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Battling and Surviving Cancer As a Family

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Published on May 16, 2014

Hilde Stapleton, an avid painter, mother of three supportive children Kristianna, Sunny, and Sam, and husband George of over two decades, received a diagnosis that would forever change their lives as a family. On a trip back to Norway, Hilde noticed an inflamed lump that just wouldn't go away. After seeing her general practitioner, he told her he felt confident this was nothing more than a minor irritation, but in fact, it was advanced melanomathe deadliest form. Hilde's husband, George, arranged to work from home and did a great deal of research. With the support of her family, Hilde feels she benefited from the best available medicine and brightest doctors around the country. After being cancer free for 7 years, Hilde had several recurrences that led her back into treatment. But with these new recurrences, she knew exactly what to look for and how to be proactive. Watch as Hilde shares how her strong bond with her family and friends gave her immense strength during such a dark time.

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Transcript | Battling and Surviving Cancer As a Family

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

Hilde Stapleton:

Thank you for inviting me.

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

Now, Hilde, you’re a world traveler. You have two daughters, Kristiane, who’s a PhD student, Sunny, who’s a freelance stage manager in New York. Sam, who’s a petroleum engineer. And your husband, George, is also an engineer as well. You guys are a pretty close-knit family. And you were headed back home to Norway where you’ve got family and you grew up. You found something on the back of your left knee that was bothersome. You didn’t think much of it, went to your general practitioner. He didn’t think much of it either. But, in fact, it was something much more serious than both of you thought. Tell us a little bit about that.

Hilde Stapleton:

So I was home in Norway for a week, and there was something behind my left knee that was really bothering me, itching and bleeding. And I think it was growing just that week. It was really a weird feeling, and I knew I had to take it away. Didn’t really know what it was, but I knew it had to be gone. So I went to my GP. I didn’t even go to a dermatologist. I went to my GP, and he says, “There’s nothing to worry about. I’ll give you a million dollars if there is.” And so he called me a few days later and said, “You can have my house. It’s heavily mortgaged. I owe you a million dollars. You have cancer.” It turned into be melanoma stage III.

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

Your husband, George, he did some heavy research on the Internet, learned everything he could melanoma and treatments that he possibly could. And you were able to enter a vaccine trial across the country. Tell us what happened next. 

Hilde Stapleton:

Well, George is my rock. He is really behind me in everything I do. I had some severe surgeries before I went to Virginia, and I have a 9-inch scar behind my left knee. And I had a foot-long scar in my groin from removing lymph nodes, and that really made me cancer free. The vaccine that I had was over five times, and I went back and forth back and forth.

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

For several years, you were cancer free, no signs of the disease whatsoever. But then you started feeling some pain in the front of the left knee. You had an isolated lymph profusion. It was a painful recovery, but your will to survive became stronger.

Hilde Stapleton:

Yes, it was a painful recovery. I have a very strong bond with my family, and I have friends and neighbors. And they were all around me, bringing meals and bringing bags of hats and scarves. And that was my book club. When you are into something, you feel that I’m going to do this. This is not the end of me. 

Tamara Lobban-Jones:

Ten surgeries later, a variety of chemo treatments, vaccine trials. How does that make you feel, and what’s your hope for the future?

Hilde Stapleton:

First of all, it makes me very strong and hopeful that I’m going to have a long life. My dream and hope for the future is that you can walk into a cancer treatment center and have some blood work done – and I’m making this very easy – but have some blood work done and be told what was wrong with you. And you can start your treatment the next week.

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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