Robyn Smale

Robyn_Smale - profileAge at Diagnosis: 25

Current Age (at time of profile): 26

Hometown

Toronto, ON

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

It wasn’t until I found a lump in my neck that I started to grow concerned with my health.

During the Fall, I had been losing weight, losing my appetite, growing very itchy and was always complaining of being tired. I figured it was all just because I was very busy at work and really wasn’t looking after myself the way I probably should have. When I found the lump in my neck, I thought it might just have been the start of a cold or infection..so I left it for a little bit unfortunately until it became bothersome. At this point, I started the ball rolling by going to a walk-in clinic!

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

It was 2005, I was 25.

At what level of education were you at diagnosis?

University Degree in Radio/Television Arts.

Do you work? Yes, I work in the Broadcast Production department at an ad agency.

What was your diagnosis?

Hodgkins Lymphoma, Stage 2 (Nodular Sclerosis).

What are your career goals?

I’m in the process of figuring that out!

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?

At first I was in a bit of denial. I was thinking, it’s just a bad infection, nothing serious.

After leaving my Dr’s office, I began to feel like I had been kicked over the head with a lead boot! The word Cancer is a very scary word and you often think “not me this can’t be for real”.

How did your family react?

Naturally, my family was very upset. This is the second time that I have had a serious health issue so we were all very frustrated more than anything. I was diagnosed about 5 years ago with a Pituitary Adenoma, which was causing a number of problems. It was removed and was benign.

How did your friends react?

Most of my friends were shocked at first and really didn’t know what to say but after the initial shock set in, everyone has been extremely supportive which is a huge deal to me.

What did your treatment consist of?

Medical Side: I am currently undergoing Chemotherapy of which I am having to complete 4 cycles. The drugs being given are ABVD, which I believe are relatively standard for Hodgkins patients. I have also had to undergo injections of Neupogen to keep the white blood cells up. I will then undergo 20 sessions of radiation once the chemo. is complete.

Non-Medical Side: Emotionally I was back and forth between feeling okay with my diagnosis to feeling extremely frustrated and scared. It’s a horrible mind-game when you begin to think about the big picture of this whole experience. Thanks to the great support system of family and friends, I have been able to stay strong. As well, the amount of resources available to cancer patients is incredible as well. I have been taking advantage of these as it helps me to connect with other fighters!!

In which hospital(s) were you treated?

I am being treated at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

What is your current medical status?

Currently undergoing Chemotherapy and fighting!

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

I certainly look at life in a new way, that’s for damn sure. All of the little trivial problems I once used to worry about, I now think are petty. I also appreciate my good days more than ever and hope to continue that once I’m done treatment.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?

Dealing with the constant feeling of being un-well. I consider myself an independent person so when I can’t do what I want, when I want to do it, I get frustrated. It might be because of the lack of energy, or just feeling rotten all around.

Another tough part was, knowing that I would lose my hair. However, I have been able to have some fun with it since there are some pretty funky hats and scarves out there!

What is/was the best part of your challenge?

The new perspective on life. As well, being able to talk to people and educate them with my diagnosis. I am a firm believer in sharing because you never know when someone can use the information! Some people are hesitant to ask me questions but I encourage it!

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

Family and friends who are currently fighting cancer or have beaten it. They have been such an inspiration.

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

Life throws some interesting twists but I believe they are thrown for a reason. You have to ask yourself, why do we fall down?..It’s so that we can learn to pick ourselves back up again and stand stronger than before.

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

I’m thankful in the sense that I believe we caught this cancer early and I take comfort in knowing that it is curable. In all honesty though, I still worry about the future and any chance of secondary cancers after my treatments but one step at a time!

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?

I’m not sure that there are! That is what is so scary! Mr.Hodgkins takes the pleasure of attaching himself to anyone at any given time without any real warnings. If any advice, just keep living out all of your good days!

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?

I have signed myself up for a Look Good Feel Better workshop at the hospital and I will also be taking advantage of some activities through a group called Wellspring.

I believe both of these things will help. It’s just nice to know how much support is out there and how many people are willing and ready to listen.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?

I stumbled upon this link through the Wellspring website.

I think this site is a great idea and a great outlet for young people. There was a time when we all thought cancer was only something that struck older generations. Unfortunately now, it is all too often affecting people at young ages and this site certainly helps those looking for answers!