East Texas Reflections RSS Feed

Kirbyandwigs.jpg Kirby2.jpg Kirby1.jpg Kirby3.jpg
Kirby6.jpg KirbyanddoctorV.jpg kirbyandhusbandgary.jpg Kirbyandhusband.jpg
Kirbydoyouhavehoops.jpg Kirbyandsomegrandchildren.jpg

"I remember it like it was yesterday," Linda Kirby said softly. Dr. Svetislava Vukelja was saying words the Tyler, Texas resident hadn't expected to hear.
Earlier Linda had gone to another doctor for a check up thinking she had a gallbladder problem. She ended up a short time later having surgery for transverse colon cancer that had spread to her liver.
When the original diagnosis was made she'd even told the doctors they were wrong and then she remembers feeling "a little overwhelmed" when presented with the x-ray evidence.
And now here she was... after nine hours of surgery during which 18 inches of her transverse colon and two-thirds of her liver had been removed. Oh, she says now, they also took her appendix and gallbladder while they were in there working but that had nothing to do with the cancer.
Dr. Duane Andrews, the surgeon who Linda says "walks on water" had told Linda's husband Gary following surgery that the "prognosis was not good" because cancer cells were found in six lymph nodes that were not operable.
"It's not a good picture," he told family members.
It was mid-2002 and following her surgery. There was a short period of time for her scars to heal.
It was then that she heard Dr. V, as she calls Dr. Vukelja, say to her "get your affairs in order, you have about three months to live."
"I said, okay," and that was it, Linda says.
Linda said her oncologist leaned forward, slapped her hands on her knees and said "what do you mean okay? I've never had a patient say okay," after being told she was going to die.
"I'm a fighter," Linda replied. "I will fight."
Linda laughs lightly as she remembers that Dr. Vukelja folded her arms across her chest, leaned back, "looked over her glasses and said you're going to be okay."
"Attitude, attitude, attitude are three fourths of your battle," the doctor said.
Linda's husband had his moments, wondering what the future held. "I thought I was going to lose her," he said from a nearby chair, and there were several times she almost didn't make it.
There were rounds of chemo-therapy and Linda accepted an opportunity to enter a research program in Dallas. It nearly cost her, "nearly killed me," she says, "and Dr. V took me out of the program."
Linda had always been an outgoing, "always energetic" person, even as a child. She says "I never got tired." As an adult she had a full social life, loved to cook and entertain and when she'd first gone to the doctor for a check up she was walking two-and-a-half miles a day and feeling pretty good.
Linda is a grandmother of 15 and a great-grandmother of one and she and her husband were used to "just throwing things in the car and going" at a moments notice.
Then she felt a knot under her rib cage that led to the check up and now here she was, long past the surgery, having been removed from the research program and she was being put on "chemo called 5FU," she said.
She was also given "a helping drug called Luecovorin" and when it was suggested she take the treatment for six consecutive weeks Linda rebelled respectively, suggesting instead that they do the chemo three weeks on and three weeks off.
"I was too busy to take chemo six weeks in a row," she said. And she isn't kidding. Her social calendar is as full as she wants it to be. She loves to dance. She still loves to entertain, though not as often as she once did.
I don't dwell on this cancer thing," she said. "It hasn't been a bad journey for me. I know where I'm going and I'm not afraid of death."
"I believe in angels," she laughs, "and I've probably worn out several."
Maybe so, and maybe not...
Linda was in the hospital when she dreamed a very vivid dream about an angel visiting her. "It was a man," she said, and when she woke from her sleep she described to her husband what had just happened and as they were talking the door opened to her room and in walked a person matching the description she had just given Gary. The two watched as he took her blood pressure, put his hand on one of her knees, and patted it gently while saying he was there to look after her. Then he turned and left the room and vanished from their lives. Though they've been in that hospital numerous times over the years since then, they've never seen the angel again.
"I believe he is my angel," Linda says now, and who is to argue the point?
It was June 13, 2002 when she had the surgery and shortly there after that she was told she had three months to live.
Some things haven't changed. Her cancer cells are still there and she said "the best word I hear is "stable" ... "my cancer is stable."
"I will never be cancer-free," she said and when she gets her routine CAT scan and Dr. V finds one more time that the cancer is stable, Dr. V puts a big smiley face on the report.
Dr. Svetislava Vukelja, the doctor who told Linda to get her things in order seven years ago, now says Linda is a living miracle.
We do too.

Now a brief word about the picture below of Linda and Dr. V... "I won the pink wig," Linda says, "that was donated by a lady who always wore it to get her chemo. Dr. V drew a name from entries and mine was picked."

She wore it that day to her chemo treatment and it created "so much fun and laughter in the chemo room, that I decided to start a Chemo Cuties Club."

Each week, for some time, a name was picked from a box and that person would wear it to have their chemo treatment. They even created a Chemo Cuties bulletin board that included photos of those who wore the wig. "It was just a fun and silly thing to do," she says.

Linda asked that we include something on this page that she believes in. It is a quote that she has borrowed... "You cannot worry a friend or yourself into well being. It has to come from your enthusiastic, joyous, romping anticipation of a positive outcome."

Linda is one of those rare people we've met in our life that finds something positive in every moment of every day. And that too... is a miracle!