Patient finds beauty, peace

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

McDaniel: 'The most frustrating thing about cancer is the uncertainty'

As difficult as a diagnosis of breast cancer can be, enduring the challenges of treatment and the total disruption to one's life can lead to growth, renewed perspective and beauty within that experience, said Marcie McDaniel, who is currently battling the disease.

Marcie McDaniel, who is currently battling breast cancer, shared her story hoping to help other women on the same path. Despite the challenges she has faced, she keeps a smile on her face, carries her mother's soldier spirit. After receiving the diagnosis, she panicked, but McDaniel said she has come to terms with cancer, learned that you can't run from something internal, and that there can be beauty and peace in the midst of a storm like cancer. Julia Kilmer/reporter@cassville-democrat.com

McDaniel was diagnosed in May, after intuition prompted her to ask the nurse for a breast exam during a routine doctor's visit.

"Three months prior, I found a red spot, not a lump, that didn't go away," she said. "That was a red flag, because my mom had breast cancer, and I had not been one to follow up and take care of things. I've always been very healthy. Then, out of nowhere, I think it was the Lord who spoke through me and said I needed a breast exam."

McDaniel was given an exam and a mammogram.

"I got a call from a doctor wanting to schedule a biopsy, saying they'd found something," she said.

The results came back as a Stage 2 breast cancer. Shocked, McDaniel said she didn't handle the diagnose well at first.

"I thought, 'Oh my gosh, this is it. I have cancer, I'm going to die and go down the same road as my mom.'"

McDaniel said she had a good cry, like anyone would.

She met with a doctor in Springfield who told her she could probably complete six chemo treatments, reconstructive surgery, and be on her way. He also recommended she see an oncologist, Dr. Gary Hoos, who suggested a year of Herceptin, a chemo administered through a port, but without the side effects of traditional chemo.

At that point, McDaniel said, she placed her life in her doctor's hands, and God's, and had her first chemo treatment. However, more bad news came.

"Dr. Hoos wasn't around much because his grandson had leukemia, so another doctor saw me and changed my chemo, and it made me nervous," she said. "Then, Dr. Hoos was in a car accident returning from his grandson's funeral and died."

Having put her complete trust in her doctor's hands, she took the loss hard.

"It's such a huge thing when you're faced with something life threatening, and this man was phenomenal," she said. "He took away every bit of my fear and stayed with me and answered every question. He was this amazing man and human being.

"The first week, that's the time when you really need your doctor, because they say it sets the tone for the rest. So, after that, I wasn't on top of things."

McDaniel said for a while, she felt lost.

"I tried to stay in prayer and see a reason in it," she said. "But, I was clinging to [Dr. Hoos] so much, that I was taken way off guard by his death. To this day, I think every doctor should have a back up doctor. When it's something so huge like that, people can't afford to be in that gap."

Amazingly, McDaniel has kept working for the most part at her job in housekeeping at Mercy Cassville, while dealing with so many challenges and unknowns.

"The most frustrating thing about cancer is the uncertainty," McDaniel said. "I'm someone who likes to plan, but with cancer, you don't get to have that anymore. That's the biggest struggle at this point, having to turn it all over to the Lord and ride it out."

That's why, before she lost a strand of hair, she decided to be take charge and control something she could, by shaving her head and buying a wig. But then came another shock -- she had to have all of her teeth pulled, and to make it worse, insurance wouldn't cover it.

"I thought, I can go without hair for a while, but no teeth?" she said. "But they said, 'Your teeth are in bad shape and you can't have any infection during the chemo.'"

Thankfully, the Barry County Neighborhood Center, a part of the Ozark Area Community Action Corporation, provided dentures.

"So, in the midst of dealing with chemo, I was dealing with getting dentures," she said. "I spent a lot of time not eating and in a lot of pain." During her journey, her daughter, and her mother, whom she lost to cancer in 2009, are her inspiration, along with her church family.

"Every morning, I look at her picture and say, 'Mom, we're doing this,'" she said. "She was a solider."

Her daughter calls several times a day from California, where McDaniel is originally from.

"She says, 'Hi, mom!' And that's like an injection of healing when you have a child who cares," McDaniel said.

When people do not know what to say or do to help a friend or loved one with breast cancer, McDaniel suggested keeping it simple.

"Just be there for them," she said. "Just sit by them and talk with them. People need to be encouraged, and be surrounded with positive things. Cut away all the negative. When your life is surrounded with all this beauty and peace, everything is so much easier. You don't worry about little things anymore. You also need to hear someone telling you, 'You're going to be OK.' And even if you're not, no matter what, you're going to be OK."

Six months after her diagnosis and with her fourth treatment completed, McDaniel said she has a much different perspective.

"I questioned it all at first, but, to be honest, it's very freeing," she said. "You don't worry about every little thing anymore. Life becomes more precious and meaningful."

McDaniel said there are some things in life you just cannot run from.

"I have always run from things, and I kept seeking the Lord and saying I want to be that person that doesn't run," she said. "You can't run from cancer. You have to accept it, get all the information you can and not let it make you fearful. Until you have something you can't run from that's internal, you don't get to experience the fullness of God.

"Sometimes, God calms the storm, and sometimes, He calms his child and lets the storm rage. I really do have that peace now. That's where He has me -- right in the palm of His hand."

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