The day had begun like so many others in late September. Although the date on the calendar said fall, the weather was warm and sunny. Doris remembers the day vividly, for it was her younger son’s birthday, September 28th, 2002. She had gone grocery shopping to prepare a special birthday dinner for her family.
However, on that day she was to receive a phone call which would change her life forever. Doris had gone in earlier for first a needle biopsy and then a surgical biopsy. That afternoon someone from her doctor’s office called with the dreaded words that no one should ever have to hear……”the results of the biopsy are positive.” The conversation continued from the other end, but all that Doris had heard was the word “positive.” Positive, indeed, and what did that mean? To Doris it meant that she had not heard the word “negative”, as she had so many times before.
To back up a bit, Doris had a family history of breast cancer from both her mother and sister. Doris was not totally surprised with the results of the biopsy, but still she was unprepared for the news that she was now receiving. There was a tumor, and it had already spread to her lymph nodes!
In November Doris underwent a surgical lumpectomy to have the cancerous tissue removed, and at the beginning of December she began the grueling series of chemotherapy treatments. Her hair loss began after just a few weeks, and by Christmas Eve all of her hair was completely gone!
She received chemo treatments once every 3 weeks from December through February. Each session lasted several hours, and the entire trip would take a whole day. Doris received her chemotherapy at CTRC (Cancer Therapy & Research Center) in San Antonio. During this trying time she was comforted by the high level of care and support which she received from the entire staff and especially from her surgeon, Dr. Rosenthal.
The treatments were exhausting. They included injections of three different drugs. For the first week after each session, she was unable to do anything but sleep. The second week was her best, because the effects of the chemotherapy had lessened slightly. By the time the third week arrived she was so fatigued that again she could only sleep.
There were many side effects, but probably the worst for her were the extreme tiredness and the nausea. A health care-giver was able to provide an excellent anti-nausea drug for her, which did help somewhat. The steroids which were used caused problems as well, including much bloating. A common effect which could occur with the injections from the medications was the development of mouth sores, and so Doris was given ice chips as the I.V. treatments were administered. Because of the association with this side effect, it was months before Doris could bear having ice chips in her mouth again.
Doris began the second phase of her treatment regimen in March, and this included a series of radiation treatments. Of course this new phase brought more challenges and trials. The radiation was given every day (5 days per week), for a total of 7 weeks. Toward the last few weeks her skin began to burn and ooze at the treatment site.
After completing the duration of her combined therapies in June, Doris resumed her schedule of craft shows (with help) which she had discontinued during the previous months. As if on cue, she now had a new head of hair growing, and it was ½” long all over and curly! This was truly a wonderful day for Doris.
Doris’ ordeal did not end with the cessation of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Her tumor had been estrogen positive, and therefore she was prescribed an oral chemo drug for 6 additional years.
What of the emotional aspects of her struggle with cancer? Each time she had to go into the CTRC for treatment, the struggle became harder and more daunting. There was always the unnerving feeling that this “must be someone else, it really couldn’t be happening to her.” Through the process of trying to survive during those critical months, Doris relied on her sense of humor, her faith, and her husband, Roy, family and friends who WERE ALWAYS THERE.
To those who know Doris, she is a fighter. In spite of her struggle with cancer, she has always considered herself lucky, because her cancer was curable, and there are so many others whose cancer is not. She is so grateful to have passed the critical 5 year milestone of survival for cancer patients. A kind and gracious lady, she gladly shares her story with anyone who may benefit from it.
Mrs. Phipps has been an avid supporter of Blanco County Relay for Life for the past 3 years. When asked what Relay for Life has meant to her, she said that the RFL literature expresses her feelings the best: “Relay for Life starts at dusk and ends at the next day’s morning. The light and darkness of the day and night parallel the physical effects, emotion, and mental state of a cancer patient while undergoing treatment.
The Relay begins when the sun is setting. This symbolizes the time that the person has been diagnosed as having cancer. The day is getting darker and this represents the cancer patient’s state of mind as they feel that their life is coming to an end.
As the evening goes on it gets colder and darker, just as the emotions of the cancer patient does. Around 1:00 am to 2:00 am represents the time when the cancer patient starts treatment. They become exhausted, some sick, not wanting to go on, possibly wanting to give up. As a participant, you have been walking and feel much the same way. You are tired, want to sleep, maybe even want to go home, but you cannot stop or give up.
Around 4:00 am to 5:00 am symbolizes the coming of the end of treatment for the cancer patient. Once again they are tired, but they know they will make it.
The sun rising represents the end of treatment for the cancer patient. They see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that life will go on. The morning light brings on a new day full of life and excitement for new beginnings for the cancer patient. As a participant, you will feel the brightness of the morning and know that the end of the RELAY is close at hand.
When you leave the RELAY, think of the cancer patient leaving their last treatment. Just as you are exhausted and weak, so is that person after treatment.
Remember: There is no finish line until we find a cure.”
Doris Phipps knows firsthand the importance of early detection and fighting cancer. It is the hope of both Doris and the Relay for Life Team that the sharing of her story and others like hers will raise the level of awareness and interest for what Blanco County Relay for Life can do! We need you!
If you wish more information about Blanco County Relay for Life you may visit our website at http://events.cancer.org/rflblancocountytx. Or you may contact Event Chairs Kasi Baker @ 210-415-9591, Lyndi Lorenz @ 830-330-0760, or to serve with a Team or as a Team Captain Peggy Berryhill @ 833-5851, for Survivorship Trish Hartmann @ 833-1431, for Luminaries Laura Jenschke @ 512-971-9097, Peggy Wallace @ 833-5335 for Silent Auction, and Gayla Guthrie for Sponsorships @ 512-567-0377.