Mallory Cooper

MName: Mallory Cooper

Age: 26

Hometown: St. John’s, NL

What was your diagnosis? Gastric cancer (Adenocarcinoma)

What schools did you attend? Camosun College and Thompson Rivers University

What is your career goal? My career goal is to gain my ECE certification.

What is your occupation? Student and stay at home mom

 

Your cancer experience:

How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
I found out I was sick because I was having issues swallowing food and even fluids. Everything would get stuck in my throat, and I eventually got to the point where I was making myself sick to get it out. This is because the tumour is right where my esophagus meets my stomach so it’s blocking off a lot of my esophagus. I had no other obvious cancer symptoms. Mild heartburn may be a culprit, but I was also pregnant at the time, so anything like that was chalked up to pregnancy woes.

What year was it? What was your age at the time?
2015, and I’m 26.

In which hospital were you treated?
The Royal Alexandra in Edmonton.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
My first thoughts were of disbelief and fear. I went through a barium swallow and endoscopy where both doctors showed a lot of concern before we all knew exactly what it was. I truly didn’t take them seriously until one of them sat down with me, looked at me, and told me it was cancer. I thought, “How in the world could it be cancer? I don’t feel sick. Is this going to kill me?”

How did your family react?
My family was/is shocked. I’ve had very few health issues, so no one ever would of thought it could be something this serious.

How did your friends react? Were you treated differently, or did things remain the same?
I have been incredibly fortunate that my friends have been so amazing and supportive. I have had people I haven’t spoken with in years show their support. Nobody has shied away from this or treated me differently.

What did your treatment consist of?
My treatment consists of three rounds of neoadjuvant chemo. I have a port under my collarbone so I can have a pump hooked up to it so I have chemo going into me 24 hours/seven days a week for nine weeks straight. I also get two other drugs once every three weeks. Then, I go for surgery where I will have my entire stomach removed. And then three more rounds of the same treatment plan.

I’m grateful to say chemo is so far treating me well. I’m able to be up, chasing my three children, and pretty much doing my normal stuff. I mostly feel fatigued. When I get the other two drugs, they do knock me out for a few days. I’m very nauseated and tired. I feel like I’m walking around in a fog. I have lots of ear ringing and numbness in my hands and feet. It eventually subsides, though. I will eventually probably experience the symptoms of menopause, and I’m anxious about that. I’m so happy to already have my beautiful children that I’m not sad about not being able to have another baby, just nervous about how I will feel physically and what my body will go through.

I was nervous about the hair loss, but I’ve decided to embrace it! I recently shaved my head and my husband tells me everyday how losing hair is a very small price to pay, and he’s so right.

What is your current medical status?
My current status is that I still have cancer. My diagnosis is still fresh.

How is life different for you now post-diagnosis?
Physically, I struggle with staying hydrated and eating enough. I’d have to say those are my biggest hurdles. Emotionally I’m working on staying positive. I have never had to worry about not being around for my children and I struggle a lot with sadness, but I also have so much to make me happy that I make of point of focusing on those things.

Spiritually, so much has changed. It sounds strange, but I’m embracing this journey. Life truly is precious and sometimes we can take that for granted. Having cancer has made me realize once again all of the precious, amazing things that I have. I don’t want to resist this situation and think, “Why me?” I want to embrace it and learn from it and raise awareness and help others.

What is the toughest part of your challenge?
The toughest part is going from foolishly thinking something like this could never happen to me to having it happen and realizing of course it can happen to me. I’m not special in any way, and cancer can happen to the healthiest people.

Relying on people to help us get through this is something I’m also adjusting to. When I’m sick in bed, I have to learn to be okay with not being the one running after the kids, or cleaning the house, or going hiking, or to the park. I have to focus on getting better, and that means letting these amazing people who want to help us take the reins.

What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge?
To love passionately and not sweat the small stuff. It is so important to enjoy life and do what makes you smile. Also, nothing is perfect. There will always be challenges and bad days and we need to embrace it all, to stop resisting and to let life happen as it is, and learn to appreciate the bad as well as the good.

What really motivates you to keep going while you are sick?
My children! I have three beautiful little people to raise and enjoy life with. They make me feel normal in all of this. And, of course, my husband, as well. He is so supportive and stronger than he could ever realize. Also, I feel so passionate about raising awareness and helping others face their battle with cancer, it definitely motivates me to keep going.

What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? Have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I am learning to see the good in this diagnosis. Every day I think of all of the good things that have come from it such as the wonderful people I’ve met, and what I continue to learn about something I’ve been fairly ignorant about in the past. The fear is still there, but every day it’s a little less.

What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
Do not shrug off minor yet persistent annoyances, like heartburn or indigestion. Don’t doubt your body! See your GP for regular check ups, and don’t be afraid to ask for tests if you feel like something is wrong. Knowing your family medical history never hurts, either. I wasn’t aware of how many people had cancer as young adults in my family until I got my diagnosis and explored that area. Knowledge is power and knowing your odds of getting certain cancers can help you better to take preventive measures.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
So far, YACC has been the only support group, and I couldn’t ask for a better group to be a part of. It has helped me cope with feeling alone and has taught me a lot so far. I plan on utilizing other support groups in the future, too,

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
My brother told me about it.

Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges? If so please let us know how you can be contacted.
Absolutely!

If you are interested in getting in touch with Mallory, please email connect@youngadultcancer.ca and we’ll happily forward your message along.