Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 1, 2005

Peggy Elijah: cancer four times didn’t stop her

By Lynda Jensen

When Peggy Elijah, formerly of Montrose, first heard the word “cancer,” it was 23 years ago.

Since then, she’s heard the word three more times as a diagnosis from her doctor.

But Elijah stands today as living proof that someone can live despite cancer not once, but four times.

Elijah was diagnosed with cancer of the breast, lymph nodes, in one of her ribs, and colon cancer – all this despite the fact that she has no family history of the disease and was first diagnosed at 40; an age considered to be young in terms of the disease.

“I never asked ‘why me,’ but ‘why,’” she remarked, looking back. “I would like to know what caused it.”

This question is exactly why she’s involved in the Relay for Life in Delano Friday, Aug. 5

Cancer can’t be cured; only controlled, she said, using the word today to say that her cancer is under control.

It started with breast cancer in 1982.

“My 40th birthday wasn’t a good one,” she said.

Her treatment was limited to surgery, a mastectomy, which appeared to take care of the issue.

However, 18 months later, cancer resurfaced in her lymph nodes. She ended up having a total hysterectomy.

“It saved my life,” she said, referring to the surgery.

She was good for seven-and-a-half years, until 1992, when cancer showed up in one of her ribs.

At this point, she underwent a long period of maltreatment, she said.

“He didn’t do much for four years,” she said, referring to her doctor.

By 1996, the cancer was advanced.

She had massive growth on both ends of her ribs; although her lungs weren’t penetrated yet.

“They were going to remove three ribs,” she remembered.

She watched her doctor look at bone scans, showing the black area growing that denotes cancer.

“He thought it was the drug working,” she said.

At that point, she looked for better medical treatment and ended up at Fairview Southdale Hospital in Edina.

“They saved my life,” she said of Fairview.

Radiation, one of the few times that Elijah had it, shrunk her tumors by 80 percent. “The radiation tired me,” she said.

She was set to go until 1999, when yet a different form of cancer was found, colon cancer.

Surgery, once again, saved her life, as some of her colon was removed.

What is her best advice? “Get the right treatment,” she said.

Doctors should be ordering MRIs, bone scans, and CAT scans, depending on the cancer. “Find someone who will do it,” she advised.

She’s been free of breast cancer for 10 years, and free of colon cancer for six years.

Elijah lives with her husband Dale in Delano. Their grown children include Brian, Keith, and Jennifer.

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