Jamie’s profile was updated on May 9, 2012. Click here for the newer info.
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
What was your diagnosis? Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) & Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
What schools have you attended? I was going to university in Wisconsin for four and a half years before my diagnosis in 2009 and have been home in Winnipeg ever since. I am now currently in Paramedic school.
What is your career goal? To be a paramedic and help save someone’s life. I owe my life to the work of paramedics and I would like for someone to say that about me someday!
What is your occupation? Student
Your Cancer experience:
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
I was at my family cabin enjoying a nice sunny day and tubing behind the boat. I just let go of the tube and said I was tired and wanted to come into the boat. I pulled myself into the boat and the last thing I remember is saying that I was going to be sick and I had a severe headache. After that I went unconscious and don’t remember a thing.
I was rushed to the nearest hospital to be stabilized (no one knew what was wrong). After being stabilized I was rushed to Health Sciences Center in Winnipeg where I stayed for 55 days. I was kept in an induced coma for 38 days as my condition was so unstable. My family found out on my second day of hospitalization that I had leukemia, but I had no idea. After coming out of the coma, very heavily medicated, I was told the news by my Mom with doctors standing all around. “Jamie, you have cancer.”
I think it was a good thing I was drugged up as my reaction was shrugging my shoulders and saying “oh well can’t change it now, I’ll do whatever I need to do to get better.”
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
2009, age 21
In which hospitals were you treated?
Health Sciences Center and CancerCare Manitoba
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
One semester short of having my university degree in Exercise Science
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
“Oh well, can’t change it now, I’ll do whatever I need to do to get better.” Weeks after that, when asked by the doctor if I had any questions I asked, “why me?”
How did your family react?
Initially, I am not sure as I was in the coma. But once I woke up they were amazingly supportive. They had the same thought as I did, to just do what they have to do to help me get through it. 55 days in the hospital and I had a family member beside me at all times.
How did your friends react? Were you treated differently, or did things remain the same?
They were shocked to find out that their friend that was in such good shape all the time was sick with cancer. Many of them rushed to the hospital to see me immediately only to find out that I was too unstable for visitors. Once I was feeling better I had a visitor everyday and it was no different. We still joked around just as we had before, only this time I had cool tubes coming out of my arm.
What did your treatment consist of?
After the doctors found the leukemia, I was on an aggressive treatment which consisted of 24 hour a day IV chemo initially. After having a bad reaction to it they cut back the dose and I was on chemo and ATRA for my remaining days in the hospital. After leaving the hospital I still had to come back to CancerCare for three-hour-a-day chemo treatment which lasted 40 days. I was given a two week break and then returned everyday for another round of chemo. (In total I believe I had six rounds of chemo, mixed in with numerous blood and platelet transfusions)
Physically I was tired, my body ached, and I just felt drained. Emotionally I was positive most of the time, always joking around. I had a few off days where I didn’t want to get out of bed but always had my mom right there to boost my spirits. I gained a lot of weight from the steroids that I had to take so I wasn’t happy with my body image but I have since improved that!
What is your current medical status?
Remission since my birthday of 2009 (September 17)! I now have six-month checkups with my doctor, and three-month blood tests.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually)?
I appreciate every day I am here! I don’t take life for granted as I know it could change at any second. I appreciate my family so much more; they were a huge part of getting me healthy again.
What was the toughest part of your challenge?
Getting lumbar taps!
What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge?
Live everyday like it’s your last. Don’t take life for granted.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
I didn’t want to let cancer win. I am a very competitive person and this wasn’t a battle I was going to lose!
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I never thought cancer would affect me, no one ever does. Now I realize it can affect anyone, any age, no matter how healthy you are.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
No. I felt I had enough support from family and friends. I think attending would have helped. Talking to family and friends is different because they cannot relate to the experience I went through. It would have been helpful to talk to people that have had similar experiences.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
A social worker at CancerCare told me about it.
Visit Jamie’s blog: Life changes in the blink of an eye…
Current age: 24
Hometown: Winnipeg, MB
How long has it been since your last treatment?
Actual chemo treatment, April 2010. I finished my maintenance chemo in August 2010
How are you today? How have you changed since your last update?
Physically: I am still fighting to get rid of the weight that I gained from the steroids that I had to take and return back to my pre-sickness weight. I’m slowly getting there. I also still have some tingling in the fingers of my left hand as a result of the two strokes I had caused from my illness.
Emotionally/socially: My relationships with friends and family have not changed, still wonderful. I got engaged to the woman I met online while I was still undergoing treatments. Our wedding is planned for next year!
Spiritually: I live by the motto, “Live everyday as if it were your last.” I do not take any day for granted; everyday I am here is a gift!
Professionally: I am graduating from paramedic school in 12 days and will begin the job search immediately after obtaining my paramedic license. I will be working at a golf course this summer and by that time I should have obtained my paramedic license and will be applying for jobs in that field!
What are you goals for the future?
To have a successful career as a paramedic; be married to my wife, Melissa; and have a family. I’m crossing my fingers that I will stay healthy and I hope to accomplish that by living the same healthy lifestyle I am now.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I believe I will still be living with the same positive attitude I have now and will be thankful for everyday that I am alive!
Do you have any advice for other survivors who may be where you once were?
I know that at times it may feel like this is the end of the world. I definitely had those days. Cancer only makes you a stronger person. As a young adult you will have experienced more in your lifetime than many people will ever. Cancer should not identify you as a person; it helps to shape your character.
Looking back now I cannot believe that I went through that experience, but I am glad I did. It helped me grow as a person and taught me many things about myself that I didn’t know. I didn’t realize how strong I truly was! And I also got to see that my friends and family were there to support me no matter what!