Stories from a Survivor: Meet Sophia

In her own words:

I am Sophia, and I live in Charlotte, NC.

My journey began February 24, 2019 with a trip to the emergency room resulting in pancreatitis. I had been ill the week leading up to the visit and was admitted immediately. To my blessing, the ER doctor on call was a GI Specialist and was concerned with a high lipase level coupled with ‘severe’ jaundice. I, of course, was oblivious. I was merely trying to make it to a wedding earlier that day.

The GI doctor then explained his concerns and which tests he wanted to run. I was elated, to his surprise, as I had been having stomach pains for over four years. After his initial scan, he stated that there was a large mass in my small intestines, and that he could see a dot. The dot could be a tumor, or a kidney stone. He then scheduled me for another procedure while I remained in the hospital being treated for the pancreatitis! No food, no drinks, no ice! (Worse pain ever!)

On March 3, 2019, that same GI specialist came back to the hospital to perform the procedure himself. As I awoke from the anesthesia, I could see him from my bay, and I heard him on the telephone saying, “I have bad news, it’s cancer. I am transporting her to another hospital immediately.”  The person on the other end of the phone was my adult daughter, my only child. Here I was, having just turned 49 in January, now faced with a life altering situation. The C- word! How? Why me? I was healthy, active and full of life.

Now at a new hospital, to be attended by a surgeon selected by the GI specialist, I went into a small cardiac arrest of some sort. I remember alarms going off, a room full of doctors and nurses rushing in and placing all sorts of tabs and machines on my chest and one particular male nurse holding my hand and reassuring me that all would be well.

On April 8, 2019, my father and daughter kissed me, told me they loved me, and I rolled away to the sounds of Doug E Fresh’s song, “The Show” as the anesthesia had its way and took me to LaLa land for my Whipple procedure to remove the very rare, Stage 3 Duodenum cancer. This procedure was described as being second to only a transplant. I had my gallbladder and twenty lymph nodes- two had the cancer removed along with half of my stomach and pancreas and the upper portion of my small intestines. The surgery lasted 8.5 hours with 27 staples down the center of my body.

I stayed in the hospital for another ten days with many up and down days and nights coupled with two emergency blood transfusions along the way. I lost 54 pounds and now had to face 6 months of chemotherapy! It kept getting worse, so it seemed.

Through my oncologist’s office, fate would have me meet with the amazing Wind River family. I began connecting with them on many levels, from nutrition to chemo tips, to mental stability and alternative health care measures. I found myself beginning to feel alive again. I had this community of commonality that I so desperately needed. I began to fight harder as each and every member of Wind River was so supportive.  No one gives up with this team, this family. The newsletters, personal phone calls (especially when you want to give up sometimes) and the random gifts and even quarantine tips have sustained me. Wind River has given me life in my new norm.

I include two pictures. One is before my connection with Wind River in July 2019 and the other (May 2020) shows how much I am thriving, largely because of its overall support. No greater blessing.  My advice to anyone having to partake in this journey is to 

  1. Let people know! You will need their love, support and knowledge. 
  2. It’s ok to be angry.  We are human. 
  3. Connect with support groups. You are not alone. 
  4. Speak with a therapist. It’s ok. 
  5. Lean on the Wind River family. I love them for life.