A little bit about you:
Name: Gabrielle Fecteau
What was your diagnosis? Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 3
What year was it? What was your age at the time? 2015, I was 19 and turned 20 during treatment.
What is something you’ve done that you’re really proud of? I was awarded the 2015-2016 CIBC Mentoring Scholarship at the University of Ottawa.
What is a top item on your life to do list? Travel the world.
What are your hobbies? Writing and reading.
What was your life like before your diagnosis?
For a year prior to my diagnosis, I became increasingly tired. For the last month before I was diagnosed, I would throw up every morning before going to work. I had lost the ability to function and perform everyday chores or fun activities.
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
I had enlarged lymph nodes in my neck and one under my arm which were painful. I was sent for an ultrasound that led to a biopsy which got me diagnosed on June 20, 2016.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I can do this. I can kick cancer’s butt!
In which hospitals were you treated?
I was treated first at the Ottawa General Hospital, then at the Timmins and District Hospital, and supervised by the cancer centre in Sudbury.
What did your treatment consist of?
I went through six rounds of ABVD chemotherapy which consisted of 12 treatments, one every two weeks, over a six-month span.
The emotional aspects of fighting cancer were, for me, harder to handle than the physical side effects of cancer and chemotherapy.
What is your current medical status?
I am currently in a partial remission which means I will have to be monitored closely until all lymph nodes in my body are reduced to a normal size.
Life after cancer:
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
Everything about life post-cancer is different. I have to find a new normal amidst all the changes in my life. I have had to accept that cancer will be a part of life forever now. I must accept that I can’t go back to the innocence and life I had pre-cancer. This can be a good thing.
What is the toughest part about having cancer as a young adult?
The people around you don’t always know what to do or say as you are usually the first person in your group of friends to have cancer. After cancer, you realize that you have grown in many different ways that others cannot share with you.
What really helped you to keep going while you were sick?
While I was sick, seeing people, whether my family for supper or my friends over FaceTime, was always a way to get me smiling and laughing again. Today, as I am trying to figure out the post-cancer life; writing has become a great way to work through everything.
What kept you you busy during treatment?
I attended my local university during my treatment which kept me busy and focused on other things than my cancer.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
During my treatment I was quite isolated in my hometown. I had done research on different services offered during this time which is where I found YACC. I knew I had to get involved as soon as I got back to my studies in Ottawa.
Did you feel isolated from your peers since your diagnosis?
I did feel isolated from my peers during the course of my treatment as I was about 800 kms away from most of them. Of course, with technology today, I was able to stay in touch with some of them. This made me feel like I was still a 20-year-old, even with cancer, which I appreciated.
Has your cancer diagnosis affected any of the relationships in your life? If so, how, and how are you managing them?
When you have cancer, you don’t have time for negativity of non-committed relationships. It is the perfect situation to really find out who is there for you and who might be toxic in your life.
How has your cancer experience affected your body image and your relationship to your body?
Weirdly enough, I have grown fonder of my body with cancer. For one, I do not take it for granted. Also, when I lost my hair, I was able to see the natural beauty of a person when accessories are stripped away.
What are some lifestyle changes you’ve made since your diagnosis?
I meditate now! This has saved my life on both a physical and emotional level during my treatment. Today, meditation is still a part of my life and continues to have a positive impact.
Resources and recommendations:
What would you add to a treatment-day playlist?
“Fight Song,” The Piano Guys, and any other song that will get you grooving and smiling.
Which books/movies/podcasts/TV shows/etc. would you recommend?
I recommend any books/movies/podcasts/TV shows/etc. about cancer as they can help you understand your situation and feel less alone in your fight.
Books: Crazy Sexy Cancer by Kris Carr which helped me have an entirely new (and much more positive) perspective on cancer and fighting.
Movie: 50/50 which I loved as I found it to be a very accurate interpretation of cancer life.
What are your favourite blogs and websites for passing the time?
PINTEREST! My personal therapy on the worst days of cancer and treatment.
Are there any other resources you’d like to recommend?
Finding a mentor who has already gone through the cancer journey is a must. Once you find such a person, the fight becomes a lot easier.
Stay in touch:
What would you like to say to other young adults dealing with cancer who are reading this profile?
Embrace the person you are becoming while dealing with anything cancer related. That person will surely impress you and help you grow in new ways you thought were not possible.
Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges? If so please let us know how you can be contacted.
Please feel free to contact me for anything! From questions to just wanting to chat, I am here for you! Reach out by email or Facebook!
If you would like to email Gabrielle, please email [email protected] and we’ll be happy to pass along your message!