Sherrie’s Story

Sherrie Ellenburg
Norwood, NC

My husband, Kenny, and I were married on June 17, 2000.  It was the happiest day of my life.  We had beautiful dreams for the future.  I remember saying our vows as if it were only yesterday “…For richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  My vows took on a deeper meaning when I heard the doctor say to Kenny, “You have prostate cancer.

When Kenny was first diagnosed on November 24, 2003, I felt as if my whole world stopped at that moment.  I could hardly see for the tears building inside me.  But I didn’t want to fall apart.  I wanted to be strong for my husband.  As the doctor began to explain his diagnosis and possible options, I could see our dreams disappearing before our eyes.

In December 2003, Kenny and I traveled to Duke University for a second opinion.  We were expecting to be given hope, but instead came home devastated.  The doctors concluded that Kenny’s cancer was too advanced for surgery.  At 42 years of age, his only treatment option was radiation with hormone therapy.  It seemed as if the questions in my mind never ended.  How would it make him feel?  How could I help him?  How would I ever be able to live my life without him?  Where would we get the strength to make it through?  How were we going to cope?

For a young couple, this diagnosis was a lot to accept.  We had only been married for three years.  We were still on our honeymoon!  Everyone is different, but we learned that talking to each other helped.  We spoke of our fears and lost dreams.  We grieved the loss of the family we had hoped to have together.  We laughed and loved more.  We went on dates together.  I watched Star Trek with him (I don’t like Star Trek!) and he tolerated “chick flick” movies with me.  We made memories to last a lifetime.

Through it all, Kenny never complained or talked about his incredible pain.  His only concern was for me.  His last day home was spent doing the thing he loved most….cooking for me.  I told him he needed to rest, but he argued that I was sicker than him.  Who could argue with someone who loved you so much that he would put you first above his own pain?  I couldn’t, not when I knew it gave him joy to care for me like it gave me joy to care for him.

Kenny always wanted to help others, even in his pain.  He once said, “If what I am going through helps just one person, then it is worth it all.”  He did his part by encouraging his family and friends to have their yearly exams.  His brother, Bryan, was his first success story when a year after Kenny’s death he was diagnosed through early detection.

Twenty months after Kenny was diagnosed, he went to his heavenly home on August 3, 2005.  Six weeks later, I was devastated to be told I had ovarian cancer.  Because of my experiences with cancer, I knew the importance of early detection so I am proud to say I am cancer-free today!

My biggest frustration throughout this ordeal was dealing with the finances.  How do you pay the bills when there is no income?  What do you do when you don’t qualify for assistance?  I had no idea where to turn for assistance.  I didn’t want anyone to know how truly depressed I was.

A year after Kenny’s death, I began educating my community about prostate health.  My experiences have inspired me to work with Women Against Prostate Cancer and the Prostate Cancer Coalition of North Carolina to help others find help and hope and avoid the pain we suffered.

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