Renee Bennett (Updated)

Renee Bennett - profileSee Renee’s Update: November 20, 2009

Age at Diagnosis: 32

Current Age (at time of profile): 35

Hometown: Goulds, Newfoundland

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

The events leading up were many bouts of fatigue, loss of appetite, day and night sweats and fainting. Then I found a lump in my neck. My instinct was to react and immediately go to the doctor. There is something to say about trusting your gut, especially when you pay attention to your own body. That instinctual gut feeling deemed to be true. After four weeks of testing, and many conversations I had with people and myself, “D” day came.

December 10, 2005 was D day for my family and I. The realization came when I was visiting my doctor for results and the little nun in the waiting room asked me if I was there to get my treatment. The word “treatment” didn’t have a clear answer, however I knew it was not good.

I relapsed in February 2007 after I became symptomatic.

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

It was 2005 and I was 32 years old.

Do you work?

I volunteer with and for the young adult cancer survivor community.

What was your diagnosis?

My initial full diagnosis was Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Follicular low grade (stage 2). It was changed to stage 4 after the doctors completed a bone marrow test.

What are your career goals?

Now that my health is on a great path, becoming more involved in helping young adult survivors and supporters is definitely a strong interest of mine.

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

The realization of cancer was still not clear until I specifically asked if it was cancer and then asking, “Do I have a time frame?”  Then all of the emotions just came and I just stopped thinking for about five minutes, which seemed like hours. My husband, Tony, was there and even though it was just as shocking for him, he stepped up and started asking questions until my mind came back to join them.

How did your family react?

My family and friends were all in a complete state of shock.

Since Tony (my husband) was with me on D day, the next person to tell was my mom. She wept and dropped to her knees and did not want to let go of me. At the same time, she told me that my strength would get me through this.

How did your friends react?

My friends were amazing, they all embraced me and stood by me. No one left me.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: Treatment consisted of chemo and rutuxin, in outpatients. They were every three weeks for approximately four to six hours. When I relapsed in February 2007 the treatments were every four weeks for three days, approximately three to four hours.

Non-Medical Side: How I felt physically and emotionally were certainly self-explanatory. It was a rollercoaster that I thought would never end. The future of being well was very cloudy even though the survival rate was fairly high. It really didn’t have any substance for me to grab on to.

What is your current medical status?

Currently I am off the rollercoaster of uncertainty. I’ve had my one year post chemo and each month I am getting stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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

Socially, I have found new connections through Young Adult Cancer Canada. I was on my first Retreat Yourself in 2007 and I attended the Survivor Conference in 2007, then I was asked to come back to Retreat Yourself 2008 as a Survivor Facilitator and to share my story. Being on that side of the grass was an amazing experience.

What was the toughest part of your challenge?

I really felt that “keeping it together” was really hard. Being vulnerable, on that level, to everyone else was not something I was used to. I had to learn physical and emotional boundaries for myself because I was the one who was always there for others, and now I had to depend on family and friends for some of that.

Even today, I am trying to get my emotional self back on this new path. I am opening new doors to new experiences. I feel this is helping me help others through this “Cancer Journey.”

What was the best part of your challenge?

I am a person who does not have a problem with expressing herself. However, that does not mean that I expressed my self all of the time. So this experience has given me a new voice; an opportunity to communicate my story in the hopes that it will resonate for someone else.

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

My strength to find personal balance keeps me motivated.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

There wasn’t a standard support group for young adults when I was diagnosed. When I heard about the Shave for the Brave, I went online to search the website, and connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada. There was information sent out and I will put on the list to experience Retreat Yourself 2007. Of course apprehension followed.

The weekend turned out to be an eye opener. I didn’t realize that other people “got it.” I soon realized that they got it and more. There was a new road and learning to embrace it was going to be up to me.

Young Adult Cancer Canada is truly a family of genuine support on so many levels. This organization was and is a blessing for my family and me. I am so blessed to be connected to them.

Update

How long has it been since your last treatment? 2years, 1 month, 28 days as of September 16 2009.

How are you today? (physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally)

Well on all levels in question I feel very well. Physically, in the last 1 1/2 years my strength has been getting stronger. I am exercising more now, which has gave myself esteem a lift for sure. Emotionally, I am healthier. Getting exterior help for the stresses in my life and how to keep them down has helped. I have Energy work done which always keeps me clear, balanced and grounded. On the fear side, since I have had a relapse, I do have moments especially when it comes to checkup time. I find myself having many inner conversations to convince myself that everything is great. So “Fear of Survivorship” is always in the back of my head. How I choose to deal with that awareness is very important. Spiritually, I feel that being positive, for me is the most important, not just for everyone else. It seems that is an automatic default for me. Being aware of that is huge. Professionally, I am not working; I am home taking care of my family and me. However I do have opportunities that come to my path. How I develop those opportunities is up to me and how it changes my life becomes my journey.

What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to continue the give back to the community who has given me so much! Embracing being at home for my family and my health is important to me.

When you see yourself 10 years down the road, how does the picture look?

In ten years my kids will be older, not to mention myself. I would like to be on another professional path that helps out financially and something of course that I love. What that is in particular…I’m not sure but getting there. I know that stress will not be involved where it will consume me.

Do you have any advice for other survivors who may be where you once were?

I was asked that question the other day. I would say Embrace today by doing what gives you joy, peace, balance and rejuvenation to LIVE, LOVE & LAUGH.

Of course following my own advice helps, especially when there are challenging times and I have to stop and ask myself. Then the Ah Ha moment opens the mind.