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Gail Scates LaBelle
Unexpectedly I was diagnosed with an aggressive and advanced-stage lung cancer. Cancer which has traveled to my bones and liver, lymph nodes and one spot in my spine. I cannot tell you how much of a surprise this is. It was Veteran’s Day 2016. Having worked with our veteran's as a counselor for many years and guiding them through treatment, never, for even one moment, did I think I would have to face a frightening and life-threatening battle. Yet, here I am, in the battle of and for my life.
After a career in South Carolina, a place so near and dear to me, I made the decision to return to Maine. I wanted to be with those who are the closest to my heart, my children, and grandchildren; knowing I could always return to Charleston for visits.
I settled in nicely to life in Maine. I found an apartment and took on two jobs. Work is important to me and I'm willing to do whatever is necessary to make ends meet.
I was adopted at birth and did make contact with my maternal family in 1976. I knew what their medical history was. I did not know my paternal side at all.
I search for 36 years to find my biological father . Yet, through perseverance and eventually DNA testing, I was able to connect with a relative of my father in March of 2016. Imagine my excitement as the pieces fell together! I was able to make contact with my father's family only to learn he passed away in 2012 before we could meet. I also learned my father had lung cancer as did his sister. Before my diagnosis, a paternal brother, who I’ve never met, made plans to travel to Maine in December of 2016. I was so excited and anticipating the visit. I was filled with joy and overwhelmed with emotions. I couldn't wait for this visit.
Then, that day came and I couldn't breathe. A trip to the ER and my insistence on a CT scan showed the worst. I had a mass on my lung. I would need to see my PCP the following week. In the meantime, I was left to wait and think. I finally saw my doctor on Tuesday and an appointment was made for me at Dana-Farber in Boston, MA. They did PET/ CT, MRI, Liver biopsy and blood testing. I met with the oncologist and learned cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, left lung, one spot in my spine and my left lung.
Unless you have heard this news, you can never imagine how life-altering it is. Your world suddenly crashes in and you prepare for the fight to save your own life. My brother traveled to Maine as planned . In December of 2016 I was diagnosis with small cell lung cancer stage four. Can you imagine the wave of emotions? First, I see and meet my brother for the first time and I am so grateful and excited. Then I get the news about my cancer which is so frightening and discouraging.
After four rounds of two chemo's and one and a half of a immune therapy drug I have no detectable cancer as of March 13, 2017. I am schedule for Brain MRI every six months, my first one is April 27, 2017. I am praying very hard at this time that on May 1 2017 I will received the results of this test. My first Brain MRI was clear in December of 2016. I also will have CT scans every three months, my first one is scheduled for June 2017. I am truly amazed at my results and feel the small amount of immune therapy I did receive just seem to reprogram my cancer cells to shrink and turn off along with the two chemo's I received. I also had many good and decent folks praying for me, I do believe at this time I am a miracle.
I now have a bucket list . I want to visit my biological father's and family's home town. I would like to pay respect to my biological father and brother who was killed so tragically at the age of eleven by a drunk driver. I would love to meet my paternal family before my life ends. I also want to visit my paternal brother in Florida and one in Ohio.
Other items on my bucket list is to travel and see sites in this country with my grandchildren. I want them to have memories of their grandmother for the rest of their lives. My grandchildren are ages 16 down to 4 years old I have eight beautiful souls who I love dearly. My bucket list contains the ability to one day spend time in my beloved South Carolina, with my dear friends and during the winter months.
I am going to fight hard. I can beat this, I just need to find the right medicine for my tumors decide to return once again. I believe so strongly in the power of prayer and the support of a community of old friends, new friends, acquaintances and people I've yet to meet.
Needless to say, right now, my focus must be on getting well. There is no price on your health. Never take it for granted.