Jamie Colter Engel coping with cancer

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

(Editor's note: Jamie Engel has been an employee of Faith Funeral Service in Manila for two years. The cancer survivor is an avid volunteer with Relay for Life teams in several counties. She will be participating in the Buffalo Island Relay for Life on June 12 at the Leachville City Park. Survivor sign-in will begin at 5:30 p.m. The victory lap will begin at approximately 6:30. The luminary ceremony will begin at approximately 9 p.m. There will be food booths, games, music, silent auction and much more.)

Jamie Colter Engel

By ANDREA PRITCHARD

Corning Courier Staff

"I knew something was wrong!" said Jamie Colter Engel, a 49-year-old resident of Corning who is a one-year cancer survivor.

Over the course of six months Engel went to countless doctors, all of whom had different opinions as to what was causing her excessive weight gain, fatigue and bouts of severe pain. A few of the speculations were gall bladder issues, appendicitis, indigestion...but doctors were unsure.

It wasn't until a severe attack while working at Faith Funeral Service in April of 2014, when RN Heather Smith found a fluid filled abdominal tumor. Smith, a former oncologist for St. Bernard's Hospital and now a Wagner Clinic advanced RN, knew what to look for.

When Engel was explaining her symptoms Smith did not connect them with a past diagnosis other doctors had determined.

"She really listened to me," Colter recalled. "I felt like she was my answered prayer!"

They immediately scheduled an appointment for an ultra sound and CT scan with Dr. Curry. The results noted that the tumor was very large and Dr. Curry's team of doctors could not perform a surgery of such magnitude. She was then referred to the West Memphis Clinic, where Dr. Todd Tillimanns and his team performed the surgery on May 12, 2014.

"My youngest daughter Whitney was going to graduate the following Sunday," she explained. "I was bound and determined to make it there. I had waited 12 years for that moment and this wasn't going to stop me!"

They removed a 32-pound abdominal fluid-filled tumor, along with her ovaries, some lymph nodes, the omentum and appendix. All were sent to Harvard Medical School for testing. The results revealed a very serious cancer about the size of a pencil lead in the right ovary. The good news was that the cancer was contained in that area. There was no spreading, according to doctors.

Engel did make it to her daughter's graduation, "wheelchair and all."

"Life is short and when you are hit personally it is life shattering," she said. "I now realize the concept of stop and smell the roses." She continued by stating how important it is to spend time with family making memories and capturing those memories with lots and lots of pictures.

"Never miss an opportunity to tell someone you love them," she said.

"The diagnosis has changed my life completely. I have always been a firm believer in God and prayer," said Engel. "My favorite bible verse is Philippians 4:13 which states, 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' This gets me through everything."

Engel is a member of New Life Family Church in Corning.

"By the Grace of God and many prayer chains and churches all over, I did not have to have any treatment," she said. Engel has check ups every three months and shows no signs of cancer to this day.

"I am a true believer in miracles, and God was not finished with me!" she exclaimed.

Engel isn't the only person in her family who has battled cancer. In fact, the list is exhaustive. Her mother, stepmother, father, stepfather, grandfather, aunts and uncles have all been stricken with cancer, and most of them have succumbed to the disease. Her father's case has to be the one that puzzles her most because of the strange irony.

"He also had a 32-pound abdominal fluid tumor removed," she said. "But there is no proof that this type of cancer is hereditary."

Also her sister, who is a two-year survivor, was diagnosed with cancer.

Engle says she is a fighter and will continue to fight. She participates in Clay, Ripley and Mississippi counties Relay for Life programs every year and encourages everyone to do so.

She said, "If one life can be saved then it's well worth it!"

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