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Stories of Perseverance: Amy Hill

Throughout July the Lowell Ledger and the Buyer's Guide & News will once again highlight the stories of area cancer survivors and those who are dealing with grief. Each writer will convey, in their own words, their experiences as they walk through the many phases of their personal journey.
All photos courtesy of Heather Eveland Photography.

My name is Amy Hill.  I grew up in Lowell and graduated from high school in 1985. I currently live in the house I grew up in. I have two older sisters and two older brothers.  

After living in Ann Arbor, Dallas, and Chicago after graduation, I returned home.  I lived once again in the house where I spent my childhood to help take care of my father. Nine years later I helped take care of my mother. Then seven years after that my brothers and sisters took care of me. All within the walls of the same home. I came to appreciate why Lowell was so special after living in other places. Lowell is home and I love where I live.  

In November 2016 I started to feel intense lower back pain that was getting worse. The next month I started seeing blood in my stool. I was 49 and had not had a colonoscopy. In mid-January I had a colonoscopy with my two sisters by my side. As I was in the recovery room, the doctor had to keep telling me that a large mass was found on the left side of my colon. I was so groggy I didn’t comprehend it.

Surgery was scheduled soon after. I was diagnosed with Stage 3C colon cancer (very close to stage 4) and I started chemo two weeks later that lasted for six months. I had a very strong chemo and would leave the infusions with a chemo pump that I would wear for two days. The treatment left me with neuropathy which causes pain in my hands and feet but also a numbness and tingling at times.  I have bone pain too.  

Two years later, I still have neuropathy in my hands and feet. I cut my fingers frequently because the nerves do not allow me to feel properly and have to be more careful. I have also had to work on my balance. Therapy and medication has helped some but I will likely be left with neuropathy for the rest of my life. I still have scans every six months to keep an eye on a couple of spots to make sure they aren’t growing or spreading.  

I have my own pet-sitting business but have had to cut back on my days and number of clients I can care for. I’ve had to reduce the number of hours I work as I get tired easily.   

Many days I didn’t want to go on and still have those days. But my family, friends, a support group, and pets let me know that I’m strong and need to go on. I have been going to Gilda’s Club in Grand Rapids and Lowell. The Grand Rapids location has a colorectal cancer support group and I attend a general support group in Lowell. Both have been helpful in having a place to talk about cancer and the effects of medication with others. I have been able to find support as well as offer it to others as we can all relate. I appreciate the dinners the volunteers prepare for us. I cannot cook for myself like I used to and the good food and good company strengthens me.

I hope that those reading this will take time to get colon screenings. It isn’t a fun or pleasant experience but it’s a way to possibly catch cancer in an earlier stage. I have thought about the what-ifs had I been screened earlier or later. I’m thankful for Pink Arrow. Their support helped at times when I needed it the most. Colorectal cancer ribbons and support colors are blue, but I’m a big fan of pink too. Friends, clients, my family, Gilda’s Club, and Pink Arrow are all helping me make it through each day.

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