This year at Hoosiers Outrun Cancer, Rick McMullen shared his cancer experience and gratitude for the support he received from Cancer Support Community with event attendees. Here's what he had to say about his cancer journey.
Rick (65) has been with his partner in life Mary for over 40 years. Rick and Mary live in Bloomington, where they raised 3 sons together, and lost one at age 24. They started a grant program in his honor to support students who use photography to further their research interests.
Recently, Rick retired from Indiana University as a research scientist. Through his career, Rick used advanced computing to solve problems in the physical and life sciences through modeling and simulation. Shortly after retiring, Rick was diagnosed with bladder cancer (August 2021). At that time, Cancer Support Community hadn't yet opened their doors in the Bloomington office.
Like many other forms of cancer, bladder cancer is treatable if discovered early enough. If the signs are ignored or misdiagnosed, it can lead to loss of your bladder or becoming metastatic and difficult to treat. Overall, bladder cancer has a five year survival rate of 77% and is the 13th most frequent cause of new cancer cases in the U.S.)
"A cancer diagnosis is a life changing thing. Although competent medical care is critical to survival, there are other needs a person with cancer has."
Rick wasn’t sure where to turn until nearly a year after his diagnosis he stumbled upon Cancer Support Community while researching bladder cancer resources online. When he noticed that there was emotional and financial support for cancer patients he was immediately hooked. To his surprise, Cancer Support Community had just recently opened a new office in Bloomington, IN.
“We went by the 3rd Street office and found a treasure: welcoming professional staff, a great set of services for cancer patients.”
After being diagnosed, Rick was searching for someone to talk to who truly understood the cancer patient experience. He was comforted by the community filled with survivors courageous enough to share their knowledge and support.
The best part about the Cancer Support Community for Rick is being surrounded by people who have similar concerns and understand the sensitivity behind everyone’s story.
Fortunately, Rick had surgery to remove his tumor and is in remission, but is still struggling with thoughts and worries of reoccurrence. While everyone has their own preferences for receiving help or support, CSC offers a wide variety of counseling, nutrition, exercise, education, and social classes to provide hope, strength, and comfort families and individuals facing cancer.
“What CSC has given me has been so important to me, Mary, and the rest of our family that I would love to find a way to give back to CSC not just in dollars, but in time and talent as well.”
Join Rick and Mary by making a gift before year's end to provide hope, strength and comfort to other families in South Central Indiana.
Written by Amy Marks
My cancer journey began when my husband noticed small nodules protruding from my neck. They felt like hard, tiny peas. The area would swell up to golf ball size and recede. Cancer didn’t cross our minds. No one on either side of my family as far back as I know had cancer. We decided to go to our wonderful family doctor to find out if the nodules were normal, infected, or what. After the doctor felt my neck, the look on his face was a mixture of compassion and complete sickness. He asked a series of questions and referred me to a surgeon to get a biopsy to be evaluated.
This surgeon was convinced it was not cancer. “Cancer doesn’t act like this.” “They’re merely reactive lymph nodes.” He proceeded to send me on a wild goose chase of different doctors and different tests. He insisted that I needed antibiotics. This went on for a few months and my husband and I decided to go back to our family doctor.
The area on my neck was swollen again, this time to 6 cm in diameter. We were referred to an ear, nose, and throat doctor. He conducted an exam and immediately ordered a PET scan. The results showed up like a yellow highlighter marker — cancer detected. This doctor insisted on removing the lymph nodes. Thankfully, he was trained to be mindful of where the nodes were situated and knew how to carefully move the nerve so I wouldn’t lose the use of my arm.
He sent the specimen to the lab. When sent it to another lab, and another. I’m surprised there was any tissue left by the time it got to its final destination: the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Ten days later, the doctor called me at home. He said that I had waited long enough. It was confirmed to be Peripheral T-Cell Lymphoma (NOS).
He led us to my incredible oncologist. She recommended a second opinion which took us to the Simon Cancer Center. That was a surreal experience. People were in different stages of different types of cancer. I wandered up to the office keeping my vision in a tunnel.
Why am I here? Is this me?
The doctors there confirmed my diagnosis. Although it’s relatively rare, I’m grateful to say there was a protocol for that type of cancer. I had to have an internal port surgically inserted. The drugs used for my type of cancer were too harsh for my veins to tolerate.
The first day of chemo was a thirteen-hour marathon. I was allergic to many of the solutions used to convey the medication. After the first solution was started, my son and my nurse sat forward extremely concerned and asked if I was alright. Apparently, my face had turned beet red. The journey to correct that course began. I was put on so much Benadryl, and a ton of steroids to combat the allergies, but my doctor said that we needed to proceed. We had to test out and get through each of the meds in the series. The nurses were amazing—staying after their shift to get me through. I was a mess—so frustrated, so sick, and so tired. That evening my husband took me home.
We had to organize and set alarms for all the steroids and the medication for nausea, not to mention my own regular medication. In total, I had 14 alarms set. I was allergic to a couple of the anti-nausea meds and had to make phone calls in the middle of the night and take Benedryl to combat those. The next morning, I had projectile vomiting. My husband lovingly cleaned that up and we were back to round two of three the next morning. I had 6 rounds of chemo, 3 days of infusions, every 21 days. Also, there was Neulasta administered by securing the medical device to my arm. This was to boost my white blood cells.
The oncologist and the nurses were the best. They absolutely have a calling on their lives. They advocated for me, loved my family, made us laugh, and really listened to me when I was clearly not doing well.
I have to say how grateful I am for my husband and my two sons. We all broke into our roles. My husband was everything: in addition to going to his job he was my medical note taker, chauffeur, therapist, medical assistant, chef, etc. Our older son was the researcher. He gathered information and shared my progress with our family and friends. Our younger son was my emotional support human. He came home to take care of me. He made grilled cheese sandwiches for me and gave my husband the peace of mind to leave me while he went to work.
My friends called, brought food, and let me vent. They all held my hand at chemo and beyond. My job was to simply get better. My hair fell out. I progressively got sicker. My daily goal was to get to the bathroom and back into bed. I would gradually get better only to have to repeat the process of chemotherapy. The doctor got my meds situated and things became somewhat smoother. I would sob on my husband’s shoulder before each new round. “I don’t want to do this anymore.” He would gently persuade me and off we’d go back to chemo with my special blanket made by a kind coworker and my bag of supplies to entertain me for the six-hour period of infusion. I usually slept. Gradually, we weathered each session.
I would sometimes visit the cancer center that was situated behind the old Bloomington Hospital (Olcott Center - before CSC was in town). I went to the head wrapping class. I’m not a girly girl and not very fussy, so learning to wear a scarf with my chemo cap was not only comfortable, it was helpful with my dignity. I was amazed and deeply touched by the support of the staff and the lovely social worker.
Slowly, I kicked cancer’s butt. I rang that bell. The day the doctor told me that “there is no evidence of disease” was strange. I had fully believed that this would kill me. I had the notion that cancer always equaled and ended in death. Through my faith, I had a peace about that. But, I had to wrap my mind around the prospect of living past cancer. Therefore, I had to begin the trek of healing, believing in a future, increasing my activities, growing my hair back. I still have to get CT scans (scan-xiety is real!) and visit with my oncologist, but we’re in a good place now. I still get nervous, but I know that there’s a whole community that selflessly supported me.
My hobby is creating greeting cards. Monthly I create and donate cards to be tucked into the comfort kits that CSC distributes to new cancer patients. I do this as a quiet, loving gesture to brighten a day and let the patients know that they are thought of. I enclose a poem (not my own) that struck my core.
Remember that you are more than skin and bones. You are a thousand stories of before. One thousand stories of potential. One thousand stories you’ve yet to see and know and feel and breathe. There’s more to come and it’s something beautiful. ~Victoria Erickson
You’d be hard pressed to find someone as fierce as Yanick Edouard. A retired Marine, registered nurse, nature lover and passionate artist, Yanick took her maternal role as seriously as she took her military one, always seeking to take the very best care of her family that she could.
Yanick was so dedicated to her three children and her husband that she hid a multiple myeloma diagnosis from them for more than three years, driving herself to doctor’s appointments and painful bone marrow aspirations every week.
She believed in hard work and perseverance, which is perhaps what helped her to hide her diagnosis from her family for so long.
Once chemotherapy and radiation were recommended, she was worried she would be unable to be in treatment and care for her family in the way she preferred. The next 15 years brought many highs and lows, but Yanick took her diagnosis and each doctor’s appointment in stride, fighting valiantly to be with her children as long as she could. She was there for the high school and college graduations of each of her children, and she saw her youngest daughter graduate from medical school and become a doctor.
After Yanick passed, Michele and her siblings were searching for meaningful ways to donate their mother’s things that would honor dynamic personality and be impactful to those who used them. Michele came across Cancer Support Community South Central Indiana (CSCSCI) while doing a Google search for local organizations to which she could donate her mom’s art supplies.
After she discovered the plethora of art programming CSCSI supports, including the popular Calming Creations and Courageous Cards with Mandy classes, as well as the availability of the mini art gallery on W. 3rd Street that highlights local artists, she knew she had found a place that would put her mother’s art supplies to good use.
While dropping off the art supplies, Michele met CSCSCI program manager Katie Tremel. Katie was touched by not only the graciousness of the donation, but by the courage and strength with which Yanick had faced her diagnosis. To honor her, Katie created the “Yanick Eduard Acrylic Painting class” to use the donated art supplies and honor Yanick’s memory. Welcoming both beginning and experienced artists, the class was led by Rebecca Woodward, who guided attendees in the creation of their very own masterpiece: joyful sunflowers – a favorite of Yanick’s.
Every person who left that room had a smile on their face – exactly how Michele remembers her mother.
“I would encourage anyone… who is thinking about estate planning or anyone who is the executor of an estate … to think about whom they could donate to … that would make a difference in their community,” Michele said. CSCSCI is so thankful for the difference Yanick and Michele are making for those affected by cancer in our community.
More information can be found here about CSCSCI’s art focused programming.
After graduating from IU, I left Indiana with no intention of returning except for the holidays. In 2009, my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and my father’s Alzheimers meant he was unable to navigate her care so I, in the space of a chaotic month, left my life in Texas to become a full-time caregiver. My mother died in 2010, my father in 2020. I’m still in Indiana because I need ten years of service for an Indiana teaching pension. I’m finishing up my 7th year - but who’s counting? When I finally retire, I will have 32 years of teaching experience under my belt, mostly middle school. My retirement plan is van life, traveling to family and friends, seeking adventure while avoiding cold weather (and middle schoolers) at all costs.
Because of my family history of breast cancer, I began getting mammograms in my 30’s. Sometime in 2019 I had noticed some changes in my left breast, even brought it to the attention of my PCP but my mammogram that year and the year after were fine. When my 2021 mammogram came back as abnormal, I wasn’t surprised. Actually, there was a strange sense of relief because I didn’t have to worry anymore IF I was going to get breast cancer. It felt as if the other shoe had finally dropped. My diagnosis is here and now I can deal with it. Because my mother and her mother lived for decades after their mastectomy and died of causes unrelated to their breast cancer, I decided my narrative would be the same.
I was officially diagnosed in December 2021 with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in my left breast, HER 2 negative, Estrogen and Progesterone Receptor positive. I tested positive for the BRCA-2 mutation which heightens the possibility of prostate, ovarian and breast cancer. My brother is also BRCA-2 positive and was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018. He treated it aggressively and, for now, is doing ok. Fortunately, my sister tested negative.
After having managed to avoid an operating room for 56 years, 2022 was my Year of Surgery with a bilateral mastectomy in February and a bilateral salpingo oophorectomy in September. Yeah, I could say BSO but bilateral salpingo oophorectomy is so much more fun to say. My lymph nodes and mastectomy margins were clean so I did not need chemotherapy or radiation. My ovaries and Fallopian tubes were healthy. I am on a hormone blocker while, not life-threatening, has definite life-altering effects. I know women who have chosen breast reconstruction with implants or flap surgery. However, I made the decision to stay “flat” because I did not want any additional surgical interventions. To date, I have no regrets.
The Cancer Support Community has played an integral part in my recovery. It was early December, I was newly diagnosed, driving to work east on 3rd Street when BOOM! Cancer Support Community. I took that sign as a sign the Universe was going to take care of me. I don’t think the office was even open yet because the first couple of times I stopped by to check it out, the door was locked. I kept cold-calling and, eventually, the renovation work was done, the door unlocked and I jumped in with both feet. My first program was Rebecca’s art series. I was a little uncomfortable less because it was 3 weeks after my mastectomy and more because my artistic ability is MEH. I have painted and yoga-ed and Reiki-ed and eaten and counseled and sang and laughed and cried over the past year both in-person and virtually. I have learned about nutrition and organization and Moving Beyond, but, most importantly, I have learned that there is a resourceful, supportive and caring team of staff as well as other cancer fighters and survivors always ready with a smile and a “How can I help?”
At first, I struggled with using these resources because my cancer experience wasn’t really that bad. No chemo, no radiation, no hospital stays (my double mastectomy was outpatient!), no underlying fear of dying and leaving my family and friends to grieve. I “only” lost my breasts and ovaries and fallopian tubes. How could I possibly be a candidate for all these services? I didn’t deserve it. Crazy talk! I did have cancer. I did need the support. I still need the support, and I’m so, so grateful that the Cancer Support Community said in no uncertain terms “We are here for you.”