Tamara Toth

Tamara Toth - profileAge: 27

Hometown: Stockholm, Sask (now Calgary)

Do you work? I’m still employed with a Home Builder in the city but not working

What is/are your career goal(s)? I’m taking this time to figure out what I want to be when I grow up

Your Cancer experience

How did you find out you were sick? What event(s) led to the diagnosis?

Physically, I wasn’t sick. Early summer 2010 I noticed a small lump in my neck just above my collarbone. After consulting friends i shrugged it off as “not a big deal.” Late September this “lump” was a little larger and invited friends. I did some online research through google and started recalling summer; I was very active so it was unlike me to be tired (but I was), it was also pretty warm but I had drenching night sweats (which I’ve never had before), and according to everyone around me I was looking thinner than usual (I’ve always been scrawny so I never saw it in myself). I went to the doctor and had a series of blood tests and an ultra sound done. Middle of October, the results were back. The “fill-in” doctor was unimpressed with my persistence for a second opinion. My blood tests came back awesome. I was negative for mono. BUT my ultrasound was out of the ordinary with 3cm lymph nodes in my neck. My spleen was good though. The second opinion appointment was a month later with an internal specialist who sent me right to the ER where they performed a CT scan. The lymph nodes were now around six centimetres and have moved down my chest. At this point I was admitted for a week for a biopsy and kept for observation. A week later I got a call from the Tom Baker Cancer Center. That put all my fears to rest. Although I was told in the hospital by the doctors that I may have Lymphoma I was still holding out.

What year was it? What was your age at the time? November 2010, I was 27

What was your diagnosis? Stage 2b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

What were your first thoughts when diagnosed? I went into “fix it” mode. The first question I asked was “when can we start?”

How did your family react? They were very upset. Because they’re back home in Saskatchewan, this is very hard for them. But we’ve all accepted it for what it is and now we’re moving forward.

How did your friends react? Were you treated any different?  Everyone reacted different. My close friends were sad. The friends who knew me knew that I didn’t want to be treated differently. Some treat me like glass, some treat me like nothing’s changed, some have stopped communicating all together. There’s only a couple people left over that treat me like I’m no different.

What did your treatment consist of?

Well, I had the biopsy on my neck and a chest port put in for chemo. I’ve got some wicked war wounds now.  ABVD is my chemo cocktail. I’m not quite half through yet. I go to TBCC every two weeks for 14 treatments. After that it will be decided if I need radiation. In addition to ABVD I’m also on steriods and anti-nausea meds too. The first few months, the side effects were almost non-existant. They’re starting to show up more frequently now though.

Emotionally it’s been a rollercoaster. I have my bad days and take advantage of my good days because you don’t know when they’re going to come around again. I get tired easy but I’m not sure if it’s the overwhelming emotional side taking over the physical or a bit of both.

In which Hospital(s) are/were you treated? Rockeyview and Tom Baker Cancer Center which is attached to the foothills. The medical staff and volunteer staff there are amazing.

What is your current medical status?  I’m currently still in treatment until at least July.

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

Physically it’s completely different. I was an active person. In the gym almost everyday and on several sports teams. I miss it. Now, even climbing stairs is hard.

Emotionally I’ve grown. There are so many things I can’t control and have learned to just let go. Socially I’ve been a little tired to head out as much as I used to. Meeting new people is also scary. I don’t feel like me; no hair, no energy.

Spiritually I haven’t really changed much. I’ve found that being at peace with myself is what matters most to me right now.

What is/was the toughest part of your challenge? Hmmm I’d have to say all of it. Being tired is no fun. Having these scars is no fun. Having no hair isn’t that fun but the wigs are 🙂 I don’t have family here and i have a small group of friends. Your life completely changes. You become more volnerable and feel isolated. lol dating is hard too!

What is/was the best part about having your challenge?  I have been able to reprioritize my life. I know what’s important and what doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

What really motivated/motivates you to keep going while you were/are sick? Everything I’m going to do when this is over. The things I was scared of but am excited to over come.

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

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’ve been reading a lot about how diet can affect your health. It’s common sense and we all know it but the link between cancer and diet is amazing. People need to look after themselves!

Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? I’m not/haven’t. I’m not sure how to find one that suits my needs. My friends and family have been awesome. I’ve also started a blog to help me vent.

How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? I googled young people with cancer, trying to find a support group. It couldn’t have come at a better time.