Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba
What school have you attended? Sisler High School, University of Winnipeg
What is your career goal? To be an elementary school teacher
How did you find out you were sick? What led to the diagnosis?
When I was 17 I found I would go on the ice (I play a lot of hockey) and get sick, nothing else triggered it, just hockey. My doctor did a blood test, it came back my hemoglobin was dropping rapidly, she thought internal bleeding. She sent me to emergency where they did an immediate cat scan and they found a mass that was overtaking my abdomen, it was 11 pounds!! (No it didn’t show) When I was 19 it returned, they took out a small tumor as well as an ovary, I had ovarian cancer as well. I got out of the hospital on my 20th birthday.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
It was 2006 and I was 17 the second time I was 19 (20 in a couple of weeks) and it was 2008.
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
Finishing grade 12, I went to grad bald and the second time, the end of my first year at university.
What was your diagnosis?
Initially Sarcoma, when it was out they classed it as a malignant neoplasm in the peritoneum, its still being tested around the world.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
My graduation. I had been growing my hair for 3 years just for grad. I also asked that my dad flew in, he was living in Calgary at the time and he made it, by the evening he was in town.
How did your family react?
They were shocked, I’m so athletic and the whole time I had this in me. They were scared naturally I am the youngest in our family and they didn’t want me to have to go through this.
How did your friends react? Were you treated any different?
My friends were amazing, they stood by me through everything and I mean I wore a hat at school but I think they all still treated me the same for the most part.
What did your treatment consist of?
I started with a major surgery that they weren’t even sure they could do because of the placement of the tumor; it was attached to my large intestine and behind my aorta. When I recovered from the surgery I began chemo therapy, 6 sessions every 28 days. My second time, I started with surgery again, they removed a small tumor and an ovary and I began the same chemo schedule as well as 25 radiations everyday. I did this all on an out patient basis although I was neutropenic so when my blood counts would go to zero, I was quarantined in our Children’ s hospital for a week or so.
Physically, I did play hockey through everything, and in the summer I worked right through it all as well. I didn’t let it control my life and it didn’t. I still am playing hockey and have been since September and have only finished my chemotherapy on October 31 of this year (2009).
In which hospitals were you treated?
Health Sciences Center, Children’s and Adult’s. As well as the Woman’s Hospital
What is your current medical status?
I’m just going through testing right now for pains in my abdomen but other than that I’m top notch!
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually)?
I am definitely not where I was physically, I don’t workout like I’d like to or play hockey at the level I used to. Emotionally, I am changed, doing chemotherapy with those children, some babies, some as young as 2 or even 10 or 11, those kids don’t deserve to be there. They taught me a lot, to be less selfish, now instead of planning my 40th birthday party I’m grateful I had a sweet 16, an 18th, soon to be a 21st, I’m grateful to have gotten my license, graduated high school and been accepted into the faculty of education my first try.
What was the toughest part of your challenge?
Losing that ovary and all the chemotherapy make me very nervous that I’m infertile.
What was the best part about having your challenge?
Getting this new frame of thought, although I’m still spoiled and enjoy it, I know how great my life is and am grateful for all I’ve seen.
What really motivated/motivates you to keep going while you were sick?
Hockey, I live to play and seeing my team every September is always exciting.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
Always be grateful for living a day in your life, their precious.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
Having gone through this twice I now think I’m invincible, if I find out I have it again, oh well, start the cycle all over. What are you going to do; crying doesn’t make it go away.
What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
I think, other than the obvious, just live your life, do I still eat junk- yes, do I still go tanning when I’m on the ocean-yes, I mean like I said before it wont run my life. I’m 21 years old.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
No but I wish I had.
If you did not attend a support group, why? Would you if one had been available?
One was available however I just recently found it and will be attending it for now on.
Do you think attending one would have helped you?
Probably, no one understands unless they’ve been there.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
A social worker informed me of it.