This is the cancer story of our amazing Elizabeth Plowmen Wood.
"I found out just by chance. I had no other foreseeable symptoms but being enemic I was actually feeling really healthy. I was running about twenty five miles a week, taking a pilates class, school full time and working. I was feeling really healthy. It was caught on a blood test. Then that led to more tests. Then that led to a cat scan. Then that led to a biopsy, then another biopsy. Then the nurse's assistant called and said, "You have Hodgkin's Disease." Just as a side not, she did not know what that was. It would have been nice to have a medical professional tell me what I was just diagnosed with..... Anyway. There was a lot more testing they had to do, and it's funny, but every time I got news it was worse than I thought it would be, but really, I was getting the best news possible as far as fighting the cancer would go. Hodgkin's Disease is the most curable cancer for women, so if I had to choose, and it seemed I had no choice but to choose, this was the cancer that you would pick as far as survival rates go. Then we found out I had eight tumors inside my body. The biggest was right between my rib cage and my heart, about the size of a grapefruit. The combination of the size of my biggest tumor and where the others were placed pushed me into stage three instead of stage two. The survival rate goes down slightly, but I honestly believe that the treatment for the higher stage cancer was the one that I needed to go through. It is much more concentrated. It is twelve weeks of treatment, sometimes once a week, sometimes twice. There was medication to take every day. The treatment for second stage is every two weeks, but it would have taken longer to complete. I needed to get through this as fast as I could, even with the additional treatments. It turned out to be a good thing for me. My mom fed me as much healthy food as I could eat, which at times wasn't much. But she juiced for me every day. She knew that I wasn't going to be able to eat enough to get the energy I needed, but I could drink in the morning and get a load of my daily vitamins. And she had me taking extra vitamins to help protect the rest of my body. To help keep me strong. I think this saved my life. I know this did. The doctors at the Hunstman Institute said that they only see one or two patients a year that do as well as I did. Think of the number of people treated there a year. I have no doubt that my mother's diligence was a leading factor in this.
That being said, it was not easy. I did feel sick. I felt tired. It was hard and it took a toll on my body, mind and spirit. I remember many of my nights were spent asking why this had to happen. Why now in my life when I felt I had been doing so much right. Why when I had met the boy that I was already in love with. I cried most days. But I felt a great release from letting out my emotions. My normal way of doing things had been to bottle up my emotions until one day they would explode, and then to start the pattern over again. But my sorrow for what I was going through was so close that I couldn't contain it. I lost my hair. This might have been the hardest thing to happen. I could hide the scars, my nausea, the pale skin. But I could not hide that I was loosing my hair. This hurt the most. I mourned the loss of my hair. My family often cried with me, which helped strangely. It was a comfort to know that I was not alone. That my ache and burden was being carried by those around me. I felt as though I was being carried by unseen forces. People who I could not see cheering me on. And though it was the most difficult time in my life, it was also the time that I was most sure that the Lord new of my struggles. And though I could not see it, I knew that it would be okay. It would be hard, but He would not leave my side for a moment, even the times when I couldn't feel Him there.
My father gave me a wonderful quote which I read each morning during this time, and still quote to myself as a personal mantra. It was from Elder Wirthlin's conference talk. He said, "Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays. But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come. No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come." The words were perfect. Sunday will come. What a beautiful thought. I could be made whole again. We saw this miracle come to pass. And it was a miracle. My Lord had proved His side to me, that He would not leave my side.
There was much joy during this time, as you can imagine. I received more Priesthood blessings at this time then I think I have my entire life, and that is saying something with a father and five older brothers. I could honestly feel the power of the priesthood. I could feel the strength and love of the Lord pouring from the mouths of my father and brothers and they asked the Lord to help me through this. There was a protection from other things so that we could focus on what needed to be done. There was protection, even if it wasn't the miracle I had plead for.
We laughed still. If there is one thing that my family loves to do it is laugh. There was joy. There were moments that I could forget about things. There were glimpses of happiness that could fill up the moments that weren't. There was a lot to be thankful for. There was my mom, who never once left my side. My father helping to ease my stress. His gentle nature coming out more than I had ever seen it in my life. My brothers, who would stand between me and any harm, now having to hold me up instead. And there was Jeff. My light. He was my joy. I can't imagine someone standing by while this was going on and being willing to stay. But he was. He stayed right by be. He courted me. He never acted embarassed to be the guy dating the girl in a wig. I often say, "He loved me through cancer." It's the truth, and such a beautiful thing. He loved me at my worst. The Lord had given me this great gift. The knowledge of how my future husband would love me: unconditionally. He had proved it. The Lord had given me one of the hardest things to go through, I believe, but He didn't leave me alone once. He didn't turn His back on me. He showed that I was His child, and that He loved me enough to have me grow in ways I couldn't by myself.
I would like to end with my testimony. I understand now that there is power in prayer, for I could feel the families and friends praying for me. I know that the Savior descended below all things, and that is how I was able to make it through. I believe in the power of eternal families, and that it gives us extra strength to overcome trials. I believe that we go through those things so that we can be closer to our Father, and more fully understand His plan of Happiness, and to learn about compassion and faith. The gospel is set forth to help us through this life, no matter the outcome of the things we go through. It is the truth and the only way we can sustain our happiness in the life to come. "