateful now for my life, my family...just everything. I hope it’s made me a better person. I feel like it has. I have more compassion now,” she said. “I’m here, everything’s fine, and I hope I can keep it that way.”

Vickers sings the praises of the folks in radiology/oncology at TMH, saying they were there for her from the very beginning, along with representatives from the American Cancer Society.

“As much as I have supported the American Cancer Society and the Relay for Life before, it never meant much until this happened. I mean, you feel compassion for people, but until it happens to you, you just don’t know how much it means,” she said with a tear in her eye.

In the past, Vickers has helped serve food at the Havana Relay for Life alongside her husband, Don, a volunteer firefighter. The volunteer firefighters always cook for the event, and this year, Vickers said her participation will have new meaning – it will be the first time she’s participated as a survivor.

She plans to walk the Survivors Lap, and says she will do anything she can to help out.

“If people have never really stopped to think what it means to support the American Cancer Society, it won’t take but one phone call saying it’s cancer,” she said. “It changes a lot of things.”

Send your comments to editor@gadcotimes.com.


Relay For Life of Havana

April 9-10


4 pm            Luminaria and Survivor/Advocacy Tents Open

                    DJ Begins

                    WALKERS BEGIN

4:30 pm       Survivor Registration Begins @ Survivor Tent

5 pm            Face Painting

5:30 pm       Stone Street Band

6 pm            Opening Ceremony

                    Presentation of the Flags by East Gadsden High

                    National Anthem sung by Ally Williams

                    Pledge of Allegiance led by Addison Poppell & Daisy Troup No. 664

                    Invocation by Greg Williams, New Jerusalem MB Church


6:05 pm        Guest Speaker – Doug Croley, County Commissioner for Havana

6:20 pm        Survivor Celebration - Guest Speaker, Teresa Curtis

6:25 pm        Survivor Victory Lap – lead by Daisy Troup

6:30 pm        Entertainment - Tasha Shackelford

7 pm            Cake Walk – BOT Builders Team

7:15 pm        Entertainment - Evie Williams

7:45 pm        Entertainment - Dance Troupe

8 pm             Entertainment - Mountain Dew Cloggers

8:30 pm        Fun Event – Bubble Gum Contest

9 pm            Luminaria Ceremony

                    Playing of the Bagpipes - Sean McGlynn

                    New Jerusalem Choir

10 pm            Reverse Beauty Contest


11:30 pm        Movies


7:30 am        Fundraiser Breakfast/Sausage Dogs provided by Stones

8 am             Salem United Methodist Church Choir

8:20 am        Big Bend Hospice Speakers

8:30 am        Caregiver’s Lap

9 am             Closing Ceremony

Good food, quilt raffles, merchant donations and much more!