Today I spoke at my daughters elementary school. It was terry fox day and also hero day. The school graciously allowed me to speak about my journey through cancer, my hero and just encourage the kids to be kind to one another because we all go through difficult times. Here is my speech:
” Hello school! My name is Tiffany Haensel and I am a mom and auntie to 2 wonderful students that attend this school. I am also a cancer survivor…or patient, I’m not really sure what I am yet, but I’ve been going through cancer treatments for this whole last year. I’m sure you’ve all heard about cancer. Maybe you’ve even had someone you know who’s gone through cancer. Well I’m not going to talk to you too much specifically about cancer but I do want to talk to you about something very important and tell you about my cancer story. Cancer, just like many other things in life is very hard to go through and it can leave people feeling really sad or mad. What I want you to understand is that every single person here either has gone through something difficult, you are going through something difficult or you will be going through something difficult in the future. And I want you all to know that there are ways for you to be able to make it through that hard time. It will not last forever. Another thing I want you guys to think about, especially now that we know everybody goes through difficult times, is instead of being mean or leaving someone out who’s maybe not acting kindly to you, think about the fact that they might be going through something really hard and that’s why they’re angry or sad. That person needs a friend and someone to stand up for them more now than ever. That’s a real hero. Having A friend can help someone through just about anything.
So now let me talk to you about my journey this past year and my friend. I found out that I had cancer in November last year. It not only was a cancerous lump but the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are little bean shaped bits of tissue located all around our bodies and they help fight off infections and viruses. Now lymph nodes are all connected through our entire body. It goes from here to here to here and all around. so when cancer gets into SOME lymph nodes, it can very quickly spread into a persons whole body and that will often cause people to die. You can imagine that that was kind of scary for me and my family. So once the dr’s knew this they started me on a medicine called chemotherapy which was to shrink the cancer. But good medicine can also come without some nasty side effects. I was so sick in my stomach that I had to lay in bed all day every day because moving made me want to throw up, I was so weak I could hardly get out of bed, my head hurt so bad I could barely open my eyes, my chest felt like it was burning inside every time I ate, but I had to eat a lot otherwise I felt more sick, I was very achy all over my body just like when you have the flu and on top of all of that I lost all of my beautiful long blonde hair, my eyelashes and eyebrows. Not very often could I play with my kids, make them food, help them get ready in the morning, walk them to the bus or take them to their sports. Their mom was pretty much gone for a couple of months. Now that was a difficult time. After that I had to have surgery to take out the cancer. I had so much pain sometimes I had to get my husband to help me roll over in bed and get up because I couldn’t do it on my own. I had tubes coming out of my side that I had to bandage up and try not to hit or rub. My kids couldn’t wrestle with me anymore or really even hug me. After that I had radiation which burns the cancer. I had 3rd degree burns across my chest, up my neck and under my arm. It was kind of like if you got burned by touching the hot stove but it was a very large area that was burned, blistered and peeling. I had to put cream and bandages on it every morning and night and be so careful to not get an infection because I didn’t have very many good cells left in my body to fight off an infection. I had to sit in my room by myself every day for a while to let the wounds heal because I couldn’t wear anything that would be touching it. I know what it’s like to go through difficult times. But the word that I have used over and over this year is that I felt blessed. How in the world can someone feel blessed going through something like that where they could die?! But I did. You have to focus on the good stuff when you’re going through a hard time. If you look hard enough, there is always something to be grateful for. Blessings to me were things that gave me joy and that I felt grateful for. I felt very blessed to have such a good family who was willing to sacrifice what they wanted in order to help me, I didn’t have as bad symptoms as I could have, I was able to see alot of good in people as they brought my family meals, paid for me to have wigs so I didn’t have to bald all the time, and helped me with taking care of my kids. And you know how I was talking about friends being so helpful. Well I was very lucky because I had alot of friends. My family was there for me, my friends were there for me and I also had a best friend whose also my hero. his name is Jesus and He was there for me. He’s a supernatural friend and part of what I believe in. We all have different beliefs and mine is in Jesus and God. If you have a good friend or faith in a higher power that’s huge for getting through a tough time. My Faith is what has kept me going. So when I was sad, I asked God to help me and he made me happy, when I was scared, I asked Him to help me and he gave me peace. He may not choose to heal me but I know that His plan is the best plan, AND so far I know that the cancer has shrunk! In fact I may not even have cancer right now! We’re not sure yet, but it could be all gone. Many many things to be thankful for during such a hard time.
So I want you to always remember, when hard times come, they won’t last forever, there’s always something to be thankful for, and there’s always someone or something to go to for help. Either your faith, or a friend, or family or any one of the staff that works here, would love to help because they care about you. They wouldn’t be working here if they didn’t. And also remember, if You’re not going through a hard time right now, somebody else probably is and a real hero comes along side and helps out that person. So, go be a hero today! take care, and thank you for letting me come and talk to you today.“