The Relay for Life: One Survivors Story – Paula Verdetto

Paula Verdetto (right) said the support of her husband Mike (left), family, friends and a caring community helped her to endure several months of treatments for endometrial cancer, involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies. Patti Carpenter photo

Paula Verdetto (right) said the support of her husband Mike (left), family, friends and a caring community helped her to endure several months of treatments for endometrial cancer, involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and other therapies.
Patti Carpenter photo

Keeping up the fight, one moment at a time

A little more than two years ago Paula Verdetto’s world was turned upside down when she learned she had cancer.

“A lot has transpired in those two years and it actually went by pretty fast, but it seemed like such a long time when I was going through it,” said Verdetto.

Though she knew there was a history of cancer in her family, with two sisters who were already breast cancer survivors, she wasn’t quite prepared to hear the c-word in regard to her own health. She was even less prepared for the six months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments that followed, at times leaving her feeling drained of energy and causing her hair to fall out one strand at a time.

Verdetto was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in November of 2011. She finished chemotherapy two years ago on the third of July and has been testing cancer-free since then.

“Once I got that clean bill of health, once they said I was cancer-free, I felt like I could start living my life again,” she said.

Verdetto said she has always been a private person, but after months of being poked, prodded and examined by strangers, she learned to draw on her sense of humor to get through it all.

“At the time it was happening, I have to say, I was completely overwhelmed,” she said. “My husband (Mike) was the rock. He went online and learned everything he could about it and was by my side the whole way. It was with his support and by the grace of God I somehow got through it.”

Mike went to every medical appointment with her, stayed by her side into the night when she felt sick from her radiation treatments and even posted inspirational signs around the house to encourage her. But, most important of all, he made her promise to never give up the fight and she said she made that promise to him and she still takes that promise very seriously.

“Mike was a huge part of my recovery and if the roles were reversed, and it was him instead of me, I know I would be there for him, too,” she said. “At least I would hope that I would be able to be there for him, in the same way he was there for me, because it really made the difference.”

Verdetto said she inherited some of her toughness from her father, who lost his wife at a fairly young age and raised four daughters on his own. Though he died in 2010, she said his indomitable spirit inspired her and it helped her get through her ordeal.

An example of that toughness is when she asked Mike to shave her head instead of letting her hair gradually fall out as a side effect of her chemotherapy. She said by shaving her own head before the chemotherapy took it out for her, she felt empowered and, in some way, in control of the situation. To show his support, Mike shaved his own head, as well.

“The good Lord blessed me with a good husband, a great family, wonderful friends and a great community,” she said. “People rallied behind me, because that is what people do here. They tried to help as best as they could. That support still means a lot to me.”

She said there were times during her treatments when her pain was overwhelming and seemed like it would never end. She said she made it through the ordeal, literally “one moment at a time,” during those tough times, always focused on getting through it.

“I’ve learned that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an on-coming train,” she chuckled. “There is an end to it and what is most important is to keep fighting.”

Paula continues that fight moment by moment, with her husband Mike by her side. She still has regular checkups and has remained cancer-free for more than two years.

Editor’s note: The Relay for Life, taking place on Saturday night, at Rocky Mountain High School, starting at 5 p.m., celebrates the life of survivors like Paula and caregivers, like Mike, who supported their loved ones through their battle with cancer. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the American Cancer Society.

By Patti Carpenter

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