Devon Ridgwell

Devon Ridgewell - profileAge: 20

Hometown: Winnipeg, MB

What school did you attend? High School: St. John’s High School. College: Urban Circle Training Centre, Red River College

Do you work? I am on disability at the moment but I was working at Health Science Centre as a Health Care Aide

What is your career goal? I would like to be a nurse or a counselor, I think I would be very good at both careers; I am very empathetic and have a great ear for people.

How did you find out you were sick? What led to the diagnosis? I was having lots of back pain; I was misdiagnosed two times: once in an emergency room, and another by a nurse practitioner. I took my x-rays that the doctor in the emergency room had gotten done to my chiropractor and he found the mass and rushed me to the emergency room. I was then diagnosed the same night.

What year was it? What was your age at the time? January 22, 2008. I was 19

At what level of education were you at diagnosis? I was trying to get into nursing. I am also a college grad (graduated in June 2007)

What was your diagnosis? I was diagnosed with a Desmoid Tumour

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed? Truthfully, it felt like an out of body experience. I was very grateful I wasn’t alone and my dad was there when they told me because I wasn’t all there. I didn’t believe it

How did your family react? My parents were my backbone and my support system, I didn’t tell anyone other than Mom and Dad until my biopsy came back, then I told my pastor and sisters. Everyone else found out after I had my surgery.

How did your friends react? Were you treated any different? My friends treated me as if I had some sort of contagious disease; you find out who your real friends are and it made me appreciate the people who mean the most to me. The people at my church were very supportive and ALWAYS there for me.

What did your treatment consist of?

My treatment consisted of surgery on February 8, 2008, to remove the mass. It was a 13-hour surgery that consisted of removing the mass, which was fifteen pounds, four of my ribs on my left side, and half of my diaphragm and the muscle from my left leg to replace the muscle that was taken from my back. I was in the hospital for 37 days. If the growth comes back, I will have to have surgery again then radiation or chemotherapy on the area.

Physically I was alright other than the pain in the surgery area. Emotionally I felt like an outcast and I couldn’t do the things I loved to do because I might hurt myself because of all the limitations. The side effects I had were depression and loneliness. I never felt good enough for anyone, I never liked asking for help or guidance because I don’t like the drama and the sympathy crap people give you cause they think your dying.

In which Hospital(s) are/were you treated? I was/am being treated at Health Science Centre in Winnipeg throughout the whole process and, the Manitoba Cancer Society which is apart of HSC.

What is your current medical status? I am currently in remission.

How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)? Life is very different for me now, I don’t take anything for granted, I let the little things roll off my back. Socially I am not really active, I volunteer at my old school Urban Circle which I absolutely love. Emotionally, I seem to be pretty good, but sometimes I need a good cry (but hey, who doesn’t?).

What is the toughest part of your challenge? I think the hardest thing about what I have gone through is trying to understand why this happened to me.

What is the best part about having your challenge? Going through all of this has really shown me just how much my family loves and cares for me and how much having those good relationships means to someone’s being.

What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick? Having faith in God and knowing that nothing will go wrong. I’m going through this for a reason and also I’m the kind of person that if someone says I’m not going to get or do something, I want to prove them wrong.

What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience? We don’t know how long we have and we don’t know what tomorrow brings, but today I’m going to live and be strong. Take one day at a time.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis? My thoughts are good thoughts now. Before I came to terms with this diagnosis, I was mad at the world and very scared. Now I am peaceful and grateful to be able to handle it and have such a great support system behind me every step of the way.

What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours? Since what I have is rare, there are no preventative measures.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? I didn’t attend any support groups

If you did not attend a support group, why? I didn’t attend a support group because in the ones available, I was 20-30 years younger than everyone.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? My doctor told me about this program. I am extremely happy to have this group and other young adults like me who understand what it is like and who have the same issues as me to talk to.