Nancy Traxler’s Cancer Survival Story
Nancy Keebaugh Traxler, a 61- year-old registered nurse from Hustontown, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in December 1996. She was diagnosed after her son’s dog jumped on her stomach, which led to finding a lump in her lower right abdomen.
Nancy isn’t the only member of her family to have taken a journey with cancer. Her mother survived kidney cancer after having her kidney removed, so Nancy knew that cancer was not an automatic death sentence, but there were still many fears and some still exist: Would she be able to handle the chemotherapy treatments? Why did she have to make the trips to Hershey? Weren’t there specialists any closer? Would her family be willing to support her?
Nancy’s first surgery was in December 1996 to remove her reproductive organs. The report immediately after surgery was “it appears to be a benign tumor.” The final pathology report came back two weeks later, however, showing a Stage 1 malignant tumor. Nancy was told that even though this was a very early stage of cancer, she would need an additional surgery to be sure the surgeon had removed the entire tumor and that no cells had been left behind to spread. The second surgery was six weeks later in January 1997, followed by the first round of chemotherapy in February. The medication, Paclitaxol, did not agree with her and she went into shock. Two days later, Nancy was given a different medication and she did well with it.
Nancy’s cancer information was entered into a computer for inclusion in a random study to determine the number of chemotherapy sessions that she would be given. Her magic number was six. After finishing five chemotherapy sessions in May 1997, Nancy decided that was enough. She had things that needed to be done by a certain time and if she continued with the treatment, there would not be enough time to rebuild her strength to complete six bridesmaid dresses before the end of August.
Nancy was finally able to return to work full time by the third week in May, only to be permanently laid off for economic reasons.
Feeling belittled and of no value due to the layoff, Nancy’s depression returned. She said that it was difficult to accept that the layoff was not due to personal or performance reasons. A couple of years later, however, she was thankful for the day she was laid off because it became the “best” day of her life, as she was able to pursue higher education and build a new career.
She continued annual visits with the oncologist for nine years and still has annual mammograms with no subsequent signs of cancer. There are several caregivers that supported Nancy throughout her illness and recovery that made all the difference in her fight against cancer: her husband, Clair; her mother, Jean Keebaugh; and her daughter, Lauri DeShong. Her son and daughter-in-law, Larry and Michelle, were also very special caregivers.
Nancy says that the biggest changes in her life since getting cancer are a new career in nursing and three more grandchildren to enjoy.
Nancy’s advice to anyone who is currently battling cancer is to pray and give thanks for all of the blessings in life and never give up. Accept help from family, friends and neighbors and remember you are not going through this alone. Do not be afraid to seek counseling to help with depression. During chemotherapy treatments, drink plenty of water to wash away those nasty toxins from your system. Try to adopt a healthy lifestyle of eating more fruits and vegetables, more poultry and fish, and exercise regularly.
One final piece of advice that Nancy offers to those who have been diagnosed with cancer is to learn as much as possible about the disease process to be better prepared to fight.
Nancy is very thankful that she received financial reimbursement from the American Cancer Society (ACS) for mileage to her cancer treatments. For many years before Nancy had cancer, she and her husband collected contributions to the ACS. Since then Nancy has been involved with walking in the ACS’s Relay For Life of Fulton County and providing and purchasing items for the Relay auction as part of the Medical Center’s Angels Relay team. She has also helped to distribute daffodils during the ACS’s annual Daffodil Days event.
For Nancy, the reward of participating in Relay For Life is getting to know and acknowledge long-term cancer survivors and meeting and welcoming new survivors to the Fulton County Relay group.
Plan to join Nancy at the Disney themed 2012 Relay For Life of Fulton County on Friday, May 18, beginning at 4 p.m. through 4 p.m. Saturday, May 19. For more details and to sign up for the survivor’s reception, visit www.relayforlife.org/pafultoncounty.