I was diagnosed with a rare type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that usually affects elderly men. I was told I had this cancer at the age of 23. When I received the diagnosis, I wasn’t traumatized. I wasn’t upset or devastated. Instead, my attitude was “what can we do to beat this?”
The rare subset of the blood cancer affected my heart, and at the time of diagnosis, it had not spread anywhere else in my body. To treat my cancer, I received six sessions of chemo and 21 sessions of radiation treatment that lasted about eight months. Because chemo made me so sick, I began to question if the fight was worth it and whether I had enough strength.
I became very emotional after the chemo experience. The doctors said they got most of it out and gave me the option to treat the rest of the cancer with radiation or a stem cell transplant. The stem cell transplant would have taken away my ability to have children.
I didn’t feel angry until about three years after remission. I couldn’t live my life, I couldn’t do what I wanted. I had to plan my life around my medical appointments. I felt frustrated and often asked myself “when am I going to get to live my young adult life?” For 10 years, I was in limbo about whether I could have a baby. Now that I have my daughter, it’s an experience I’m so grateful for.
Through my blood cancer experience, I learned that it’s okay to ask people for help and that not everybody can cope with a diagnosis of a loved one. I want others to understand that a cancer diagnosis changes people, but it changes us for the better. What I had to go through made me a stronger person.
Every year, I take part in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada’s Light The Night Walk to help support those affected by blood cancers. I have a positive outlook now that I’ve been officially discharged as a patient. I feel stronger than ever and for that, I am deeply grateful.