Cancer survivor feels blessed after 24 years
Margie Sandwell had been anemic for six to eight months, and iron pills weren’t helping.
Her doctor finally ordered a colonoscopy, and cancer was discovered high up under her ribs. The surgeon said it was stage 4.
During surgery to remove 14 inches of her colon, the doctor noticed a few minor spots on her liver. He removed them and they, too, were found to be malignant. He also removed five lymph nodes.
The doctor gave Margie two years to live. He said that once you cut into a cancer, you have no idea if or where it might spread.
Now, miraculously, 24 years later, Margie still is enjoying a good life.
“I thought the chemo would kill me,” she said. “I was blessed. I thought my doctor was one step below God. He told me there is no such thing as remission, but if it makes you feel good, you can call it that.”
Getting to that point was not easy. She underwent 60 chemotherapy treatments, five days a week every month for 12 months.
She endured nausea, loss of hair, and loss of appetite and lost 30 pounds. Wearing a wig in public helped her self esteem.
When her treatments ended in March 1998, her children surprised her and husband, Kenneth, with a family Caribbean cruise.
“That was so much fun,” she said.
She tried to gain back the weight she lost. It took a couple of years, but then the gain didn’t stop.
That concerned her because her mother had been overweight and had died from congestive heart failure.
She joined the Marion TOPS chapter in 2009 and got to her goal weight of 122 pounds in six months. She has kept the weight off, making her a KOPS.
“My philosophy is, if you are going to do something, do it good,” she said.
Daily exercise and eating right are part of staying healthy.
Margie and Kenneth walk every day and put up produce from their vegetable garden. When the weather is bad, they walk at the Marion gymnasium.
Margie’s knees have started to give her trouble, so last week she began water aerobics at the aquatic center.
“I really didn’t want to put a swimming suit on at my age of 79,” she said, “but I am impressed. You’re busy the whole hour. It’s very relaxing.”
She does aerobics four days a week and walks the other three days.
Margie has been involved in Relay for Life since 1998 and has often led top fund-raising teams.
She is aware that the cancer can come back at any time. She has lab work and a CAT scan every year.
“That worry hangs over your head,” she said. “But it’s a small price to pay for staying alive. I think God had some plan for me.”
The Sandwells are celebrating their 61st wedding anniversary today. They have four children, nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren, with another on the way.
“I do not call it luck,” Margie said of her survival. “I think it’s the grace of God. It makes me humble and appreciative of life.”