Murphy grateful to community
December 17, 2005
It’s been a year since Laura Murphy was first diagnosed and treated for ovarian cancer.
On Dec. 15 of last year she underwent invasive surgery and spent nine additional days in the hospital. When she returned home, she was too weak to even wrap Christmas presents for her family. In those desperate times, she says an army of Parkites came to her family’s aid. They made sure the presents got wrapped, the meals were prepared and the laundry got done.
Murphy’s friend, Kathy Sturgis, organized weekly email updates so the Murphys would not be bombarded with phone calls and Dori Cannard, a friend and nurse, came over to administer injections to help boost her white blood cell count when necessary.
"If you have to go through something like what I have been though, I don’t think you could live in a better place than Park City," Murphy said.
When Murphy was first diagnosed her doctors told her there was about a 50 percent chance that the cancer would not return. Now, as she passes the one-year mark, she can happily say she is cancer free.
"I am looking forward to having a happy, healthy and boring new year," she said.
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Murphy said when she got sick her husband, Bob, took her to all of her medical appointments, kept track of their daughters’ schedules and cooked dinner for the family.
"You have to consider it a journey and take one day at a time," she said. "I would encourage anybody to accept the offers of help. Sometimes that’s hard to do because people like to give more than to receive."
Perhaps Murphy’s greatest resource and supporter was her sister, Debi Weinshank, who suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Weinshank, who lives in Connecticut, also had a bleak prognosis and young children when she was first diagnosed. Weinshank underwent chemotherapy radiation and stem cell replacement therapy, used energy healing magnets and changed her diet. She has been cancer free for seven years.
"There is no relationship like one of sisters, when you can talk about anything and no subject is off limits," Murphy said.
Murphy’s daughter Jessica, then 12, and Kelly, then 8, reacted in different ways when she broke the news to them about her condition.
Murphy said Jessica was very quiet. She did not ask questions and she was hesitant to see her mom without a hat or a wig after the chemo treatments. But instead of talking through her feelings, Jessica was able to help her mom in tangible ways such as cooking meals, learning to do the laundry and knitting her a scarf.
Kelly, a talker, had loads of questions and encouraging words for her mom. When Kelly first found out about her mom’s surgery she told her that she was glad she had a treatable disease like cancer and not something like Alzheimer’s.
Then, when Murphy was headed off for a chemotherapy treatment for the first time, Kelly said, "Mom, I am going to cheer when your hair is gone because that means the chemo is working."
Although the chemotherapy treatments took a toll on Murphy, she continued to work as the executive director of Communications at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. She said the school staff was flexible with her schedule, so that she could take long weekends around her chemo treatments and leave early during weak episodes.
Murphy said her coworkers were tremendous supporters and she was able to reconnect with old friends who brought her lunch when she was home, and stayed in touch throughout her treatments.
"I am thankful to have such great friends and so many people who cared about me and really made this hard, hard year so much easier," she said.
Murphy received chemotherapy treatments at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City. She said the Hunstman staff offered her matter-of-fact advice and did not make her feel like a victim. She said the center also served as a resource, where she could pick up individualized information packets from the reference desk.
Murphy said she also benefited from the American Cancer Society "Look Good…Feel Better" program, which teaches women new ways to apply make-up to compensate for the loss of hair, eyelashes and eyebrows resulting from chemotherapy.
Murphy now receives quarterly check-ups and she is back to working a full schedule at Westminster College.
"Hopefully other people dealing with cancer will experience the same kind of outpouring of support that I did," she said.