Image
Janice Chabros

Janice Chabros

Mission BC
Canada

We had envisioned a future for ourselves that went up in smoke the day I was diagnosed… My body dared me to die, so I dared it to live. And I did.

The moment you hear the words “you have cancer” your life changes. At that very instant, all the hopes, dreams, and aspirations you previously held for your life are gone. The only hope, dream, or aspiration left is to live. That becomes your sole purpose. 

I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in December 2017, at just 36 years old. At the time, I had an amazing career, my husband and I had just bought a house, and we were trying to conceive our first child. We had envisioned a future for ourselves that went up in smoke the day I was diagnosed. 

After 6 months of chemotherapy, my treatment culminated in a stem cell transplant, in June 2018, from an unrelated donor overseas. I walked into Vancouver General Hospital not knowing if I would ever walk back out again. I had been warned to expect a 1-2 year recovery, with the potential to develop graft vs host disease (GVHD) along with many other potential side effects, but I never expected my recovery to be so dauntingly slow and strewn with seemingly insurmountable peaks and valleys. Healing is never linear, but my recovery really seemed to take the less-than-ideal scenic route.

You see, there are 3 realities for every cancer patient. There is life before cancer, their life during active treatment, and a new life post treatment. The challenge for every cancer survivor is to find a way to merge those realities into one singular life, despite the inevitable anguish of accepting the significant changes often forced upon us by cancer. 

It took many years, and what seemed like endless tears, for me to find peace with my new reality. I traded in a disease that was trying to kill me quickly for multiple chronic illnesses that I will need to manage for the rest of my life. I deal with GVHD, chronic fatigue, chemo brain, pain, and PTSD, among others, and have not been able to return to work, although I try to find energy to volunteer when I can. I still grieve the loss of my former life and the future that I had planned for myself, but I am so proud of how far I have come and am excited to see what comes next. Back in December 2017, my body dared me to die, so I dared it to live. And I did.