February 22, 2019
Carol Hester lived with the reality of cancer long before she was ever diagnosed.
With a family tree permeated with all types of cancer, Carol was religious about regular screenings and watchful for early symptoms. So when an annual mammogram revealed something abnormal, she acted immediately. After further tests, Carol was diagnosed, not with breast cancer, but with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
"Everyone was shocked because a recent annual checkup was excellent," she says. "My doctor said it may have taken years for the CLL to show up without this abnormal mammogram."
The type of cancer she has is extremely slow-growing, so Carol needed no treatment except close monitoring.
Though the news was less than dire, Carol felt like a time bomb as her anxiety grew. "The worst time was after my diagnosis but before genetic counseling," she says. "I'm a person who must have information to cope."
Meeting with Debra Collins, genetic counselor at The University of Kansas Cancer Center, Carol shared information gleaned from family members about their health history.
"When I saw the completed chart, I was blown away," says Carol. "I knew it was bad, but cancer had devastated my family. All of the symbols on that chart represented people I cherish – Daddy, Aunt Virginia, Aunt Betty, Uncle Jack, Uncle Ernie, Cousin Jeanette – and many others, some who I'm grateful to say have battled cancer and are survivors."
Turning Point helps with new normal
Around the time she completed genetic counseling, a scheduler at the cancer center told her about Turning Point, which offers programs and services to people who are living with a serious or chronic illness and their loved ones. Programs are offered free of charge.
Carol's Turning Point adviser suggested some options for programs dealing with ways to lessen anxiety and develop resilience. "About 10 minutes into my first class, Wellness and Relaxation for Cancer Patients, I could literally feel the stress leave my shoulders," she says.
Since coming to Turning Point, Carol has taken several classes. "You learn ways to change your thinking, change your brain. It's not 'Pollyanna' and it's not denial. It's learning how to manage your emotions."
Turning Point is free and it's priceless. If I have a freaky moment, I know I have the skills to stop and get my thoughts back on track. My life is so much more enjoyable. How do you attach a value to that? – Carol Hester