A little bit about you:
Name: Marc-André Lanouette
City: Laval, QC
What was your diagnosis? Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 4B
What year was it? What was your age at the time? 2015/28
What is something you’ve done that you’re really proud of? Got off the streets, away from the wrong crowd, and worked my way up to a decent, clean, healthy lifestyle.
What is a top item on your life to do list? I want to run a marathon to raise money for cancer support with people who had cancer. I want to be a more active and positive member in my community.
What are your hobbies? The great outdoors in general, everything in between.
What was your life like before your diagnosis?
Life was sort of good; I was working more or less 60 hours weekly. I did not have trouble keeping up with the heavy physical workloads construction has to offer. I had some doubts about my health, but they were discarded for various reasons, mainly a lack of trust and respect from doctors because of my past issues with drugs, alcohol, and suicide as a teenager. I should have been more assertive about it; I have every right to be healthy no matter where I am coming from. I am the only one to blame.
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
Four months before they had doubts about my cancer, I got my right foot and ankle completely crushed on a construction site. It wasn’t healing properly. Three months later, we couldn’t find the culprit. That’s when I showed the doctors the ball on my neck that was there for close to eight months. I knew it wasn’t a good sign, but like I wrote, I didn’t like doctors at all since they were treating me like a bum. Not having any sick days at work and not wanting to waste my time, I just went to work with my lunch bag and the huge bump on my neck!
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I felt a strange mix of relief knowing what was wrong with my life and wanting to die right away. I was so sick of fighting my way through life; I just wanted to give up after so many obstacles.
In which hospital were you treated?
Cité de la santé, Laval.
What did your treatment consist of?
I had six cycles of ABVD prescribed. I gave up after my fifth one because I couldn’t handle it anymore emotionally, but physically, I had it way better than most people I’ve met. To be brutally honest, I think I had it way better than EVERYBODY I’ve met. It reminds me how I need to be more grateful and work on my inner strength once more. Cancer is about working on yourself on every level, not only your physical health. You need to re-evaluate everything going on inside you.
What is your current medical status? As of right now, I can consider myself in remission!
Life after cancer:
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
Given time and patience, something else I need to work on. I am the best I have ever been on all those levels. Physically, I am now in good health, but with huge appreciation for it. Emotionally, I have grown and learned so much, a lesson learned the hard way, but so much worth it! Socially, I have been able to connect with people in a different way than I did in the past and change how I see myself socially. Spiritually, it wasn’t something I was very aware of. Now it’s something I will try to work on more than ever.
Cancer for me was — and still is — school. There’s so much I need to learn or re-learn.
What is the toughest part about having cancer as a young adult?
My answer would have been really different if you asked me about it some months ago, but in the long run, my answer is I feel lucky to have had cancer at that point in my life. Cancer gave me the opportunity to stop everything and really look at myself. I feel I am now more able to cope with life and have tools that will allow me to lead a better life. Cancer slams the brakes on your life, but what if you were going in the wrong direction going full speed? I am so thankful, as strange as it sounds. Cancer saved my life, not the other way around.
What really helped you to keep going?
I am not really sure about this one. Taking the time to just sit and think and allow yourself to feel without a filter, I guess.
What kept you busy during treatment?
Thinking and thinking some more, I guess. I can’t state enough the part where I needed to re-evaluate everything I was doing wrong and where, in the end, I wanted to go. Totally different from pre-cancer.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? How did it happen?
Google search with the same exact words.
Did you feel isolated from your peers since your diagnosis? If so, how does that affect you?
It was a long process over time, but I went from leaving everyone I knew to total isolation to recreating a new positive social circle that I am so grateful for. Keywords: given time, patience, trust in life.
Did anyone talk to you about fertility options before treatment?
At that time, I forgot a future was possible (about health and love) and denied the fertility options against my oncologist’s advice. I wish I did, but it’s not the end of the world.
Has your cancer diagnosis affected any of the relationships in your life?
Total 180 degrees. I left without looking back. Everything I felt was wrong or broken in an instant. Spent a good chunk of time alone, wondering what part I did wrong, what good I had to offer, what needed to change. The whole package of philosophical introspective things. I came out as a better man, able to manage healthy, positive relationships.
How has your cancer experience affected your body image, and your relationship to your body?
I used to be careless about my body image. Now I take time to make myself look as good as possible and take pride in the image I am projecting onto others. I do care about it. I used to shave my head bald for close to 10 years, now I’m growing my hair. I am grateful for a head full of healthy hair! Let it grow, be cool, be rad, but don’t be sad. Keywords: smile and shine!
What are some lifestyle changes you’ve made since your diagnosis?
Taking pride in my appearance, enjoying/improving my health, caring about my emotions/feelings, connecting with my spirituality. Doing activities as much as possible. Dancing, smiling (I was a grumpy person). Caring for other people. Improving my person or my life’s experiences overall. Cliché, but I don’t take things for granted anymore. Life doesn’t owe me anything and it’s my own responsibility to work it out. Life is what I got and it’s wonderful, from the lows to the highs. I take everything with big opening arms and allow myself to feel it. There’s no point in fighting it.
Resources and recommendations:
What would you add to a treatment-day playlist?
“Scars” by Black Label Society (piano version)
Which books/movies/podcasts/TV shows/etc. would you recommend?
I don’t do any of this. I’d rather be listening to birds singing.
What are your favourite blogs and websites for passing the time?
I don’t do any of this. I’d rather be looking at nature.
Have you participated in any other retreats, conferences, programs, or support groups you’d like your cancer peers to know about?
On the Tip of the Toes Foundation. Four day traveling canoe trip! One of the best memories of my life at a critical time of my life. I am so grateful for it! Made some good connections there.
Are there any other resources you’d like to recommend?
YACC obviously, On the tip of the toes, Le Virage, Cansupport, Lou’s house, nature, pets, people you meet along the way, life.
Stay in touch:
What would you like to say to other young adults dealing with cancer who are reading this profile?
This story is the best tool I had. Keep reading it until you see it for yourself:
This farmer had only one horse, and one day the horse ran away. The neighbors came to console him over his terrible loss. The farmer said, “What makes you think it is so terrible?”
A month later, the horse came home — this time bringing with her two beautiful wild horses. The neighbors became excited at the farmer’s good fortune. Such lovely strong horses! The farmer said, “What makes you think this is good fortune?”
The farmer’s son was thrown from one of the wild horses and broke his leg. All the neighbors were very distressed. Such bad luck! The farmer said, “What makes you think it is bad?”
A war came, and every able-bodied man was conscripted and sent into battle. Only the farmer’s son, because he had a broken leg, remained. The neighbors congratulated the farmer. “What makes you think this is good?” said the farmer.
Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges?
Yes. (If you would like to email Marc-André, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll forward on a message.)