Patient Stories

Selections from Inner Fire

Expedition Inspiration - Laura Evans

Laura Evans survived breast cancer with a bone-marrow transplant. She has so far climbed five of the eight major mountains in the world and led a team of breast cancer survivors in a successful climb of Mount Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.

One in a Million - Connie Teevan

I had always thought of myself as a healthy person. I was forty-four years old when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. They found five lumps on a Friday; I was biopsied on Monday and had a mastectomy the following Friday. I knew it was serious because they were really pushing me along. I knew a little bit about breast cancer and had fourteen positive lymph nodes, which is not good. I was not old, and I was shocked about how serious my illness was. My surgeon told me that I needed to start living each day as if it were my last.

I Live a Disease-Threatening Life - Rick Fields

When the doctor called to say that the biopsy had come back and that it was positive for cancer, my first reaction was that I felt like I was in the middle of one of those World War II movies where the Zeros are attacking the boat, the sirens are going off, and everybody is jumping out of their bunks and rushing on deck and all sorts of explosives are going off all over the place.

Arms Too Short to Box with God - Val Staton

My career has been as a dancer at Finocchio's, a female-impersonator club in San Francisco. I've performed as Sophie Tucker, Marilyn Monroe, Dolly Parton, Mae West, Rita Hayworth, and Wynona Judd. I'm thirty-three years old now, and I have AIDS.

To Call Forth That Spark - Kathleen Grant, MD

As an Oncologist, a cancer doctor, I am always thinking about helping people define their will to live. Individuals with families often define this in terms of their relationships, as in, I've got to see ten-year-old daughter grow up.

Each Day Really Is a Miracle - Father Isaacs

I look back on my twenty-five years as a priest as very happy years. I would never change them. I've had wonderful experiences. I went to Peru for five months as a missionary and then went to the mountains at Lake Titicaca. I went to Curacao and Machu Picchu.

Inner Fire Preface - Ernest and Isadora Rosenbaum

Medical oncologists have always been fascinated by the power of the will to live. What makes a person faced with a life-threatening crisis fight to live? How do people cope with chronic disease or refuse to let physical discomfort keep them from enjoying their family, friends, and outside interests? We feel that the answer to questions such as these has to do with the will to live.

A Broken Window Every Day - Maria and Leef Smith

I've had two extremely good fortunes. One was my husband, Donald, a remarkable man with whom I had a magical marriage. The other was my oncologist, without whom I would not have survived. Any other doctor would have looked at my prognosis and said, It's over! I was given a gift with the two of them, and something in me used that gift. Subconsciously, I didn't think I could fail either one of them.

A Tough Old Bird - Ruth Smith

Back in 1982 , when I was fifty-eight years old, I went to different doctors because my leg was bothering me, and I was unable to walk. It felt like a screw was going in. None of the doctors could find out what was wrong with me, and I was beginning to wonder if my pain was in my head. When I was on crutches and unable to walk, my orthopedist wheeled me into UCSF/Mount Zion Hospital and said, We're going to find out what's wrong with you from the tip of your head to the bottom of your toes. I never will forget that.

Live Life to the Fullest - Sam

In the middle of the night of March 2, 1968, a friend of our nineteen-year-old son Sam phoned to say that Sam had been injured in a skiing accident. He told us Sam's back was broken and that the doctors did not yet know how extensive the damage would be.

I Don't Have Time Not to Live - Carol Buck

When I was given my diagnosis that I had a possibly fatal malignancy and I had to take chemotherapy in order to live, it didn't change my style of life at all, except that I, of courses got tired. I pretty much knew even before I saw the doctor that I had breast cancer because of the physical signs: the shape of the breast and so on.

The Scent of an Orange - Jane Townsend

I think alll of us are born with a significant will to live that is very powerful. It's not easy to snuff out a life. Death usually comes after many years of living or at the hand of a powerful adversity of some kind. Over time and with experience, each will gets individualized and personalized, customized to who we are. We each have a strong willingness to either live or to die.

A Cup of Breath - Ellie Bine

I usually hate cliches, but there is one I like: Forget what you did yesterday. Instead, think of what you can do tomorrow. That's what you have to do with an illness like mine -- put yesterday behind you and think about what you can do tomorrow to make yourself or someone else happy.

In Touch with My Dream - Alan J. Cooper, MD

After the initial shock of learning that I had cancer -- malignant melanoma -- and worrying through two recurrences, I concluded that the only quest in life that made any sense for me or gave me any sense of purpose was to get cured.

Still in the Ball Game - Edward Madison

On my Fiftieth Birthday, I really felt elated. I thought, Jesus Christ, you've reached half a hundred years. That's remarkable. I felt I should receive a citation, and I put signs all around the house saying, Happy Fiftieth Birthday.

To Have Ever Lived at All! - Diane Behar

From the moment I touched what felt like a flat piece of chewing gum almost floating on my right breast, I knew I had cancer. It was November of 1988. I was lying peacefully in bed recuperating from a bad bout of the flu when I unexpectedly came across a strange, foreign presence under my skin which I hoped would simply not be there the next day. But it was. And the day after that. And the day after that.

Recharging My Batteries - Joanna

In June of 1985, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had surgery, including reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy, and a short tamoxifen treatment. At that point, I was not worried. I knew the surgery had been done soon enough, and I was convinced that I was cured.

Realize What's Important - Darrel Ansbacher

I think time is something man invented, and it really is in some ways one of our greatest inventions. In other ways it's the scariest. It gives you a beginning as well as an end. If there's a chance of that end being premature -- for instance, if you have a potentially fatal disease -- there is no gamble too great to take to get rid of that disease. You don't worry about whether the cure will be worth it.

A Buddy and a Group

When World War II broke out, I was a physician in a station hospital in the Philippine Islands. I had been called up from the reserves to active duty some six months earlier.

An Inner Fire - Susan Yoachum

I have metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic is a tough word to spell and an even harder one to say, but its meaning is rather simple. It means a runaway mine train is careening through my body. Or in clinical terms it means my cancer has spread to vital organs -- a phrase that somehow seems redundant.