May 22, 2019
Cancer. I think it was my sister who recently said that has to be one of the scariest words in the English language. It’s insidious, evil, horrifying and doesn’t play favorites. People of all ages, from all walks of life have had to accept those six letters arranged into one awful thought, into their lives. I’m guessing everyone knows someone who has battled the disease, whether a family member, friend or maybe even themselves.
When I was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart disorder I actually remember thinking, “At least I don’t have cancer.” There’s something about it, in all its wicked forms, that strikes fear like few other things.
Hearing that word recently to explain why my dad’s recovery from heart surgery had taken a downturn was unexpected, shocking and, yes, downright scary. Cancer just eight months after a completely unrelated valve problem? In a guy who was walking two miles a day and riding a bike last summer? It all seems very sudden and really unfair. But cancer doesn’t give a rip about fairness. It strikes without warning and no one is expecting it.
Jacqueline Setas, a recent Spartan graduate, is no exception. After coming to MSU on a golf scholarship, she noticed physical symptoms she couldn’t explain and was eventually diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. For a young woman at the height of her game, it absolutely wasn’t fair. Watch the inspiring video in the MSUTODAY Feature: Facing cancer with an athlete’s determination, to learn how she faced each round of treatment by visualizing it as a round of golf in a tournament.
Ryan Griffin, another recent graduate, was also touched by the disease, when his father was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer during his freshman year. Griffin says that after “countless nights being angry at the existence of cancer” he was motivated to do something about it and joined a research lab focused on disease. Read his STUDENT VIEW: How a diagnosis helped shape my Spartan experience, to learn how research allowed him “to take a negative life event and turn it into an extraordinary experience.”
During all of my dad’s health challenges, nurses have become such an important part of our lives. From the scary days in ICU to his stays in rehab, a great nurse has made all the difference. Recently, during a stay in the hospital, two of our favorite nurses from a previous stay in a different unit made a special trip to come see my dad when they heard he was there. It meant the world to us and even my dad, in his fragile state, reached out and grabbed their hands.
Denise K. Ferrell, a Spartan nurse and the associate dean for community engagement and public service and the director for diversity and inclusion, lives by the philosophy that nurses should treat patients by using “a holistic approach and examine them mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.” Check out her FACULTY VOICE: Curiosity leads my journey, to learn more about her work on campus and in Haiti.
There are so many Spartans in labs, hospitals and other medical facilities who are looking cancer square in the eye without fear, but determination to find cures and treatments to fight the disease. They’re using creativity and innovation to look at things differently and find ways to save lives. Just this week, it was reported that Spartan researchers are using Big data to identify a better way to research breast cancer’s spread.
Like most families facing cancer, we don’t really know exactly what the future holds. The disease is as unpredictable as it is scary and no case is exactly like another. What I do know, is that Spartans will never back down from the fight. Even against a frightening opponent like cancer, Spartans face each day with determination to find victories where they can. #SpartansWill.
Photo by G.L. Kohuth