Cancer takes courage, strength and hope to overcome. Not only from the patient, but from those supporting them in their fight as well.
Not that it’s easy. Far from it. There’s a sense of helplessness that’s hard to get past.
“It is devastating,” said Liz Scaggs. “There’s nothing you can do to take that diagnosis — that disease — away from them.”
2015 was a difficult year for Liz and her mother, Wilda Scaggs. Liz lost a sister and father to cancer. Wilda lost a husband and daughter.
Amanda Scaggs passed away on Oct. 31, 2015, following a battle with gallbladder cancer.
Howard Scaggs died on Nov. 27, 2015 from complications due to his throat cancer.
Amanda was diagnosed with cancer in November 2014. It was shocking news. Doctors found it during routine gallbladder surgery.
“After surgery, they called us back, and the doctor told my sister, ‘Well, we got your gallbladder out, but you have cancer,’ ” Liz said.
The doctor told the family he removed most of the cancer by removing Amanda’s gallbladder, where the tumor was located, but she was already at stage 4. He said tumors had spread to Amanda’s bile ducts and liver. More surgery would be required.
Ask them how they feel. Ask them what they want to do with their care.
Liz Scaggs, caregiver
But only about one-quarter of the way into the surgery, doctors realized the cancer had spread too far, too fast.
“When we saw him (the doctor) coming after only being back their two hours, we just hung out heads,” Liz recalled, tears welling in her eyes.
But Amanda was a fighter. She was not about to give up, nor was her family. She started treatments in December, with her family close by every step of the way.
Amanda, a caregiver herself in long-term facilities, put up a valiant fight, but succumbed to her disease 10 months later. She was 36. Throughout her battle, her family never left her side.
“She did not pass away until every single one of us got a chance to say goodbye,” Liz said.
Howard Scaggs, who retired from Ford Motor Co. in 2003 after 30 years with the company, went to the doctor in May 2015 for what he thought was just a sore throat. It also turned out to be cancer.
Radiation, chemo and other medical complications had him in and out of hospitals and nursing facilities for months. But he was able to spend his last days at home and celebrate Thanksgiving with his family. After the meal was over that evening, he asked if his two granddaughters, Isabell, 13, and Julia, 12, could stay and help take care of him. Overnight, he passed away. He was 65.
I went with her to every appointment, every chemo, and every surgery.
Wilda Scaggs, caregiver
While the story for the Scaggs family did not have the outcome for which they all prayed, through the journey, they found out a truth they want to pass on to caregivers out there.
You are not powerless. There’s a million little things to do that make a big difference to those engaged in the fight. No. 1 on the list is just being there.
“I went with her to every appointment, every chemo, and every surgery,” Wilda said.
“We made sure they knew the simple things were going to be taken care of, so they didn’t have so much anxiety,” Liz said. “We took care of the simple things, like appointments, getting Amanda’s kids to and from sports, cleaning, things like that. We were hands-on with their care.”
She says it was the same for her dad.
“We took him to radiation appointments, and helped him with his feeding tube,” Liz said.
But it wasn’t just Liz and Wilda pitching in. Amanda and Howard were also there for each other.
“They knew what the other was going through. They had conversations just between the two of them that we’ll never know about. That was their own little thing,” Liz said. “It was a father and daughter going through it together.”
Talking is so important, they said.
“Ask them how they feel. Ask them what they want to do with their care,” Liz said. “If they are terminal, talk to them about death and ask them about their wishes.”
Wilda agreed. Don’t let those moments slip away, she said, because you can’t get them back.
“I thought we would have more time,” she said.
About Highland Relay for Life
When/where: The communitywide Relay will be held at Glik Park on July 8.
What is Relay for Life? The event will feature a variety of activities and competitions to raise funds for the American Cancer Society, celebrate the lives of those who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost to cancer and raise awareness of cancer and ways to try to prevent the disease. Throughout the evening’s activities, each team keeps at least one member walking on the track.
The event kicks off with a free dinner for survivors and guests the night of Relay, followed by opening ceremony and survivors lap. Another highlight is the luminaria ceremony at 9 p.m. Activities continue throughout the night until the closing.
More information: Anyone interested in corporate sponsorship, registering a team, or learning more about Relay can contact Joy Krouper, event lead, at (618) 409-7864 or firstname.lastname@example.org.