Dawn and Shawn-Marie
Name and role with the CCA (include where you are from/what chapter you are a part of):
Dawn Goudie, Co-Chair, Chapter of Central Arizona
Shawn-Marie Linsenmayer, Volunteer with the Chapter of Central Arizona
How did you find out about the CCA?
When our Mom, Nan Goudie was first diagnosed, she was 56, and we were scrambling to get as much information as possible about the disease and the diagnosis. During our research on the internet, Shawn-Marie found the CCA website. At that time the website provided much-needed information. Additionally, the website helped us to see that we were not alone in battling this disease we had never heard of.
Why did you decide to volunteer with the CCA ?
At the time of our Mom's diagnosis. In moving forward we are determined to not let anyone feel as alone as we did when our Mom was first diagnosed. In truth, CCA support materials are a wealth of knowledge during diagnosis, but also we know that the CCA objective to promote awareness is the only way to stop the spread of this disease.
When was your mother diagnosed with colon cancer?
Mom was diagnosed October 2005 as Stage IV Colon Cancer. She immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumor in her colon and some affected lymph nodes. Her resection was successful and the social worker told us our next step was to speak with the oncologist on-call at the hospital. Our initial meeting with the oncologist, was a defining moment in the care we would choose for our Mom. The Oncologist gave mom two months to live and was not sympathetic, to say the least, about her circumstances or treatment. In addition, the oncologist was very irritated at our effort to ask questions and try to work out a plan that could sustain her life. We Fired that oncologist! Ironically, in our search for a new oncologist we were referred to his partner, a ray of sunshine and a perfect match! Mom was a fighter and we wanted someone who had the same passion for living regardless of the statistics.
So four weeks after her resection our Mom started Chemo every two weeks. Initially, the chemo was a monster and she was very ill. She would be very sick for a week and then we would take advantage of the next week and enjoyed every moment of the "good week." We used to laugh that we were so happy to have 25 "good weeks" out of the year.
A year and a half into our Mom's treatment, our Mom had a second successful resection and the day after she got out of the hospital, her Mom, Margaret "Betty" Heitkam, our Grandmother went into the ER with a bowel obstruction. Our Grandmother, who was an otherwise active and healthy 82, was advised not to have a colonoscopy because of the Cumidin she took. Little did we know that she would have Colon Cancer as well. Our Grandmother never really recovered from the first attempted resection and passed away after the third attempt that month. Our Grandmother passed away May 22, 2007.
Our Mom continued to fight and lived for 2 years and 7 months after her diagnosis, passing on May 1, 2008.
What was your reaction to your mother's diagnosis?
Our initial reaction was complete shock and disbelief. We were horrified and knew nothing about anything that the Doctors, Surgeons, and Oncologists were trying to tell us. When they told us that our Mom had 2 months to live, we immediately started researching trying to educate ourselves about her possible options.
What was your biggest fear as a caregiver?
"I was always afraid that we weren't fighting hard enough. And I was always trying to find the latest treatments that could save her. The other thing is that I was always worried that she could die under my care." -- Shawn-Marie
"I was always worried that I wouldn't be strong enough for her. I cried in front of her and felt bad, because she was sick and wasn't crying. She would be comforting me. I just hoped I was doing everything I could for her." -- Dawn, I am still crying writing this...
What was your biggest challenge as a caregiver?
Combined we have seven children and it was very difficult to juggle husbands, children, working and the 24 hr. care of our Mom. But we learned early on, that she needed an advocate to fight for her, so as part of our care, we were her advocates fighting for her life. We never left her alone, one of us was always there, hospitals, dr. appointments, chemotherapy we were not going to take a chance with her care.
What are some day-to-day mentalities or practices that helped sustain you as a caregiver?
God was the only way. Our faith guided us through every day of the journey.
What is something that gave you hope as a caregiver?
Our Mom gave us hope because she was so strong and positive. She was at peace with the challenge set before her and truly walked with Grace. Our Mom remarked that her head was, "like a beacon" and many times people would ask her about her illness. She inspired others with her strength and courage.
What would you like other caregivers who are going through a similar loss to know?
Be kind to yourself. This is a difficult yet rewarding experience. The nature of this illness and treatment is very unpredictable, so you never know what one day will bring to the next, but don't be hard on yourself.
What are three things you cherish most about your mother?
"I remember her laughter and her smile, she was always so happy. I cherish the faith that she taught me early on. But most of all, I remember her hugs and the way she smelled, especially when she would tell me, 'oh honey, don't cry, everything is going to be o.k.'" --Dawn
"I will always cherish her smile, and her spiritual depth, she was an incredible example of how life should be lived and cherished." -- Shawn-Marie
This is a difficult question for us because we will never forget the amazing woman that was long before cancer and the incredible woman she was during cancer.
How did the CCA help you/your mother in the fight against her CRC?
When we first attended the CCA conference in Phoenix, it gave us so much hope and we left energized. Then when we attended the Baltimore CCA conference it was like seeing old friends that understood what we'd been through and the ongoing challenges. There was a common bond that remains to this day.
Describe the role of family, friends, faith (as applicable) in shaping you -- helping you to be strong women and strong caregivers?
We couldn't have done anything without our faith. We knew we were not in control and that every day we were given with our Mom was a blessing. We also relied on each other. As far as being strong caregivers, we didn't realize we had it in us until we were faced with losing our Mom. Truly, our Mom's strength gave us strength because she was so sick, and yet endured, kept fighting, and remained kind and loving.
How has this experience changed your views of being a mother? Wife? Friend?
Now, the best way that we show our love to our friends and family is by reminding them of the importance of screening.
The experience is also a reminder of the importance of living every day to the fullest because none of us know what the future will bring.