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Photo of Malissa M.

Malissa is a wife, mother and woman of faith who was diagnosed with stage III endometrial cancer. She described it as “both a blessing and a curse” because she had an answer to the symptoms she was experiencing but her diagnosis was rare and advanced.

Her treatment involved surgery and chemotherapy, which presented both physical and emotional challenges. Malissa’s positive outlook helped her cope with these challenges. “It may suck, but it is life-saving or life-extending and you just have to get through it one day at a time with prayer, with grace.”

People undergoing cancer treatment often cope with side effects. After her surgery, Malissa experienced difficulty regulating her body temperature. “To this day, I don’t really have a choice but to layer and I’m usually not in anything very heavy. I need to be able to quickly take off clothes and put clothes on.”

Malissa faced the unique challenges of a rare cancer diagnosis, including not knowing other people with her diagnosis, difficulty accessing clinical trials and less treatment knowledge among her health care team. “One of the people on my team who I saw for an additional opinion up in Philly, he’s been doing this for 35 years and I was the first and only person he has ever seen with this type of cancer.”

Working and getting accommodations she needed during cancer treatment was also challenging and Malissa ultimately retired to focus on healing. “I wanted to work even though I had physical limitations because my body was still healing. My mind was clear. My fingers work. All the things that I needed to do, I could do. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t do a whole lot of walking. An accommodation at home would have helped.”

Malissa’s support system of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and church family kept her going by taking her to appointments, getting groceries, taking her shopping, cooking soup, praying and more. “I’m so grateful. People, if you’re out there and you’re listening, you’re a neighbor, a friend, a coworker. Believe me when I tell you a card, a gift card, a text message, a note doesn’t have to be long, but a simple ‘I am thinking about you’ or ‘I am praying for you’ can go a long way.”

By participating in CancerCare’s individual counseling, Malissa was able to build upon her personal strengths. “My counselor from CancerCare helped me to hear my voice. The time we spent allowed me to hear my voice, to express what I truly felt in my heart that I couldn’t express to my family because they weren’t able to receive certain things at certain points. That gave me the strength and the desire to be here today.”

After experiencing hair loss due to her treatment, Malissa continued building her confidence by meeting virtually with CancerCare’s wig specialist and receiving free wigs in the mail. “Losing hair is one thing, but it’s so nice when you have an option to be able to put on a wig if or when you desire to do so,” she said. “That makes a difference because my head hair was my crowning glory.”

For those navigating a cancer diagnosis, Malissa emphasizes the importance of self-advocacy and finding like-minded community. “You might not have 50 degrees behind your name, but you do have a voice and it makes a difference. It can make a difference because we all think that we’re alone, but we’re not alone. Somebody else is going through the same thing.”

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