Q&A: Survivor shares her story

NT Survivor Cheryl Anderson
Cheryl Anderson

NYA Times

1. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Cheryl Anderson (Samuelson), I have lived in Cologne most of my life. I am 52 years old and I work for Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia as a patient financial service representative for the last four years. Before that I worked for United Telephone/Sprint/Embarq/CenturyLink Phone Company for 30 years.
I grew up on a farm just outside of Cologne with my mom and dad (John and Barb Samuelson) and three brothers (David, Arnold and Mike). I have a stepdaughter (Stacey Cook) and stepson (Doane Rohr) and two step grandkids (Camryn and Carson) and another one on the way who all live in Florida, which is where my husband Terry (Andy) is from. We have been happily married for 10 years.

2. When were you first diagnosed with cancer?

Last year at the age of 51, I went in for my first colon scope on April 10, 2012, and while the doctor was doing the procedure he said “you have a growth here.” I’m sure my mouth dropped opened and I said “what?” He said “you have a growth here and either way it will have to come out.” I was in shock and still not sure I had heard him correctly. Still not sure if I had cancer or not at this point I had a CT scan done and then I got the phone call saying “You have cancer,” words no one wants to hear or should have to hear.

3. What type of treatment have you gone through/are going through? How has this been?

I had surgery to remove the growth/tumor from my colon on April 30, 2012. They did biopsies of my lymphoid to see if it had spread and it had, so was told I would need some kind of treatments. I was told that an oncologist would come and see me before I was discharged from the hospital and sure enough Dr. Blumenreich which he said just call me Dr. B. came and talked with us. He said I should have six months of chemo, My husband and I turned and looked at each other and I thought “holy cow.” But after he explained it in detail it would be a total of 12 treatments every other week. I had a port put in that they used to do my lab work and administer the chemo through. I would go and sit in the oncology office for about 2 to 4 hours, while they administer drugs and the start of my chemo, then they would hook up my chemo pack and I would wear that another 48 hours. The days I got disconnected from my chemo pack I got very tired and I usually went home from work between 2 and 3 p.m.
I was done with my treatments in November of last year. I still go in for follow up treatments and CT scans. Dr. B. says after four years for colon cancer and you are in remission, I have one year under my belt already with three more to go. I keep praying for the best.

4. How has cancer affected your life?

Cancer has affected my life in so many ways; it’s hard to put into words. My oncologist said I would be more in tune with my body and boy was he right. Every new ache or pain you wonder has the cancer moved here or what is it now. I learned to eat a lot healthier and have lost weight. Did I need to do this because of the cancer? No, but I thought it was something I needed to do for myself to make me feel better. You appreciate everything you have in life either big or small a whole lot more. I also told myself that no matter how cancer effected my life or how I felt there is always someone who felt a lot worse than I did, so I lived for each day and thank God for it. I think a positive attitude helps also.

5. Who have been your biggest supporters? How have they helped you?

My husband, family, friends and co-workers were my awesome supporters. From phone calls, cards, visits and meals, they were all very much appreciated. The cards and phone calls can really pick up your spirits, if you’re having a down day. The meals were very much appreciated especially on the days when I would come home from work very tired and didn’t feel like cooking. My husband was with me every step of the way, he went to every appointment I had and still does. I love each and every one of you, your support thoughts and prayers were amusing and the prayers are working so keep them up.

6. Have you known others affected by cancer?

I have known a lot of people who have had cancer from friends to family. My dad died 10 years ago of a brain tumor. He is the main reason I became involved with the NYA Relay For Life. I hope that for my efforts that someday there will be a cure for cancer and no one else will have to hear the words “you have cancer.”

7. What sort of impact has the Relay for Life had on you?

I have been involved in the Relay for Life since its birth nine years ago. The first year I was just on a team, but since then I have been on the committee, chair and was still on a team every year, our Church West Union Lutheran. It’s a lot of hard work, but worth every bit of it when you see all the survivors walking in our survivors lap. That is what this event is all about it is celebrating our survivors and remembering the one who lost their battle with cancer, and then Fighting Back against this deadly disease. Last year the Relay took on a whole new meaning for me as I walked in the survivors walk, it is a very emotional walk. But you have everyone else standing along the track cheering you on. Also, I was standing in the front looking back at our long line of survivors knowing that our efforts to raise money for the American Cancer Society (ACS) are paying off.

8. You were named the Honorary Survivor for the NYA Relay for Life… What does the honor mean to you?

When the committee asked me to be Honorary Survivor this year, it was a shock, I told them I would have to think about it and let them know. I had not even thought about it. I didn’t have to think real long, to realize it was a great honor to be asked. I had asked other people in years past to be Honorary Survivor, but now they were asking me. Now I get to share my story and tell them why I believe what we are doing for the ACS is so important. Because our survivors are surviving longer living better lives, because of our efforts.

9. What are your hopes for the future?

My hopes for the future are that my cancer remains in remission and that someday there is a cure and that is my reason for staying with the NYA Relay For Life. I can see and know firsthand how our efforts are paying off.

10. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would encourage everyone to come to the event; it is a life-changing event. I would also like to thank everyone who has donated anything or sponsored anything to the Relay For Life/ ACS because without your help I don’t know where I would be today. Because of your contributions/help and through the research and development of the ACS. I’m living proof that it does help. Thanks.

Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]