By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer
(Sept. 29, 2023) Talking was the key to recovering from endometrial (uterine) cancer for Cheri Stambaugh.
She was diagnosed with cancer in March at 73 years old. Her husband passed away seven years ago, so she was by herself having to deal with the big “C.” Or so she thought.
At first, she kept it to herself, but friends could tell something was wrong.
The more she talked to people, the better she felt. And she found that many of her friends had experienced cancer in the past, but few talked about it, until she did. And the more she talked with people, the more people would talk to her about other struggles.
“Talking made a big difference for me,” Stambaugh said.
But not just texting or talking on the phone. Stambaugh needed to get out and socialize.
She has an office at Ocean Downs, where she is the administrator for the Maryland Standardbred Race Fund for the Association of Harness Racing.
When she had surgery in April, the doctor’s told her she would be out of work for two to four weeks. She went back to work in six days.
She also engaged socially. She has been a volunteer and regular customer at Windmill Creek Winery and Sisters Wine Bar in Berlin. She loves the local music scene. She can be found supporting the musicians at Open Mic Night most Thursdays at Sisters.
When she started chemo treatments, she would go out with friends, even if she was feeling poorly and not interested in eating much. Just to be with a friend and talk was important to her mindset.
Stambaugh said although cancer is a physical illness, it causes mental health issues as well.
Keeping all of that pain and fear to oneself is not healthy, so Stambaugh tried to keep to a regular social schedule, even when she was not feeling well.
“Talking to people and having people ask me questions when they were feeling down really helped me too.”
One woman she talked to said she never told anyone about her cancer, and she is still struggling with coming to terms with it. She wishes she had someone to talk to during that time.
Another woman she met had breast cancer and said her husband struggled to discuss the diagnosis with her, so Stambaugh talked with her.
She has a T-shirt that says, “I hope chemo gives me superpowers.”
It appears that it has, as she has helped others as much as others have helped her.
Recently, she hired a professional photographer, Laura Truitt of Laura Truitt Photography, to take some pictures of her at Windmill Creek Winery.
“You always see photo shoots of families, pregnancies, weddings, but you never see someone at their most vulnerable,” Stambaugh said.
“The pictures caught the essence of what I wanted to show; that you are still human, and you are still you, even with cancer.”
Stambaugh did not wear wigs during her treatment. She said she donned a baseball hat when she was out, to make other people more comfortable rather than herself.
One time, she went over to Don’s Seafood to get a bite to eat at the bar. It was raining and she grabbed her raincoat but forgot her baseball cap.
She apologized to the hostess who seated her and the hostess told her she was beautiful anyway.
As she sat at the bar, the bartender said, “Hi beautiful.”
Later that night, the bartender came up and gave her a hug and told her that a couple who was eating in the restaurant bought her dinner and drinks. They wanted the bartender to wait until they left to tell her.
Those moments of kindness were special to her.
Stambaugh had surgery in April and then started chemotherapy in May and radiation in August. She is now done with all of her treatments. They won’t do a scan for a few months to allow her body to heal.
“Radiation and chemo damage cancer cells and the good cells,” Stambaugh said, so she won’t know if she is cancer free for a while. “Even people who are not sick struggle sometimes.”
Stambaugh wants people to know they don’t need to be alone.
“When you are not feeling good, don’t hide. Come out and be around your friends. They may help you feel better.”