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Sydney Chalfa

When I was diagnosed with MS thirty-three years ago, I naively thought that would be the only major medical issue I would face in my life. My bouts with MS varied between being mild sometimes and debilitating at others. As part of my treatment for MS, I did a series of chemo treatments for that disease. I never considered that I would possibly have to face cancer as a medical diagnosis; after all, the only person in my immediate family who had ever had cancer was my sister Laura Humphress Getty. My illusion of the health issues I would face was shattered eleven years ago when I was diagnosed with a malignant growth on my face. My dermatologist determined it had to be removed immediately and I had to have many layers of skin removed and skin grafted from my left ear to reconstruct my nose. My face was stapled together for two weeks and I still have a scar on my nose from the plastic surgery that was required. Again being naive, I thought that was the last time I would have to face cancer.

 

Five years go I retired from my hectic job as a college theatre director. I had loved this job and had directed almost 100 shows in the twenty-seven years I held it. But the stresses of the job made my MS much worse and I knew when it was time to let go. Retirement had other surprises for me, though. A series of alarming symptoms led me to my gynecologist who ran tests and told me I had a growth in my cervix and would need a hysterectomy to determine what the exact problem was. The surgery revealed the mass was malignant and it had spread to the surrounding lymph nodes. My doctor told me that thankfully, I would not need chemo but I would require thirty sessions of radiation. Of course, this distressed me but my husband John stood by my side and went to every radiation session with me which made the situation much more bearable. Today I am cancer free and so very grateful for the excellent doctor I have and for the love and strength of my family and friends who helped me get through that time.

 

My relaxed schedule in retirement has caused my MS to become much more manageable; in fact, I now regard the MS and my cancer incidents as chapters I had to live through as part of my unique life. These chapters have taught me I have the strength to face hardships and bring courage and hope despite the inevitable fear that goes along with the situation. I am so honored to be a C3 warrior this year and I thank those who made this possible.

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