Michelle N

Michelle N., IA

I struggled with weight gain from the time I was 21. By the time I hit 50ish, I could not seem to keep any weight off through many programs. I applied for and was approved for a bariatric surgery at our local hospital until I failed a pre-operation test. Our local hospital referred me to the University of Iowa Bariatric Center. Everything was approved, the surgery was scheduled and I failed the lung pre-operation test. Everything got kind of scary. I had a laboratory test where I had to swallow not one but two tubes down my throat. The doctors found my lungs were packed with “histoplasmosis”, a fungus from birds common in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. The doctors told me it was curable and I started the treatment.

I was treated for three months, the histoplasmosis was going away and a doctor said something was not right – one of the masses was growing. We did another test and it was clearly cancer (non-small cell lung cancer) which metastasized to the brain. My husband and I cried. It was such a surprise and so threatening. We spoke to a spiritual guidance person and started the journey. This was on June 23, 2015. I started chemotherapy right away and then radiation on the brain and then the lungs. I had a halo-like mechanism for radiation and went to comforting world on that afternoon. The lung radiation took care of the bleeding that had started from the lungs. My husband and other family members went with me to every appointment. I continue to hang with the little children in my life who know nothing about cancer but who live in joy. We went on a nice tour every Saturday of the local parks for fun!

My husband and I were advised not to do a lot of internet research but to take the diagnosis and treatment one day at a time. The University of Iowa doctors’ research is in depth and has had a very extensive impact on my life. The doctors spend time with us and answered our questions to help us make decisions on information rather than emotion. The doctors talk to us about the research and what we can do next if needed. Without this research, I would not be so fortunate. My husband and I travel on our motorcycle between treatments. We‘ve been to Myrtle Beach, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Key West, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah to name a few including many national parks, mountains and oceans.

We stay in many bed and breakfasts and add the acquaintances to our friendships. I have continued my chemotherapy, immunotherapy and taking tests in the last three and a half years since diagnosis. I had brain surgery for tumors in brain and I still see my doctor every three weeks. I still work my investigative paralegal job and give as much as I can to my community. I don’t wish cancer on anyone but I definitely got a new heart on living!

Michelle passed in 2020. She is survived by her husband, 2 children and several grandchildren.

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