Chasity Clifton is a childhood cancer survivor. She is married and lives with her husband in Fort Worth, Texas where she works in operations for HGC Development.
Children with cancer all have very different experiences. We are so thankful for this journey that this young woman shared with us who went through cancer as a child and is now a survivor.
At the beginning of my 7th-grade year, after about six months of undiagnosed symptoms, my pediatrician referred me to a gynecologist. I remember it being a short, obviously uncomfortable appointment for a twelve-year-old girl, but that the doctor was quickly certain I needed to see a specialist. She immediately sent me on to Medical City Dallas. I will never forget arriving at the appointment with my mom, aunt, and grandmother, and they paused before we entered, explaining it was a cancer center, and to be prepared for the state of the patients I might see. As a child, the word cancer is a terrifying word, but it was much more real to me as my father had passed from colon cancer almost exactly two years before.
The oncologist tried to do a biopsy in the office that day but ended up needing to explore further and scheduled a day surgery procedure for the next week. We made the drive home, with only more questions and fear than before. After the biopsy, they ended up keeping me overnight to watch me more closely. The next day, we were sent back home to await the results.
In the meantime, I went back to school. I remember there being a field trip scheduled in Dallas that Friday, a two-hour drive from the town I grew up in. Due to the extent of the biopsy, I was unable to ride a school bus for that long of a trip, so the school allowed my mom and two of my best friends to follow the bus in our car so that I wouldn’t miss out. While we were shopping at the mall before heading home, my mom received a phone call. She left the store we were in without returning for several minutes. When she did, she let me pick out a full outfit of my choosing. I didn’t question it!
Two days later, my mom woke me up much earlier than normal to get ready for church. Never having been a morning person, I was anything but pleased. She took me into the living room and told me that the doctor had called with the results and had scheduled emergency surgery for early the next morning. It was cervical cancer. I needed to eat breakfast quickly, as I wasn’t allowed solid foods for the rest of the day. This was the phone call she’d received at the mall on Friday. I don’t recall much more from that day, other than arriving at church and the pastor gathering the entire congregation to surround me to pray.
At Medical City the next morning, there was a tribe of 20 plus of our family and friends following us around the hospital, providing prayers, love, and support anywhere they could. As I was waiting for the doctor, the anesthesiologist handed me this brand new, just released gadget called an iPod and played Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up the Sun to distract me. It is so crazy the things we remember when we’re trying to brace ourselves for what’s ahead. Dr. Munoz arrived and showed me how long he thought the incision would be, that he would need to take some lymph nodes to make sure cancer hadn’t spread and that it was possible he would have to do a hysterectomy. At that moment, my world forever changed. Even at twelve, maybe without even knowing it at the time, I felt this innate desire to be a mother, and those words felt tragic. My mother, the ever-constant prayer warrior, immediately spoke against that, as they rolled me away.
Surgery was successful, but aggressive, as he had in fact performed a radical hysterectomy. I stayed in the hospital for five days and recovered well. This was in October, and as they began discussing follow up treatment, I begged for them to allow me to begin chemo after our school’s Valentine’s Day dance. Losing my hair before such an event was out of the question. 😉 They conceded. We returned to Winnsboro, and I started doing school work from home. In November, I went back to school for half days, my mom would pick me up a little before lunch, and we would drive the two hours to Dallas for the Monday through Friday radiation treatments. This lasted for six weeks. I had no side effects that I can remember! In late February, we began chemotherapy once a week. I had a port-a-cath put in under my collar bone to administer the two types of medication. To sit in a room full of women over the age of forty, most frail, without hair, or appetite, hooked to a machine for 6-8 hours at a time, could not have been more bizarre for a thirteen-year-old. A lot of learning and growth happened in that room. Even when I go back today, I can’t help but look in to hope and pray for those in the midst of their battle. I finished chemo treatments at the end of May, and by a miracle alone, I recall experiencing one bout of nausea, and never lost my hair!
It cannot go without saying that I have no doubt things would have looked very different for me if I wasn’t surrounded by the best family, friends, and small-town that rallied around us holding fundraisers, sending up prayers, and loving us through such a trying time. Dr. Munoz was a Godsend. And my mom…how in the world she held it all together as a widowed mother of a twelve-year-old cancer patient and a four-year-old daughter, and a sole business owner, I will never be able to comprehend.
Here we are, eighteen years later this October, without a single relapse! I can’t say that this life hasn’t had its challenges since, as my husband and I are 4.5 years into navigating how to start a family, and what that must look like for us. My father passed away before he was my age, so taking control of my health where I can is truly the greatest investment I can make. I am healthy, able, blessed, and grateful to say I’m a childhood cancer survivor, and I greatly admire TeamConnor for the amazing work that they do for pediatric cancer research and to affect change in the lives of so many burdened by this disease.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Sign up to comment in the forums, on posts, and receive our newsletters.