Current Age (at time of profile): 31
How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?
I began to feel really tired. I had a really bad headache for a week straight and it wouldn’t go away. I had a full physical with my doctor, everything came back normal but the headache still wouldn’t go away. I was also developing weird bruising on my arms and legs which was easily put off do to my line of work. Anyway I told my doctor about them and she (my doctor) sent me for blood work. I attended a full day of classes, got my blood work done, dropped off a paper for my Nursing Instructor (I was in first year RN program), and off to work a full 8 hour shift from 3:00-11:00pm. That evening at around 9:00pm I got a call at work from my doctor saying I had leukemia that was very serious and that she had the ER doctor and the cancer doctor waiting for me in Emergency, all I had to do was walk in and say my name.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
It was April 2005; I had only just turned 29.
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
First year RN degree program two weeks away from finals.
Do you work? Not anymore, I use to work as a Nursing Attendant.
What was your diagnosis?
ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia).
What are your career goals?
To be helpful to others. Through counseling or by sharing my experience with others. I would like to eventually go back to school and get a degree of some kind, probably in Social Work, being an RN is not for me anymore. I am busy nursing myself now.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I was in shock. I went into fight mode. I new what was in front of me.
How did your family react?
They were in complete shock as well. My Mom and Dad live on Vancouver Island. My girlfriend actually told them by phone and then I spoke to them. It was like 10:00pm in the evening by then, April 06/05. My only sister was in Penticton, BC when she got the news. They all arrived on April 07/05, to find me diagnosed with ALL. Too boot it was my sister’s birthday!
How did your friends react?
My friends were devastated. Some stuck around, others drifted or ran off completely. They just couldn’t deal with me being sick.
What did your treatment consist of?
Medical Side: Ya, I had it all. Chemo X2, spinal taps and chemo injected into my spine x5, two full body radiations, a stem cell transplant, in-patient and out-patient (still on-going).
Non-Medical Side: Physically – I was completely drained. It was at times, an effort to do anything. I had to teach myself to walk again, feed myself and dress myself. I was like one of the residents that I used to look after.
Emotionally – it beat me down. I tried my hardest to stay positive, to fight. I felt trapped and sometimes I felt like I was just done fighting. I got really depressed when I was in the hospital. The whole, Why, question was the hardest for me.
In which hospital(s) were you treated?
I was treated at the Foothills Hospital, Tom Baker Cancer Center, in Calgary Alberta.
What is your current medical status?
Today I can gladly say I am in remission for the last 2yrs. I still have chronic medical conditions in my lungs and pain problems in my back and ribs, and other things, too many to mention!
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
Life for me has been a great journey. I loved life even before I was diagnosed. I love giving back to people or just to be a listening ear. I try not to judge and to be fair to everyone. I have a very close network of friends that are now starting to expand. My family is tight. My sister and I are twins now. Emotionally, I’m getting there. I let myself feel what I’m feeling in the moment, go with the flow ride the wave. I don’t keep things inside. I need to deal with things as they happen or I’d be one really messed up person. Spiritually, my life is in God’s hands. I believe that God has some purpose for me. He had many chances to take me over the last two years, and believe me sometimes I wish He had. The Why question will never be answered. God is the only one who knows the answer to that question.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
Being helpless, or feeling helpless. I have always been a very independent person. Having that part of me taken away was very difficult.
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
The same as the above question. Being helpless. My independence taken away. It taught me that I could let others help, that I did not have to do it all. I was not in control of everything like I though I was. It knocked me down and humbled me.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
My family, myself, my spirit. Wanting to take back some of the control I had lost.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
I am not perfect. I’m not in control, in the long run, of where my life is headed. I have to slow down, look around me and be grateful for everyday God has given me.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
Sometimes I feel like if I didn’t have cancer, I would have kept on going with my self-destructive ways. I was a workaholic, burning the candle at both ends. I was in a relationship that had no growth or love. Now my life is focused on my relationships, forming strong bonds and being able to love my partner completely, for who we are.
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?
Just try to lower your stress levels. Take some time. With my cancer it is just random, no rime or reason.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
Yes, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society . My family and friends did their walk. I also went on an all women’s retreat called Tapestry. It was in a beautiful setting in the Canadian Rockies. The women that were there were so helpful. We talked in-depth about our shit.
It was great to raise money for blood cancers and it was good that I was just able to be there. The Retreat was wonderful. It was the me’ time I needed to regroup and continue fighting. It was nice to realize that I wasn’t the only one out there that had the same mental problems.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
The nurse at the Bone Marrow Transplant Center or BMT clinic at the Tom Baker Cancer Center showed me the brochure. I thought it [Retreat Yourself] would be an awesome experience and of course it was.
Well, I can’t really say enough [about YACC]. I love you guys. It is what is needed for our age group going through this in our lives. Being able to talk to someone who really gets it is the best kind of healing. It’s hard to talk to your friends and family about certain situations. They have no clue as to what you’re going through. This site and foundation can and is really helping an age group that needs all the support they can get.