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Survivor Story: Mary Isham

03/06/2013
I was shocked when I was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine pancreatic tumor right before my 50th birthday. My doctor told me to get my affairs in order as I might have nine months to a year to live. That was over 14 years ago! My first surgery was ten hours long and removed my pancreas, gall bladder, spleen as well as two-thirds of my stomach and parts of my intestine. When some doctors see me now they are the ones that are shocked! 

I did a lot of what traditional medicine could offer, but I also opened myself up to healing through complementary medicine. I believe my willingness to explore and take risks with different paths towards healing is some of why I am alive today. 

Making art and being creative has also been one of the most important parts of my treatment. Early in the journey, I walked into a cancer art program and the teacher told me to draw every day.  I told her that I didn’t draw. The teacher handed me some colored pens and said, “Just do it.”  So I began to draw and everything started to flow. You can see some of my art in my picture. 

Soon after my recovery from the initial surgery, I attended nutritional school and started to share my knowledge with others who had cancer that were facing a medical system that didn’t offer much in the way of nutritional support. I have a lot of information about this kind of tumor and share it with people all around the country. 

Early on I made a decision that I wanted to walk the path toward dying with an open heart and face this head-on. Dealing with significantly rearranged plumbing has been quite a challenge especially in those first few years, but I just keep picking myself up after every fall.

During one of my many hospital stays after a surgery that was almost life threatening, I was lying in my bed when a flash of insight came to me with incredible force. The message was so clear I could hear it: ‘You are being given this cancer journey to awaken. You will have everything you need - all you need to do is ask for what you need and learn how to receive it.’

Even though I have had three ablations, the cancer in my liver has grown, so after much research, I have turned to a radiation treatment only offered in Europe that holds out possibilities for decreasing the size of the tumors. The only problem is that the medical and travel costs of each trip are very high.  So a friend helped me start a fundraising campaign with a website devoted just to raising medical expenses. It is not just raising the money that has been such a gift - it is receiving caring and support from people from many different parts of my life. Even guys from my high school basketball team have contacted me! 

My best wishes to all of my fellow survivors!



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