Carole Cartwright: Family Ties

April 22, 2011Survivor Stories

Growing up as one of twelve children in a sprawling family, Carole Cartwright, the third youngest in the sibling line-up, never imagined that one of her own life experiences would bring her close family even closer and dramatically change their lifestyles. Traditions of year-round family gatherings, sharing meals, and beach trips had always kept the brothers and sisters in close touch and became even more vital when Carole was diagnosed with cancer.

It was actually during one such gathering, a Friday family fish fry, when Carole got the call. She’ll never forget that it was Friday the 13th, in the early evening, when she got the news that forever changed all her days since. With her family nearby, she heard the news but wanted to hold herself together for their sake. She handed the phone over to her sister Beverly to finish hearing about the diagnosis and the need to schedule surgery.

“”I didn’t hear anything else after I heard that ‘c’ word,”” says Carole. “”I didn’t have any family members who had ever had cancer so I was very confused.””

Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments consumed the next 8 months of her life. Her husband Tony and daughter Danielle stood strong by her side and were her weekend caretakers. The support of her close family comforted her, sister Wilma was her caretaker throughout the week, and she and Beverly were Carole’s companions at all of her appointments.

The staff at The Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation (MPCF) got to know Carole as she neared the end of her active treatment. Learning that extra weight could increase her chance of recurrence,she worked with one of MPCF’s registered dietitians on a strategy for a more nutritious and healthier lifestyle. Exercise through workouts at the gym and walking daily, even on her lunch breaks, along with a drastically changed diet, have helped Carole shed over 25 pounds. She now chooses fresh foods that aren’t fried, eats lots of fruits and vegetables, drinks more water, and feels better than she ever has. She works with a massage therapist to minimize the impact of lymphedema in her arm. Her newfound energy and embrace of that healthy lifestyle have also carried over to her family. Tony and Danielle have both learned a lot about good nutrition, and Tony has lost weight too. Carole’s sisters exercise alongside with her, have adapted to healthier nutrition, and welcome opportunities to learn more, like attending the MPCF dietitian’s “”Shop Smart to Fight Cancer”” night out at the grocery to shop for healthy food choices.

“”I wish I had known sooner about MPCF. It is so good to have someone to talk with,”” claims Carole.

Having cancer not only led Carole and her family to a healthier lifestyle that has brought about positive change for them, but the impact is deeper. Danielle has enrolled in nursing school, and about those family beachtrips…Tony used to let those pass him by, but not anymore.

Carole says, “”We’re all taking a trip every year from now on. We are living for now.””

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