Stage Four: A Survivor's Story

Stage Four: A Survivor's Story

by Wendy Zizzo


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Imagine two months after your twenty-first birthday getting a diagnosis of stage four cancer. For this young mother, it was a reality that could seem to anyone to be a death sentence. Still, despite the odds, now twelve years later and still going strong, Wendy Zizzo felt it necessary to share her experience and point of view in hopes to inspire, and ignite courage, love, grit and to see into the mind set and attitude that helped her beat the odds.

In this truly inspirational memoir, you will get an up-close and personal look into this young woman’s journey of stage four cancer, along with the trials and tribulations leading up to her diagnosis. Giving you an intimate look into a survivor’s story of her enduring through treatments, and how she mentally, emotionally and spiritually overcame her disease. Showing you, that you never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781532032905
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/31/2017
Pages: 196
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.45(d)

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My life got really real when it brought me to sitting in this medium size rectangular shaped hospital room, kind of bright with enough windows to get in some good sun. Yet that dreary "hospital feel" still permeates the room. There are two big tube TVs mounted on the walls, one on each side of the room facing the opposite chairs so whomever is paying attention can look up and watch from either side of the room.

There are four chairs in all, two on each side of the room with a small nurse's station facing toward the middle of the room in between the chairs, but still having enough separation for some type of privacy. Even though I have been here more than ten minutes, I'm still wearing my black coat and black kanglo hat, trying to get comfortable in an uncomfortable scene of my life.

I am sitting on this big blue hard fake leather chair that I'm thinking to myself is riddled with someone else's germs that sat there before me. I wondered if the chairs were even cleaned? Do they even wipe these chairs down every day? I hoped so, but I doubted it. Oh well. So, I'm sitting across from these two women in the opposite facing chairs talking to each other. One woman is smaller than the other, and they are there in their own world talking to each other. Both of them are hooked up to intravenous lines with IV bags hanging next to them from a long metal pole stand with an IV regulating machine attached to it on wheels.

They seem to be cool and relaxed with what's going on, just chatting away with each other. One is short, looking about in her late thirties early forties, the other woman looks much older, grayish hair, like she's someone's grandma looking kind of lady. They must know each other, I'm assuming, because they are just talking up a storm, not even paying attention to me glancing over at them.

So, I'm just trying to get and feel as comfortable with the atmosphere as they seem to be, meanwhile my mind is racing, thinking of the stupid arguments at the house I'd just had with my boyfriend. At this point, I've lost count of all his insecurities, accusations and issues, with which I am just overall frustrated.

My mother is here with me and she is talking with anyone who looks at her for longer than five seconds, even the cleaning lady that came in to collect the garbage, and oh, let me tell you my mother has a voice so loud she gets more attention when she speaks. Let her tell it though, and she's not talking loud. Now me I just want to stay low key, and mind my business, and she is telling anyone that walks by, acting like she's whispering, "my daughter has cancer." I'm like, "Ma, stop!"

My nurse is a short, older woman with brown skin and she's very nice and attentive. She's wearing purple scrubs with white nurse looking shoes and she seems happy with her job. So, the nurse comes over to us, and my mother automatically starts telling her that I work security here at the hospital and asks if she knows me. I am thinking to myself that I have seen her around, but I'm thinking usually people are at work to work, so we've never spoken before. So now she begins talking with my mother, and my mother starts to say in a low voice, "she has lymphoma ..." Pauses ... "Stage four."

MA! Goodness, can you stop telling everyone, I'm sure she knows; she is my nurse, I'm thinking to myself as I'm shaking my head, just another thing to add to my already frustrating day. My mother could really push my buttons so yeah I was getting testy.

Now me, every time I heard the stage four part, I honestly had no clue what that meant and quite frankly I didn't care to know. I just knew they told me all this pain and discomfort I'm in is cancer, and that this cancer is what was causing all these excruciating pains shooting throughout every part of my body for the last couple of months. It explained why I had been waking up in puddles of sweat and just feeling weak and miserable. I didn't ask many questions about it, mainly because I saw no point. The only questions I asked were "is it curable" and "what do I have to do to cure it", and anything else was just adding to the other hundred things already racing through my mind, like, who was going to pay the rent now that I cant work, and the bills.

My two-year-old daughter is home with my boyfriend, but she needs her clothes washed, and we need food in the house. Yeah, my boyfriend is watching her for me but he's not her father, and he should really be working instead of trying to be my live in babysitter. As these thoughts keep circling around in my mind then here comes those anxiety attacks starting up again that I began having for over four months now.

But aside from all of that I am stuck sitting here and I am still aggravated that I have to be here, and my mother is doing her usual routine of asking a thousand and one questions while being as loud and as annoying as she can be. I really just want her to leave for a little while to give me some time to take this all in. At first I told her I was hungry and since she's very loud when she speaks, it always sounds like she's yelling, practically screaming over to the nurse, "Can she have some food please"! Hearing her loudness itself is nerve racking enough, or at least to me it is, because she can be very embarrassing.

The nurse says she'll call for a tray of food for me, and then my mother asks if there's anything else I want while she pulls out her camcorder and starts to videotape me again. Since she got this new camcorder, here is her chance to use it. I just glare at her with this face like "really" just as I did earlier when she was picking me up from my apartment to come here, having the camera rolling as I was walking to her truck. You can clearly see the look on my face that I am not too enthusiastic about the camera.

But even though I'm not happy, I still put on this front and smile for her. She asks me again if there is anything she can do. I try to come up with something and I think for a moment and say, "Yeah, I'd like to draw, can you go get me a drawing pad and pencils or something?" I really just wanted her to leave me alone for a little while. I had a lot on my mind, and I kept going in and out of deep thoughts but after about ten minutes or so of sitting here I started to make myself a little more comfortable taking off my coat, then my hat while talking to my mother about getting the drawing materials.

My mother happily agrees to go get me the drawing materials, she says "sure, anything" but first she wanted to make sure I was ok. I say "yes mother," with bit of frustration in my voice, breathing out heavily. After she left, I sat for a moment looking at and playing with my new braids since I just had my hair braided couple of days after I was diagnosed which was a new style for me. I usually wore my hair out and down, but I wanted to look cute for my Alicia Keys concert, not to mention they told me I'd be losing my hair from the chemo, so I wanted to do something nice before it was gone.

Shortly after my mother left, the nurse comes and starts prepping my arm with rubbing alcohol, then she wraps the rubber thing around my arm and ties it tight to find her self a good vein. I've always been unafraid of needles, I remember when I was a kid I would look forward to getting a my blood drawn, and nooo, it's not a freaky thing, I found a bit of pleasure in the pain and I was always amazed by the whole poke and drawing blood thing.

I insisted to the nurse could she put the IV line in my hand because I want to be able to bend my arm. The nurses are always quick to go for the big vein on the inside of your elbow where it bends, making it hard and uncomfortable to bend your arm if you needed too. So, I watch her clean a spot on my forearm, then wipe it a few times, watching her finger feel for the vein again, then when she found a good one in one motion she slides the needle in.

She got it on the first try, so I give her a smile and say, "Uh oh, she's a pro" a little something to make her laugh. She walks over to the IV stands that are next to her nurse's station then grabs on one of them and rolls it over to me with a big full bag on one side, and a medium size bag on the other. Just as she goes to hook the line up, someone walks in with a tray of food for me, a special delivery from my friends down at the kitchen, and food always makes me smile so I was grateful.

Since I had been working at the hospital as a security guard for the last year, I had a lot of cool connections with a lot of the hospital staffers. I have always been that happy go lucky smile on my face type, make you wanna laugh type of person, regardless of my own stresses. I found my happiness in making others laugh, plus it distracted me from my own problems, so it helped on both sides I figured. Silly or weird is what some would say, and I would say "yeah ... but you like it," and or when people say I am abnormal, I would tell them I'm the normal one and you are the crazy one for not trying to make the best of right now; which was my usual attitude and my way of not stressing out everyday.

So, after the dietary person gives me the tray I am ready to dig in. But first I let the nurse hook me up to the bags of liquid stuff I guessed was the chemo, and watch her set the slow drip with the machine attached to the pole that she rolled next to me. I watch it for a moment as it starts dripping, and she tells me "relax it'll go in fast; it's not much", then she smiles at me like it's nothing. So I begin eating the food, going for the salad first with some French dressing, picking at it a little bit with my plastic fork, ignoring the rest of the food on the tray.

I eat a couple pieces of lettuce, and even though I feel hungry I really don't have much of an appetite to eat more. So I just sit back in my chair away from the tray looking around the room like I don't know what else to do with myself. I'm thinking, I feel so bored and I don't want to be here and I also don't want to feel these pains throughout my body anymore, and this intense feeling of not wanting to be here is circling in my mind while I am in a "stuck stare" looking at my tray of food. Thinking to myself, I have no choice, so it is what it is right?

I shake off the stuck stare and take a look over at the IV machine, glancing over at it from moment to moment watching the clear liquid in the bag drip through the wire connected into my left forearm. Bored, I reach for my disc man and put on my headphones, press the play button and start listening to my Alicia Keys CD zoning into it so I can keep my focus off the fact that I'm here, in this hospital, in this room, and two weeks ago, doctors told me that I have stage four cancer; all these things relentlessly circling around in my mind.

My mind keeps racing and it seems impossible to get it slow down so I break my little listening zone and I lean in again to try to eat my salad. I take my first bite, chew then swallow, and as I am trying to swallow I notice that I am having a little trouble swallowing it. But I didn't think it was anything so I didn't mention it to the nurse and I just kept it to myself. Then again with my next bite I noticed it was still uncomfortable to swallow. So finally, I signal to the nurse after trying again for the third time to chew and swallow my lettuce, saying to her, "Nurse, I'm having a little trouble swallowing over here and I don't know what's up."

As I am trying to swallow and push the saliva and lettuce down my throat, the nurse just stares at me for a moment with a blank expression on her face like "Uh Oh, oh Shit" and then runs over to her nurses station and picks up the phone calling, "A code in the chemo room, code in chemo room." In my mind, I'm like code, what code? I'm not dead! It was only seconds after I told her it was hard to swallow, that now it started getting a little challenging to talk to her as I was trying to ask her what was wrong with me. I could feel my throat getting a little tighter, and making it harder to take in a breath to speak out. So lost in my mind in confusion, I look up and see the nurse rushing over toward me and quickly unhooking the IV line from my forearm. She just stands there in front of me holding the IV line in her hand, and I look at her, watching the line dripping on the floor while she's standing there staring at me.

I'm still trying to swallow, but I'm having this trouble, so I was probably looking very confused like "what the hell .... is. ..." Next when I wanted to ask her why is this happening, it started getting even harder to talk, and then it started getting more challenging to breathe in.

Now I'm really starting to worry because I try speaking again to tell her what I am feeling and all my attempts to swallow are not working, so as the moments pass I notice I can barely hear any words coming out of my mouth when I tried to project loud enough for her to hear me. It was like someone was grabbing my throat and cutting off the airflow from the inside. Barely able to push out the words to speak, now I'm forcefully pushing my words out as hard as I can so I can at least hear myself. I try to take in a deep breath, but now I notice it is getting harder do that. I begin to panic a little from the confusion, I feel my heart starting to beat faster and sweat starting to well up on my forehead from me getting hot with adrenaline.

The nurse runs back over to her station frantically, and now I'm officially worried. I noticed the other two women across the room stopped talking to each other when I looked over at them, and they are just staring at me now, all quiet, stuck with fear in their faces. I'm still trying to tell the nurse as loud as could while I try to push the words out, but I'm not able to pull in the wind fast enough to compensate; so I'm just lip saying, "what is happening to me"?

I'm thinking to myself what can I do, so I try to keep my composure, sit back and sit as still as I can in the chair. I grab and hold on tightly to the arm rests trying to keep calm, while slowly starting to shake my legs from side to side, then going faster and faster while trying to take in deep breaths, but that's just getting harder to do. It started to feel like I was breathing through a straw, and the more I tried to take in a deep breath, the tighter and heavier my chest started to feel.

I look at the nurse knowing by now there must be fear in my face in trying to tell her what's happening, but no sound is coming out of my mouth anymore, and I could barely get any air in so now I'm really starting to panic. I kept reminding myself in my head to calm down, telling myself, getting excited isn't going to help this, but when I tried to breathe in and I couldn't, I felt myself getting scared and I wanted to cry out from fear and frustration. But my chest is so tight I can't pull in the air to cry. Once I noticed I couldn't pull in the air to cry, my legs began shaking back and forth faster, which knocked my coat and CD player to the floor. I didn't give a damn if it broke at this point, I just wanted to breath and I felt the need to start fighting to get this air in me, and sitting still was getting to hard to do anymore. I feel the chair moving backward toward the wall behind me as I am pushing my feet into the floor, fighting to pull in any air to breathe.

The nurse tries to talk me into calming me down but all I can hear is a light wheezing in my ears and feeling this heaviness in my chest, and I'm getting so afraid now that I don't know what to do. I keep trying to calm myself down, but not being able to breathe is getting scarier and the tighter my chest gets the more I panic. It feels like someone is gripping the inside of my throat, and squeezing my chest suffocating me.

Both of my hands are holding onto the arms of the chair tightly as if I'm bracing myself for dear life, and the nurse is still trying to keep me from losing it more, but it is getting tough. I know I have to keep still and calm, but I can't hold it for much longer. I look across the room and see the two women holding each other crying looking at me, scared watching this all happening to me.

I wanted to cry and I try in spurts, but at the same time trying to hold back my tears as hard as I can, because I know crying isn't going to help since I can't breath enough to cry. I feel my eyes welling up with tears and the panic and fear pushing them out more, but I can't take in the air to compensate for letting out the crying, so I keep trying to hold the tears back.

As the moment progresses, no more words could pass through my lips, and I continue trying to stay still and keep cool then suddenly, I feel my face getting real tight and my lips start to pucker up like I'm making a fish kissy face, but I can't stop it and it starts gets tighter and tighter until I lost all control of my facial muscles.


Excerpted from "Stage Four"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Wendy Zizzo.
Excerpted by permission of iUniverse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Chapter 2 RETROSPECTION, 17,
Chapter 4 LOVE, WHERE IS IT?, 35,
Chapter 11 WINDOW SHOPPING, 55,
Chapter 13 HURRY UP AND WAIT, 65,
Chapter 14 THE RESULTS ARE IN, 69,
Chapter 15 DEEP IN THE BONE ROUND 1, 73,
Chapter 16 MY LAST HOORAH, 81,
Chapter 17 NEXT ROUND 1 NEW SPOT, 85,
Chapter 21 THE RESULTS ARE IN, 111,
Chapter 26 IS IT FINALLY OVER?, 129,
Chapter 28 HURRY UP AND WAIT AGAIN, 135,
Chapter 30 REHAB TIME, GOD'S WAY, 141,
Chapter 33 GOING AFTER THE DREAM, 157,
Chapter 37 GRATITUDE, 183,

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