What was your diagnosis? Stage 1 ovarian and uterine cancer
What is/was your occupation? Office assistant/receptionist
Your cancer experience:
How did you find out you were sick? What led to your diagnosis?
My husband (fiancé at the time) and I were trying to conceive our first child together. We both realized that it was taking longer than usual. As the year went by, I started noticing I had break through bleeding in between my periods, and when I mean break through bleeding, it was bad. I had gone to the doctor before, and he had asked for an ultrasound to be done, but I completely ignored it because it seemed like it was an irregular period — no biggie, right? Wrong.
Late in October 2014, they found a 4.5cm mass on my left ovary. Thankfully, it was slow growing. From this point on, it has been a long journey.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
I was diagnosed this year, four weeks after removing my left ovary and three weeks after I was married. I am currently 28.
In which hospital(s) are/were you treated?
Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Jurvinski Cancer Centre
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
Diagnosis came twice for me. It’s a long story. However, those two times I was shocked. I was hurt more because my husband’s dream is to be a dad. To see him cry was devastating, but, not once did I ever feel scared. I come from a strong Catholic background; my family is from El Salvador. In a sense I felt prepared. As crazy as these sounds I believe to this day that God and the Virgin Mary were with me.
As a young married woman, you want to start your family. The oncologist said the ideal way to control my diagnosis was to do a complete hysterectomy. I wasn’t willing to settle that easy. A part of me told me don’t settle and keep your head up, this is just beginning. There are other strategies, we can beat this.
How did your family react?
My family had gone through this before with my dad. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 50 years old. No one in the family wants to hear that dreaded C word. There are certain friends and family who were ready to bury me in the ground. Everyone kept telling me how sorry they were, and that completely drove me nuts. Gradually, my friends and family have seen my transformation. All I asked from them was to keep me in their prayers and asked them to speak to me with words of encouragement. I have a great support system.
How did your friends react? Were you treated differently, or did things remain the same?
This is a tough question. I have always been the loan soldier, but on my husband’s side of the family, everyone was shocked and they constantly bring up my diagnosis. You can answer the same questions so many times. After that it just becomes frustrating.
What did your treatment consist of?
Waiting for results of my CT scan and MRI scan to determine what my next step is. Also being submitted to testing for Lynch Syndrome.
What is your current medical status?
Hopeful. Not sure until I met with the oncologist July 15 2015.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis?
As I mentioned before, I have never felt alone. I read an article on the YACC site and I feel like I am going to live by this from now on. Cancer changed me for the better. It made me realize that I haven’t been able to complete things I want to do in my life because I have been clouded with the everyday stress. Waking up each and every morning now I look up at the sky and I thank God how blessed I am to still be here. God’s mission for me has only started, and I will continue like this for the rest of my life. Like my husband says to me, “You have two feet and a heartbeat to be thankful for.”
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
How direct the doctors and specialists can be with you.
What was the best lesson you took away from your challenge?
I am not in this alone, and I can also lend my support to others. I tell my family and friends this all the time; I have been put on this planet to HELP.
What really motivated/motivates you to keep going while you were/are sick?
Faith, God, family, and husband.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? Have they changed since before your diagnosis?
My life story was written the day I was conceived. As I progress, my story unfolds. I accept and I will overcome this. When I am weak, I will turn to prayer; when I am sad, I will turn to others for strength.
What are some preventative measures that people can take to lower their risk of having an experience like yours?
Do not be afraid to get checked out, and never think that everything is normal.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I reached out to our community priest. By talking to him, I learned to accept the unknown. Many blessings come in disguises that you will never understand.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
I met with the genetics councilor and she provided me with all this information.
Are you interested in helping others facing cancer challenges?
There is nothing more in this world right now that I would love to do is help understand the confusion, the pain, and heart break others are going through. I want to make an impact on the lives of those who are in desperate need of hearing that you will be alright. This complete stranger will have your back no matter the circumstance.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting in touch with Raquel and we will pass along your message.