Hometown: Calgary (I was born and raised in Riga, Latvia. I’ve been in Canada since 2005)
What school did you attend? Sir Sandford Fleming College
Do you work? Yes, in Calgary and loving the mountain view!
What is your career goal? My goal is to work in sporting goods field
How did you find out you were sick? What led to the diagnosis?
I had a mole on my leg. My mom and I talked before that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to remove it sometime down the road. In 2006 I met my boyfriend Steve. He would always rub my legs while we were watching TV or give me a nice foot massage after a long day at school. I really liked him (still do 🙂 ) so I didn’t want him to notice that ugly little mole on my leg because I though that it might gross him out or something. So I decided to go and get it removed. (Silly but true 🙂 )
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
I am not Canadian so for me to get my mole removed I had to go through the school’s nurse and then they sent me to get it removed at the local clinic. My first attempt to get it removed was August, 2006. For some reason nobody got back to me about my appointment or doctor I’d have to see. So I waited a couple of months and went back November 2006. I got my mole removed right before Christmas break 2006 and I received the phone call saying that I had Cancer on January 2nd 2007. Can’t really say that my year started off great. :-S
At what level of education were you at diagnosis? I was starting my last semester in my 2 year college program
What was your diagnosis? Melanoma
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I had no clue what melanoma was. I didn’t know it was a type of cancer so I was more lost than anything. I called my mom after and she explained me everything. I really didn’t think much. I don’t think this whole thing got to my head till later on.
How did your family react?
My boyfriend, mom and step dad (family in Canada) were trying to be very positive and happy which helped a lot. My sister who travels a lot was really shocked but stayed positive as well ( my sister has the same shape and size mole on the same leg and spot-she refuses to remove it)
How did your friends react? Were you treated any different?
My friends-most of them freaked out. They were lot more negative (asking me when and if I would die etc.)
What did your treatment consist of?
I had to do very high dose of Interferon for a month (Mon.-Fri.) at Princess Margaret Hospital. I was really, really sick. I had to take Demerol every 4 hours to be able to function. I had to go through the first 3 days without Demerol and it was awful. I had a very high fever, bad chills; I had bad shivers, killer headache etc. Pretty much every single part in my body was hurting. After starting to take the Demerol, things got a little better, but still there were a lot of side effects like-bad taste in mouth, headache, I couldn’t eat anything but crackers(the ones they give at the Hospital) and green apples, I couldn’t even drink water without adding lemon juice.
What is your current medical status? Cancer free
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
I definitely appreciate life more and the little things that I didn’t even noticed before. I started to take more care of myself and take time for me and my loved ones. Before I’d do favors for people left to right and sometimes forgot to do my own work. It was a little weird going back to finish up my school after a 2 year break. All my class mates were no longer in school so I had to meet new people all over again.
Also, at first I was really insecure about myself-huge scars and my hair was really thin and just being different than others. But now with my boyfriend’s huge help I am even more confident than I was before. He loves me the way I am and he helped me to love myself the way I am. Overall I am a very happy person.
What was the toughest part of your challenge?
Scars on my legs-it was really hard to accept that especially when people walking by or sitting across me in the bus would keep staring at my scars with a very grossed out look. And of course the Treatment! (physically, emotionally)
What was the best part about having your challenge? It made me a stronger person and I think a better person.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were/are sick? My boyfriend and mom. Didn’t want to see them upset.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience? Don’t ever think that will never happen to me because that’s what I thought.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
There are few things I really hate about it. One, I can’t be in the sun anymore (I love summer, sun and tanning). The other thing is that I have to watch my body at all times for new birthmarks or changes in old birthmarks. I really don’t like that because it can be really stressful.
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? Use sunscreen when you are in the sun. Watch you birthmarks and moles-remove the ones that are weird or bother you.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge? No-I wish I did though.
If you did not attend a support group, why?
I had a social worked assigned to help with everything but I was avoiding her because at that time I though that it was stupid and I didn’t want to be around people too much. Now, if I’d have to do it all over again I would definitely use her help.
Do you think attending one would have helped you? Yes
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada? I just heard about it on TV. Decided to check out the website. Also I joined the Facebook group.