Hometown: Manotick, ON
What was your diagnosis? Stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
What schools did you attend? Algonquin College and Brock University
What are your career goals? Municipal Program Coordinator and eventually Training and Development within Parks and Recreation
What is your occupation? Recreation Staff in Aquatic and Land programming
Your cancer experience:
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
In September of 2009 I found a lump on the left side of my neck. I eventually went to a walk-in clinic due to what I thought was a sinus infection. This led to an ultrasound which eventually led to a CT Scan and blood work. I had a biopsy on December 14,2009 and had the official diagnosis the next day. I met with my hematologist on December 21, 2009.
What was your age at the time?
I was 20.
In which hospital were you treated?
I was treated at The Ottawa Hospital General Campus.
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
I was in College in my first year of my Recreation and Leisure Services Diploma. I already had completed two years of postsecondary education.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
My first thought was relief to finally have diagnoses. I was just ready to get moving on treatment and resume “normal” life.
How did your family react?
My family was all pretty upset but I think it was hard on all of us. My brother’s 19 birthday was on the day I met with my hematologist for the first time and my sister was only 14 at the time so for them it was difficult. My family has always been really supportive of me and this continues today.
How did your friends react?
My close friends hold a Christmas party every year and I happened to meet with my hematologist for the first time earlier in the day. A few of my friends already knew but this gave me a way to tell them all and give them the most accurate information.
My friends were all supportive in their own ways. I wasn’t treated much differently but sometimes I was asked some fairly entertaining questions. I got to know who would be helpful in what way to me. I think talking and sharing with them and addressing their concerns made things much easier. I have friends that I had just met when I started school that September that turned out to be one of my best support teams.
What did your treatment consist of?
I went through six cycles (12 treatments) of ABVD Chemo which is very traditional for Hodgkin’s. I basically went to the hospital every two weeks for each of blood work, hematologist appointment and chemo. This took six months of chemo and appointments on either side of the six months.
I kept working as a lifeguard and occasionally as a swim instructor throughout my treatment. I also attended school full-time. I was usually exhausted but it kept me going. I tried to do things to keep me busy. I spent a lot of time trying to find drugs to stop the nausea and vomiting but never found a good combination. Other than that side effects were minimal.
What is your current medical status?
In remission since July 30, 2010
How is life different for you now post-diagnosis?
My life has not changed dramatically, but physically it took me a while to get going. Socially I really have not changed but have gained some great new friendships because of my diagnosis. Emotionally, life is different and sometimes feels a little like a roller coaster.
What was the toughest part of your challenge?
The toughest part for me was trying to balance life, treatment, school, work and friends while I was in treatment. I still find it tough in the day to day grind to really find meaning in what I am doing. I think the after treatment part has been the most difficult part for me.
What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge?
Life likes to throw us curveballs and how we deal with them can greatly affect the outcome.
What really motivated/motivates you to keep going while you were/are sick?
Finishing school on time really kept me motivated. I did better in school than I have ever done in my life those two semesters. I had just found what I really loved—working in recreation and I wanted my chance to make a difference. I needed to get better to do this.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
I feel lucky to have the medical team I do. I think that I spend too much time worrying about “What if it comes back?” I appreciate the opportunities that I have been given that would not have happened if it weren’t for cancer. Life has changed but not all in a negative way.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I did not attend any support groups. If one had been available that interested me I might have gone, but with everything else continuing on as normal I really didn’t have much time during treatment.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
I found YACC on Facebook one day. I had the opportunity to attend Survivor Conference 2011. I was also given the amazing opportunity of attending the first ever Retreat Yourself Adventure in August 2012.
If you aren’t sure if you should attend one of these events you won’t regret the choice. Young Adult Cancer Canada has really gone above and beyond with Retreat Yourself Adventure.