Marsha Norman

Marsha_Norman - profileAge at Diagnosis: 27

Current Age (at time of profile): 27

Hometown

Grand Bank, NL

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

After delivering a healthy baby girl on October 12th, 2007, I returned home from hospital. About 5 weeks passed and I was feeling pretty bad. I took a trip to my doctor and was prescribed some medications. After a week, I began hemorrhaging blood and had a pretty scary admittance to hospital. I ended up having an emergency D & C along with 5 units of blood. I went home after 1 week, only to return to the emergency department with the same problem. I ended up staying overnight with no problems, and then sent home. That same night I ended up back at the emergency room once again. I ended up having an emergency hysterectomy along with 3 more units of blood. I recovered and went home on Dec 6th, 2007. On Dec 19th, 2007 I received a call from the OBS nursing staff at the Burin Hospital advising me that my gynecologist wanted to see me. I went in and he talked about tests and said that he wanted me to have more done. He advised me that he was waiting for a report (of items sent away for testing) and was not pleased that he had been waiting so long for it. He wanted me to come back on Monday, Dec 24th, 2007 (Xmas Eve). I returned to him on that day and was given a copy of a lab report that stated my diagnosis.

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

It was 2007 and I was 27 years old.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

University Graduate.

Do you work? Yes. Currently working as a Recreational/Development Specialist.

What was your diagnosis?

Choriocarcinoma Stage 1.

What are your career goals?

To work in and around clients with mental health issues.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

Not much. The doctor did not use the word cancer; I really didn’t know much at this point, I just had the piece of paper with the words on it.

How did your family react?

My family was devastated. My fiance had been flying back and forth from Alberta, in between all this, as emergency after emergency came up. My mother took it extremely hard!

How did your friends react?

My friends were devastated. They did a lot of soul searching by reflecting on how far away we all had drifted. Some cried, others called. They were a bit hesitant at first when talking to me, as if they did not know what to say. Overall, I was treated the same.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: Medically, 2 days after I was diagnosed I had a battery of tests: blood work, chest X-rays, CT Scans, ultrasounds, IVP. The tests revealed that since giving birth, the tropoblastic tumor grew at an alarming pace and had already spread to my lungs. This cancer is typically labeled as a “Traveling Cancer”. I had my first chemotherapy treatment in St. John’s as an outpatient on January 10th, 2008. As I had 2 small children (one 3 and one 3 months at that time) I used to leave my home in Grand Bank at 4:00am in the morning and drive into St. John’s, see the doctors, get my chemotherapy and then drive back home the same night – around 8 hours. I received a total of 5 chemotherapies with the drug called Dactinomycin. My last one was on March 6th, 2008. I found the 1st chemotherapy very hard on me both physically and mentally. I had many side effects. After my first dose, I was awake for a total of 30 hours – wide awake, I could not rest at all. I also had very hard pains in my legs. Each dose afterwards got better. As I learned to eat and drink better more effectively and take the anti-nausea medications, things got better. I managed to arrange two of my chemotherapy sessions closer to home at the Burin Hospital. This was great! NO DRIVING! After my last dose of chemotherapy I had another major surgery on my left kidney to repair an obstruction caused by the scar tissues from all the surgeries I had.

Non-Medical Side: Emotionally, I can honestly say that all else in the world around me was meaningless and so very unimportant at this point in time. I was clearly focused on getting through this. My famous saying through all this was “and that’s about it”. I adopted, almost immediately, the idea that it could be a lot worse, let’s get on with life.

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

Grand Bank Community Health Centre, Burin Hospital, Health Sciences Centre, Dr.H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre.

What is your current medical status?

Currently cancer free.

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

My life has done a complete 360 degree turn. I am a person who is more alive than I have ever been. I tend not to worry uselessly about things that I cannot change and I tend to reflect more on my experiences. I am closer to god than I have ever been. I have a true understanding of friendship and how important friends and colleagues are in times of need. I enjoy life each day and count my blessings at each turn.

Physically, I am getting stronger each day. I still have to have bloodwork done every 2 weeks. This test checks the marker each week to make sure the cancer is still gone and at 0. This is difficult each time I call and get the results, I still get the chills! I have to have this bloodwork for the next full year. Finally, I am setting some weight loss goals for myself and am ready to face the world with a smile.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

The toughest part was the feelings of loneliness. Although I have great supports etc I felt like I was very alone during this journey. I struggled with this at times. Alternatively, I can surely say that I never actually realized that I had cancer believe it or not until my fiance went back to his job in Alberta after I recovered (April 2008) and I felt he was able to return. I went through 2 weeks of pure hell thinking, remembering, wondering, feeling and understanding all I had just been through. I was mad, sad, angry, uncomfortable, glad, at peace, and ticked off with the world all at the same time. I reached out to close friends and co-workers who helped me through this.

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

I learned to stay focused on what really mattered in life. I learned that life is truly a blessing and that everyone deserves to live a happy prosperous life. My values have changed somewhat and I am more in tune to what makes me happy as well as my family. I appreciate things more and take problems and concerns in stride.

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

My two daughters and my fiance.

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

My experience has taught me to be a better person and to love life. I truly feel that my short illness – a blessing in itself – has made me a better person. I have many negative thoughts and feelings about life before my illness and I get so angry. Little things and experiences affected my life so differently than they would now. I truly feel that my cancer was a life changing event in that I can handle anything that comes my way! God would not have chosen me to have this if he did not think I could handle it!

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

Cancer is beatable, if you have the right mental attitude as well as an extra few pounds. I work around the fragile elderly in my job, and I think knowing that they would trade places with me, or that It could be a whole lot worse than just having cancer. I was lucky.

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?

None. Choriocarcinoma is a rare type of cancer that its origin is unknown.

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

No.

If you did not attend a support group, why?

I would have, if one had been available. I am not sure if it would have helped.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

I recently heard about the name changing on the radio, I thought I would drop by the website.

I think it’s great to have this group out there! I really wish I had gotten in contact earlier.