DISABILITIES

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By Daniel J. Vance MS, LPC, NCC


Some people go through life with nary a scratch. Then there are others, like Care Tuk of Wasilla, Alaska, who get their fair share and more of health issues. It all began in the womb when Tuk's mother took diethylstilbestrol (DES), a non-steroidal estrogen used from 1940 to the 1970s by two million pregnant women for preventing miscarriages. DES has since been shown to cause birth defects and cancers in their children.

“I have a hidden disability but if you would look at me you wouldn't think I had one,” said 58-year-old Tuk in a telephone interview. “I have had 11 bouts with cancer and am in the middle of battling colon cancer right now.”

When Care was 16, her mother died of colon cancer. Three years later, the college she attended was prodding its co-eds to have “female physicals,” she said, “and that's when they first discovered cancer. When finding out, I just sat there and my mind was exploding with thoughts about the 'C' word. I was only 19 and thought this couldn't be happening.”

In time, she would fight cervical, ovarian, breast, thyroid, skin, lymph, and colon cancer. Except for colon cancer, she has been able to detect and have doctors remove each early on. However, cancer has been only one aspect of her health.

In 1985 while signaling for a left-hand turn in front of her home, she was hit from behind by a drunk driver doing 50 mph. Doctors reconstructed her face and used bolts and screws to rebuild her shoulders. In 2001, she sustained what doctors called a three-compartment subdural (brain) bleed that caused a mild stroke affecting her right side. Then, after she had a number of knee replacements due to osteoarthritis, doctors in experimental surgery inserted an interior prosthetic right leg from ankle to mid-thigh. Today, in addition to everything else, Tuk has problems with balance and oversensitivity to sound and motion.

She advised people experiencing multiple health issues: “First, have faith (in God). Then surround yourself with family and friends. Don't forget to have fun. Be flexible. Know there needs to be forgiveness because you will probably try blaming people or things (for your troubles). You also need to have chocolate. I have one scoop of double fudge brownie ice cream before bed (every night).” You can learn more in her book, “Loose Screws and Skinned Knees.”

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