Megan's Journal: Cancer-free for nearly six years
By Jessica Brewer, LMH Health
If you have visited LMH Health’s website, you may be familiar with Megan Hill. She documented her journey with cancer, using her journal to take us from feeling a lump, through surgery, chemotherapy and finally her good news: that she is cancer-free! November 2018 marked the fifth anniversary of Megan finding out that she was officially cancer-free. Her story, her struggles and her positivity is something the Lawrence community has read about and connected with these past few years.
Hill got the news that she had cancer when she was relatively young. It had a significant impact and made her reflective on her life. Despite her fears, Hill was determined to stay positive, though it didn’t mean she wasn’t afraid.
“It helped knowing I wasn’t in this alone,” she said. “My providers at LMH Health were there and my personal relationships with family and friends grew so much more. It was hard on them, my son and my loved ones who had to watch me go through this.”
As the sixth anniversary of Hill’s remission approaches, she looks back about her outlook on life and reflects on her life from before cancer to being a survivor.
“Cancer changed my outlook profoundly,” Hill said. “I am much less stressed than in my pre-cancer life and I learned to take things less seriously. I learned to take work seriously but not let it take me over. I wake up each day and I give thanks for my health, my family, friends and for being alive.”
Hill said that in a way, as odd as it may sound, cancer was a gift. It revealed the stressors in her life and showed her how many people love and care for her. Thinking about cancer and thinking about the potential for it to return does not intimidate her anymore.
“I really don’t worry about and don’t want to let the fear of it take me over,” Hill said. “You kind of want to put it behind you and move on. I’ve told myself, life has moved on and I don’t want to focus on it anymore and it feels good! If I experience a pain or sense anything off, I sometimes have a brief moment of ‘Oh no, is it back?’ It is a knee jerk reaction, but I try not to think this way.”
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. It is the most common cancer among women worldwide, taking the lives of hundreds of thousands of women each year. The news isn’t all bad. Though these statistics are significant, the death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1990. This can be attributed, in part, to early detection, increased awareness and continually improving treatment options.
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘When you get to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on’,” Hill said. “There are a lot of those end-of-the-rope moments during cancer treatment, and you’ve got to hold on.”
For anyone recently diagnosed with cancer or receiving treatment, Hill says that one of the lessons she had to learn quickly was to ask for and accept help. Don’t feel that you are a burden to those around you.
“People want to help,” Hill said. “Your loved ones want to help because when they help you and comfort you, they are helping and comforting themselves as well.”
There is no way to completely prevent getting breast cancer. Family history and genetic factors play a large role in future health, along with race, gender, age and personal health history. Avoiding risk factors such as alcohol consumption, getting little to no physical activity, poor diet and obesity can help. Though eliminating these things does not guarantee you will not get breast cancer, they can promote living a healthier lifestyle.
“Having had cancer has helped me live a better life today,” Hill said. “I have watched the products I use, the foods I eat, the exercise I get and watching out for harmful things that could hurt my body. I realized how fragile life is. Though mine was caught early, it makes you prematurely face your mortality and focus on those you love and quality time with them.”
Those who have a cancer diagnosis or have family members or others affected by cancer are not alone. The LMH Health Cancer Support Group meets from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. every third Wednesday of the month in the LMH Health Oncology & Hematology Center.
“Anyone in Lawrence with a cancer diagnosis is lucky to have this amazing oncology department in a community this size,” Hill said. “The care is very comprehensive and I would recommend it to anyone.”
Hill said that through it all, she knew she had to keep her head up as high as she could. When she hit those moments of anxiety, fear and depression, she forced herself, even in the darkest moments, to shift to a positive mindset.
“It is different for every person, but if anyone knows me they know I am a positive person,” Hill said. “I just encourage anyone to be as positive as you can be because it is hard to get yourself out of the darkness when you’ve let yourself sink in.”
Jessica Brewer is the social media and digital communications specialist at LMH Health.