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updated: 4/24/2013 11:26 AM

Voices of Hope: Music energizes Naperville cancer patient

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  • Gloria De La Cruz lost her left eye to a rare cancer and is in treatment for a second rare cancer that attacked her bile duct. Singing with Voices of Hope eases the pain, she says.

      Gloria De La Cruz lost her left eye to a rare cancer and is in treatment for a second rare cancer that attacked her bile duct. Singing with Voices of Hope eases the pain, she says.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Gloria De La Cruz, Naperville

Seven months ago I never imagined how different my life could be. They always say your life can change at the drop of a hat. For me, that is exactly what happened.

In mid-August, after noticing a shadow in the corner of my left eye, I was diagnosed with cancer, choroidal melanoma.

I had two options, either proceed with a plaque therapy, where they sew a cap filled with radioactive pellets onto my eye and put me in isolation for five days, or removal of my left eye. Turned out the tumor was very large. I would need to have the eye removed.

On Aug. 29, I proceeded with an enucleation of my left eye. There was good news in the mix. First, the cancer, although very aggressive, had not spread to any other organ. Second, by removing the eye, they would take all the cancer with it and I would not need to undergo any chemotherapy or radiation treatment.

This was followed by being fitted with one temporary prosthetic eye in September and a second larger temporary prosthetic eye in November. I received my permanent prosthetic eye in December.

In October, during my transition time and getting used to having only one eye, I began experiencing severe right side and lower back pain. I ended up in the emergency room on Oct. 17 and again on Nov. 6. Eventually, I learned that I had a mass on my liver. More tests and it was confirmed I had a tumor on my bile duct, cholangiocarcinoma. Another rare and totally unrelated cancer.

I underwent surgery to remove the tumor on Dec. 26, but it was found to be inoperable. The tumor was growing around my portal veins, making it dangerous to remove. The surgeon removed one lymph node that was malignant and removed my gallbladder, which was perfectly healthy, because it would be in the way for radiation treatment.

I proceeded with both radiation and chemotherapy treatment on Jan. 23 and completed 33 treatments of proton radiation on March 8. I'm undergoing tests now that will tell us whether the radiation destroyed the tumor. As a precaution, I started another round of two chemos on Monday, April 8. We will continue to fight this battle and, with God on our side, I hope to win.

In February I joined the Voices of Hope choir. Singing, and music in general, has always had a very positive effect on me. Singing makes me feel wonderful, it energizes me. When I leave practice on Saturdays, it just seems like my day goes much better. There's less pain. I'm grateful for the opportunity to sing along with this group.

The experience of having cancer has been incredible. I'm grateful for every day I have here with my two boys, ages 13 and 17. Never before has the sky looked so blue, the breeze felt so wonderful or the sun's heat felt so warm on my face. I hear my Christian music with new ears.

The words have new meaning for me. God has been with me throughout this entire ordeal. He has held my hand every moment. I place my life in His hands and I trust in Him.

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