It is not often that we get a second chance in life, but British-born Liz McQuade is living proof that it can happen.
Five years ago, at age 45, Liz was diagnosed with Stage III-B cervical cancer. The cancer was too advanced for surgery, so her gynecologic oncologist Dr. Matthew Robertson started chemotherapy and referred Liz to Ackerman Cancer Center for radiation.
For eight weeks, Liz received chemotherapy at St. Vincent’s Medical Center and daily radiation treatment at Ackerman Cancer Center.
“At the time, I was just focused on getting through,” she recalls, “but I realize now, it was an achievement. I was terribly sick and not eating. I would throw up in a basin in the car and once even passed out in the bathroom.”
One positive factor that kept her going was her relationship with Dr. Ackerman and his staff. “There were lots of little things. Just them knowing me, remembering me, and welcoming me helped so much. Dr. Ackerman is very hands-on. He always had a hug and a smile. Sometimes, when you have cancer, people are afraid to look you in the eye, but I felt very accepted there.”
Time spent in a medical environment and researching her own cancer inspired Liz to continue her education. In 2012, after taking time to recover, she went back to school to become an occupational therapist. She is slated to graduate in 2016. “After cancer, you are always looking over your shoulder, but going back to school took the focus off my illness.”
Liz is spreading her wings in other ways, too. An avid outdoors lover, she went kayaking for her fiftieth birthday. That experience led to the creation of a birthday bucket list, and going forward, Liz plans to try something new each year.
“I’m conscious of staying healthy. I’m swimming and taking care of my diet more. I’m also encouraging other women to have their Pap smears,” she says.
This go-round, Liz plans to make every day count.
For more information on Ackerman Cancer Center’s cervical cancer treatment options, visit our Gynecological Cancers page.