For almost a decade Wendy Miller cooked in a hotel kitchen. Last year she chucked it in to do what brought her absolute enjoyment. While she is no longer employed full-time in the hotel, she remains in the culinary art field through chef instructing and offering private chef services. But she credits the hotel experience with making her into the chef she is today, which allowed her to make that step. She also enjoys the time she’s now able to spend with her family and taking care of things. And then there are the days she finds herself at the beach, luxuriating in her downtime and enjoying the things God gave His people to enjoy, including travel.
On April 12, Miller, 40, celebrated five years cancer free. She joined more than 135 fellow five-year cancer survivors at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) for its 29th annual Celebrate Life event.
Celebrate Life is an annual event that brings together cancer survivors and caregivers for a day of empowerment and celebration. Survivors stand united to support one another, celebrate the moments they’ve gained, and encourage those who are on their own cancer journey. While some cancer rates continue to climb, medical treatments are also advancing, providing more patients with the hope and resources they need to battle the disease. Survivorship is the new frontier in cancer care, and hospitals, like CTCA, offer dedicated survivorship programs to help patients achieve a high quality of life post cancer treatment.
Miller learned she had ovarian cancer after she had a minor procedure done. She said she woke up to the doctors saying they found something that looked cancerous. They had it tested; the results were returned cancer positive.
“That was heartbreaking to me. When you hear about cancer, you think about death … a death sentence,” she recalled.
At diagnosis, she said she knew nothing about ovarian cancer, but started to read up on it.
Ovarian cancer begins in the ovaries. And often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen.
“If God had not revealed that [cancer] through that minor procedure, I may not have been here,” she recalled.
At the initial diagnosis Miller was told she had stage one ovarian cancer.
Seeking a second opinion, her sister found Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Midwestern Regional Medical Center online. Two months later Miller traveled to the hospital. It was there she learned that her cancer was at stage three.
At a late stage, ovarian cancer is more difficult to treat and is frequently fatal. Early-stage ovarian cancer, in which the disease is confined to the ovary, is more likely to be treated successfully.
“My whole feeling at first was really heartbreaking, because I lost a sister 10 years this year to a brain tumor, so for me it was I can’t allow my mother to lose another child, I can’t allow my family to go through another pain.”
She said she relied on God to be with her through whatever she would have to face and that He would be at her side.
“It was a fight mentally, and sometimes it was a fight physically. It was a fight emotionally. But my greatest source of strength came from God as my number one source, and my family being with me as the second source.”
On April 12, 2012 Miller underwent surgery to remove the cancer.
Being a part of the recent five-year celebration meant a lot to her.
“Being a five-year celebrant means I have gained another opportunity at life,” said Miller. “I’m thankful for the time to savor new experiences and spend more time with my family and loved ones.”
The celebration began with Miller and her fellow celebrants and caregivers entering the CTCA at the Midwestern campus on seven large coach busses. As they disembarked, many with loved ones by their side, they walked down a red carpet, lined with cheering family, friends, caregivers and hospital care team members, who attended to help them celebrate their five years of cancer survivorship.
After the red-carpet walk, Miller took part in a commemorative tree planting ceremony, symbolizing the wonder of life and growth. The 2017 Celebrate Life event marked the 29th year that a tree has been planted in Zion, Illinois in honor of each five-year survivor in attendance, helping replenish and strengthen the nation’s landscape with a thriving forest of life-giving trees that represent cancer survivorship.
Participants honored represented 29 states, including Miller from The Bahamas, each offering support and strength to others, as they proudly posed for a photo in front of their commemorative tree.
Many of the five-year survivors also took time to walk through the hospital, offering comfort, support and the traditional “Hope” pin to other patients and family members who are currently battling cancer. Before the day concluded, each celebrant was personally honored and revered on stage in front of and along with their fellow five-year survivors.
“Five years ago, this amazing group of cancer survivors came to CTCA with a great sense of hope, searching for answers and cancer care that fit their specific needs,” said Scott Jones, president and CEO of CTCA at Midwestern. “While everyone’s journey and experience is unique, we honor and respect the strength and perseverance it takes for them to be here. It is not only a testament to the CTCA five-year cancer survivors being honored, but also all survivors, wherever they may be in their journeys.”
As Miller looks to the future, she said she looks forward to having the same cancer-free diagnosis she has today and enjoying life the ways she does now.
Her advice to the next female to hear an ovarian cancer diagnosis to not allow their circumstances to defeat them, because she said it can definitely defeat you and because you to start to worry to the point where you end up sicker than you actually started out being.
“Even though it’s cancer, it’s not a death sentence — and I realized that along the way. It’s still an opportunity at life. There are still things you can do to defeat it, but the main challenge in defeating it is that you have to have that strength. You have to find that strength within yourself to be able to defeat and to overcome.”
At her diagnosis, Miller’s daughter, Keithra Bowleg, was 15 years old. She said it was not a good thing for her daughter at that time to think she would have lost her mother to cancer like some of her friends had, so she recalled having to be strong to show her then teenaged daughter that she wasn’t going anywhere.
Miller said it was a journey for her to get to that thinking, and at times, she said, it wasn’t a good journey.
“When you hear the word cancer it obviously isn’t something that you embrace, but because I had God on my side, along with persons at the Cancer Treatment Centers in Zion working along with me who were very humane people, I was able to overcome it with that level of compassion and that care that I received.”
She also said not finding out her cancer was stage three and not stage one until after her surgery had also been a blessing. She believes God ordained it such that she was not allowed to see the full picture so as to not allow fear to overtake her, because she said sometimes fear can overtake you when you hear something is more serious.
She also received the all clear from pathologists after the surgery, and as such did not have to receive chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
“It came back that I didn’t need any further treatment because they got all of the cancer — the lymph nodes were clear, it was non-invasive and every area was clear, and I did not need to do any level of treatments, which was another blessing to me.”
Miller is currently doing follow-ups with CTCA Midwestern.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) uses advanced technology and precision medicine to offer treatment for adult patients battling cancer. The 72-bed hospital combines innovative and conventional medical treatments with evidence-informed supportive care services to deliver whole-person care. CTCA at Midwestern is a Magnet Recognized hospital, ranking among the top centers in the nation for nursing excellence.
Cancer Treatment Centers of America Global, Inc. (CTCA), headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., is a national network of five hospitals that serve adult patients who are fighting cancer. CTCA offers an integrative approach to care that combines advancements in genomic testing and precision cancer treatment, surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy, with evidence-informed supportive care services designed to help patients physically and emotionally by enhancing their quality of life while managing side effects, both during and after treatment. CTCA serves patients at its hospitals in Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Tulsa.
Ear wax, or cerumen, is a yellowish, waxy, natural substance produced by glands in the skin of the outer ear canal of humans and other mammals to protect the ear canals from damage and infection. Ear wax consists mainly of shed skin cells, hair, and the secretions of the ceruminous and sebaceous glands of the outer ear canal.
Ear wax serves several important functions in the ear canal so removing it is not required. Ear wax protects the skin of the ear canal; assists in the cleaning and lubrication of the ear canal; and provides a form of protection against bacteria, fungi, insects and water build-up in the ear canal.
Types of ear wax
Interestingly, earwax varies in form, color, and appearance from person to person. There are two genetically distinct types of earwax — the wet type, which is dominant, and the dry type, which is recessive. The color and texture of the ear wax is dependent upon its composition. Asians and Native American populations usually have the dry, gray, flaky type of cerumen, while African and European populations are more likely to have the wet, honey-brown to dark-brown, soft type of cerumen.
Excessive wax build-up
The ear canals are self-cleaning. This means that ear wax and old sloughed off skin cells are automatically transported from within the ear canal to the outer opening of the ear by chewing and the other movements of the jaw. At this point, the ear wax usually dries up and falls out of the ear canal. Any noticeable wax deposit left at the edge of the outer ear can be gently wiped away using a towel.
Ear wax is only formed in the outer one-third of the ear canal, hence, when a person has a wax blockage deep inside the ear canal that rests against the eardrum, it is often because they have inserted a foreign object into their ear canals, pushing the wax deep into the canal.
Common causes of excessive wax build-up and wax blockage include placing small objects into your ears, like Q-tips, hair pins, earbuds, rolled cotton balls and paper, etc. A narrowing of the ear canal due to infections or diseases of the skin, bones, or connective tissue of the ear. Less production of the fluid form of cerumen due to aging of the glands that produce it as we get older. An overproduction of cerumen related to trauma of, or a blockage within, the ear canal.
Signs and symptoms of excessive wax
• Ear pain
• Full feeling in the ear
• Hearing loss
• Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
• Reflex cough
Guidelines to removing wax at home
Home treatments can be used to soften and remove excessive ear wax.
• Place a few drops of mineral oil, baby oil, sweet oil, hydrogen peroxide or commercial ear drops (available in most pharmacies) into the ear. Use finger to gently massage the oil into the ear canal. Wait 15 to 30 minutes. Use an ear syringe (available at the pharmacy) filled with warm water or saline to flush the ear. Water or saline should be at least body temperature warm to prevent dizziness. Gently squirt the solution into the ear canal to flush the wax out. This may need to be repeated several times to ensure all the wax is removed. Repeat the entire procedure once to twice per year.
Do not clean your ears at home if you have a perforation or hole in your eardrum, you have an ear infection, you have diabetes, you have tubes in the eardrum, you have skin problems such as eczema in the ear canal, or you have a weakened immune system.
Ear candling can result in serious injuries and is therefore not a safe method to remove ear wax.
Wax removal by medical professional
If you are unable to remove the wax at home, or if one of the above special conditions apply, please seek medical help to have the wax professionally removed. Your ENT or physician will be able to remove the wax safely in one of two ways — by syringing; or by using suction or special miniature instruments. A microscope will be used to magnify the ear canal. This method is usually used on patients with narrow ear canals, perforations, tubes, skin problems affecting the ear canal, diabetes or a weakened immune system.
Putting things in your ear only pushes the wax further down the ear canal and may also result in damage to the delicate ear system. Therefore, never stick anything in your ear, including Q-tips. Remember, the ear is self-cleaning. In the rare case you are a person who has excessive wax buildup or blockage and are unable to have the wax safely removed at home, seek help to have the wax softened and removed by a medical professional. If you are a person with constant wax impaction, or if you use hearing aids, have a routine ear check every six to 12 months to have any wax taken care of before it builds up.
• For further information on any hearing-related disorder, please contact Dr. Deborah Nubirth, doctor of audiology, in New Providence at Comprehensive Family Medical Clinic, Poinciana Drive at 356-2276 or 677-6627 or 351-7902 in Grand Bahama; or email email@example.com.