Cassandra Burke

Cassandra_Burke - profileAge at Diagnosis: 22

Current Age (at time of profile): 24

To read Cassandra’s husband’s profile please click here. 

Hometown

Mission, B.C.

How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?

I had just come home from a three month trip to Europe, where I had a wonderful experience. I had gone back to work and was only there for about a month when I was working one day and I started to have pain in my left flank. I went home sick and went straight to the doctor. The doctor sent me for an x-ray because he thought it was a urinary tract infection. They found a spot on my kidney so I went for a CT scan. I was rushed in for surgery shortly after.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?

It was 2006; I was 22 years old.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

Finished high school and college.

Do you work? Not at the moment as I am still undergoing chemo treatments.

What was your diagnosis?

Originally I was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, then later with adult onset Wilms’ tumour.

What are your career goals?

I would like to go back to school to take the early childhood education course and work at a day care or maybe open my own.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

“Oh my god, why me.” I was really scared.

How did your family react?

They reacted the same as I did.

How did your friends react?

They pretty much thought it sucked, but I was not really treated differently.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: I had chemo every week, for ten weeks, on an out-patient basis and then another five weeks, again on an out-patient basis, which I am still doing. I have two left and they are every three weeks.

Non-Medical Side: It was emotionally draining/frustrating not being able to do what I want. The loss of motor skills, like buttons on cloths; also loss of strength in my legs which causes falls. Also I am easily tired and have to sleep a lot.

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

Vancouver Cancer Center.

What is your current medical status?

I am still going through chemo, but I am currently cancer free.

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?

It is still hard as I am still going through chemo but I am happy knowing I am just about finished. I am a bit nervous about going back to work and getting on with my life.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

I would say the loss of my day-to-day abilities like getting dressed; not being able to walk; having falls and the loss of strength are the toughest parts.

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

Well I got to meet new people when I joined my local cancer support group, Young Canadians Surviving Cancer. Also, I would say that my fiancee and I have grown closer and stronger through my challenges.

What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?

My family; my co-workers; the lack of money I am receiving; and the fact that I am so young and I have so much I still want to do.

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?

Life is short, live it to the fullest every day

How fortunate I really am.

Don’t take anything for granted in life.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?

When I was first diagnosed I thought it was going to be horrible, but for me it was not that bad.

What are some (if there are any you know of) preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?

Be aware of your surroundings and what you are putting into your body as well as your genetics.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

Yes. We meet once a month and we are all friends outside of our meetings, so it is great.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

I heard about Young Adult Cancer Canada through my local support group. It seems great so far.