Wednesday, October 28, 2020

One Woman’s Journey with Cancer

Lola Dial at work as usual.

Lola Dial at work as usual.

Meet Lola Dial

When I arrived at Mackle Park to interview Lola she immediately said “Oh, I forgot you were coming! You know I used to remember everything; go to the store with 50 things in mind and get every one of them. Now, I have to write a list for just four things otherwise I forget!”

Lola Dial, and her husband Eric, have three grown children and one grandchild. During the past three years as a City of Marco Island Parks and Recreation Department employee, Lola has meet thousands of people. This is a story about Lola today; but one that is not easy for me to write. You know how you can see people all the time, but you don’t really see them? Well, I see Lola all the time. But, it wasn’t until recently that I really SAW Lola. It was one of those embarrassing situations where you open your mouth and insert foot! I mean REALLY insert the foot…

I was at the park one day when another familiar face, Tony Sans, walked by me. He didn’t have any hair! Wondering about this bold new style, I asked “Hey, what’s up with the hair?” He simply said, “I did it for Lola.” A few days later I ran in to pick up my kids and Lola was behind the counter. Without really looking, I joked, “what bet did Tony lose to cut off all his hair?”

As I turned around, at that moment, I SAW Lola! I vaguely recall seeing her with a hat on a few times but it didn’t register. Instantly I knew, before the words came out of her mouth, “I have cancer. Tony did it for me. He cut off all his hair, my husband did too! I just felt so ugly. Would you believe people would do such a thing to make me feel better?”

I asked how she found out about her cancer. “One day I was in the shower and felt a lump. My husband thought I better get it checked out. I didn’t take it too seriously. With a family reunion coming in a few weeks, I put it off. I didn’t want to worry about it at the reunion.”

“I have Stage 1, HER2/- 3. I’m told it’s an unusual type of cancer which isn’t responsive to hormone treatments. “My oncologist ordered a ‘breakdown’ from the radiologist. I knew I’d be having chemotherapy, but in picking up the report from the radiologist, he let it slip it would be followed by radiation. I was so upset! I immediately drove back to the oncologists’ office. She told me there is a 95% survival rate using both forms of treatment. I’ve had chemo since December 1st and will start radiation soon which will run through June.”

When asked how the treatments have affected her job, Lola is quick to point out, “everyone is so accommodating, it has been a blessing. I am grouchy at times but, I really just want to do my job. I don’t want to think there’s something I can’t do.”

“While in college, I never did the things other kids did. I was the ‘miss goodie two-shoes’ you hear about. I was taught your body is a temple and you should take care of it. I tried hard to do the right thing, so I was very angry! I was angry with ‘why’ me! After a couple of weeks that turned into depression. Now, I am just so depressed. I cry every day. I am afraid. I didn’t know fear like this before in my life.”

Maybe the emotional roller coaster is a side effect of the chemo? Lola agrees. “I am devastated. My sister has cancer, too. Years ago she had it and beat it. Now it’s back and worse than before. I am scared for her. We help each other though. We’ve changed our diets and talk to each other about healing. Soon she is going to a Baylor University satellite location for a cancer drug study. Her husband is a doctor, but she is really using her spiritual side for healing, too. I just want her to be okay, I’m so afraid for her. She doesn’t want doctor’s to tell her how she’s doing. I think her husband knows but he’s respecting her wishes.” While praying for healing, another sister is having further tests done to determine if she has colon cancer. “I believe somehow, God meant for us to go through this at the same time to help each other through.”

Lola believes the cause is environmental. “We grew up near a refinery in Artesia, New Mexico. It’s not just us, it seems like every family in my neighborhood has some sort of cancer.”

When chemotherapy began the doctors cautioned Lola about working. “I think it’s good for me to be here and work. Bryan (Milk) has been great to work with. He makes it a point to come over to ask how I am doing. So far they’ve worked my weekly schedule around my treatments. It’s really helped out. It’s like everyone here is family, one big dysfunctional family.” Lola laughs.

“People come in and tell me their cancer stories all the time. Some are so positive. Some aren’t. But, I know the positive stories will help me heal more quickly! I like hearing them, it gives me hope. Hope is so very important! I certainly have more empathy now than I had before.”

When I first started this job, I walked by Tony and my elbow touched his head. He said “hey, watch the hair!” So we’ve always teased him for the way he cares about his hair so much! To come in to work one day and find he cut it all off, he did that for me! My husband too! I am so blessed to have such good friends. Like everyone here, they do whatever they can to help me. Now Lola is crying. These are tears of gratitude, and understanding the important things in life.

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