Stage 4 cancer survivor living her life’s purpose

December 28, 2009 2007 - articles, Culture, Travel & Heritage, Features

by Allison Marie Palmer

Editor’s Note: This article was published in 2007.  Allison Marie Palmer passed away in 2008.
We posted this article as a tribute to her, her family and spirit, but most importantly, to inspire others to continue to fight on.

Cover of Calabar Magazine with Allison Marie Palmer

On July 22, 2004, I received the most shocking news of my entire life.
“Allison, the tests results have come back,” said my doctor, “It’s not TB, you have cancer.”

How does someone who stepped out on faith to pursue her passion, who is in good health, well liked by others, motivated and deeply concerned about the needs of others, digest this unexpected disturbance of mental and emotional balance? Will I not live to see my 37th birthday? What about my plans to marry, have babies, my daughter to be named ‘Anaya’ (which is an African name meaning “look up to God”) and a successful new career as a professional chef?

Shaken and in tears, I quizzed my doctor as to the cause of this cancer. I don’t smoke, drink alcohol or use illicit drugs, why on earth ‘cancer’? Searching his face for the answers to my questions, and clearly seeing that he was unable to offer a rational explanation, made this even more difficult to comprehend. Because cancer was not his area of expertise, he referred me to an oncologist who specialized in ovarian cancer, since it was believed to have originated in my uterus.

After examining me, the oncologist determined that the cancer had not originated in my uterus, so I was then referred to a gastrointestinal surgeon. He performed both an endoscopy and colonoscopy on me. Based on the findings from these two exams, I had an unusual form of cancer. I was referred to yet another oncologist, who was more familiar with rare cancers. The official diagnosis was adeno-carcinoma– a very aggressive form of cancer and carcinoid, a slower growing cancer. The cancers were in seven parts of my body (my appendix was the primary site, but it was also found in my colon, gall bladder, stomach and reproductive organs). His recommendation was to take a radical approach to treating the disease. I underwent a seven-hour surgical procedure called “debulking,” a process of removing as much of the cancer as possible so that it is more responsive to chemotherapy. I went on to have eight months of aggressive chemotherapy.

On December 29, 2005, I received the greatest gift of my entire life. The CT scans that I had taken twelve days prior showed no more visible signs of cancer in my body. Tri-monthly scans concur with the first scan — no evidence of disease. How and why did I survive this? I credit my faith in God, the power of prayer, having a positive mindset, Reiki, acupuncture, forgiveness and the love and support of family, friends and my health care providers for this miracle. I truly believe that I have been given a second chance to continue on with my life’s purpose, helping others to make positive life changes. Future aspirations include traveling the world as a motivational speaker, sharing this story of hope and inspiration, and writing my memoir, detailing my battle and victory over cancer.

Allison lived in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, had a B.S. in Community Health and Human Services and an A.A.S in Culinary Arts. She was a certified counselor and a Reiki practitioner.

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