By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
When the Daily Leader met Margie Wells two years ago, she was thin and frail and just months into her battle with ovarian cancer. Today, Wells jokingly refers to herself as “fat and sassy.” What Wells really means to say is she is healthy, and the road she took to feeling healthy again was long and full of lessons.
“I am almost at the two-and-a-half-year mark (since the diagnosis),” Wells said. “And I am cancer free. Another two-and-a-half years, and I will feel like I am out of the woods.”
To be alive at this point in the game, for Wells, is a blessing. But to be healthy is nothing short of a miracle considering what she was told by her physician when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer on April 11, 2008.
“The doctor came in and said, ‘You have Stage 3, Type B ovarian cancer, you will be dead in six months to two years,” Wells said. “That was two-and-a-half years ago. My first reaction was, ‘Not me. I don’t have time.’ That is still my reaction today. I don’t have time to have cancer, I will fight it tooth and nail just as hard to day, just as hard two years from now, as I did the day I was diagnosed – after I got over the shock and caught my breath.”
Now that Wells is enjoying her time with a new found appreciation for life, she doesn’t waste a moment. She has many things she still wants to do with her life. From quilting with her granddaughter to watching her nephew graduate from the Air Force Academy, she is living.
“I have 10 million things I really want to do,” she said. “Trouble is, none of them are probably all that important, but they are important to me. I am enjoying the simple things and the little things. I don’t do a lot of exciting things with my days, but I do the things I want to do. I am at a time now that I am getting to do the things I wanted to do.
“One of the things I got to do that I never dreamed I would get to do was go to my nephew’s Air Force graduation in San Antonio,” she continued. “I got to do that and that was quite a different experience. My middle nephew got married in January. I missed his wedding, but I got to make some crocheted items for his bride. I have a niece that got married in August. Seeing the nieces and nephews that I raised and their kids grow up and seeing the new things they are experiencing has been fun.
September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. Wells wants women to be aware of the dangers. She warns women to go to regular check ups and simply know their bodies.
“There is no specific test for ovarian cancer,” she said. “All you can do is know your body, talk to your doctor and fight until you get the right answer. If you think something is wrong, push for an answer.
“For me, specifically, it was abdominal pain,” she said of her symptoms. “The type of pain that started felt more like a pulled muscle and being a typical woman, I kind of ignored it. Then fatigue was another symptom. Everybody gets tired, but I was literally to the point that I could barely put one foot in front of the other – I was so exhausted. I also lost weight. How many women don’t want to lose weight? So, I thought that was no big deal. They were all symptoms I kind of shrugged off. It wasn’t like I couldn’t function at all. I was still functioning, just maybe not to the percentage that I used to.”
For Wells, cancer has become a part of her. Yes, she is cancer free at the time and is very positive about remaining that way, but the disease is something that changed her life and will always be there.
“I was asked the other day, ‘Didn’t you have cancer?’ It was kind of nice to hear the ‘didn’t,’ the past tense of it,” Wells said. “I said, ‘Yes, I do.’
“I would say I am a survivor, but I think that for me, I feel like being diagnosed with cancer I don’t think I will ever be able to say, ‘I did have cancer,’” she added. “I will be able to say ‘I survived cancer,’ but it will always be there as a part of me. It was such a life changing thing, that it will always be there and be a part of me. It is not active, it is in remission, but to me it is not a disease you will get over. It is a disease that you get the diagnosis, you get the prognosis, you get the treatment, you learn to live with it and go on.”
From the outside looking in, fighting cancer would seem to be an unthinkable experience. For Wells, it was a learning experience. It took a meek, shy woman and turned her into a brave fighter.
“It was definitely a learning experience it definitely brought me out of my shell,” she said. “I had never been much for public speaking or being in front of a crowd. It has made me want to talk about it. It made me want to inform people. I was kind of shocked to find out how much people don’t know, because I didn’t know – I knew nothing about the disease. I am only one person, but everything starts somewhere. If my articles that have been in the paper the last couple of years will just help one person, then it was worth this experience.”
For Wells, life had always been fairly simple. Fighting for anything was never really an issue. However, when cancer entered her life, she fought hard – and won.
“There are some people that would have given up in a heartbeat and they wouldn’t have fought,” she said sadly. “But, if they don’t fight, I guess they didn’t have much to live for to begin with. I have too much to live for, I have grandkids to watch grow up, I have a long life I want to live.
“I never really had to fight for a lot of things,” she explained. “I lived life from day to day and I did what I needed to do to get from one day to the next. I raised my family, took care of my husband, took care of my family and loved my family – day to day living. To have something to really battle for, I guess I never really had to do that.”
Wells had no idea she had so much strength inside of her, until she had to find that strength and use it to fight the cancer that threatened her life.
“It is a battle, not just ovarian cancer – every type of cancer,” she said. “I have seen people like me that seem to breeze through it fairly easily. Then I have seen others that have struggled with every breath, every day not willing to give in to the disease. I have seen some fight with everything they have got and overcome it and have seen some fight with everything they have got and still lose – but they didn’t give up.
“I found out I had lot of strength, maybe I just hadn’t tapped into it or had to tap into it,” she added. “And I am using it.”
Two-and-a-half years after her diagnosis, Wells has advice for those recently dealing with a cancer diagnosis. Faith and inner strength, she said, are vital when fighting the disease.
“Hold your head up, dig deep within yourself, find your inner strength and pray,” she concluded. “Make faith a part of your life. Don’t try to fight this disease on your own, because you can’t. Find that faith, and take it a day at a time.”