You can also check out Terri’s website at www.terrihann-survivor.piczo.com.
Pasadena, Newfoundland and Labrador
How did you find out you were sick? What events led to the diagnosis?
I was putting on weight (I thought I was just eating too much. LOL)! Tired all the time, I didn’t realize or put two and two together, but I was itchy all the time. It felt like my skin was crawling. I just thought my skin was dry. I started to have night sweats but they were not intense, I only had them a few times, so I thought the room was warm and I was just getting hot. The whole year of 2004 I was going back and forth to the doctors because I was in a car accident two years before that and I wasn’t feeling well. I was very tired. They checked my blood and said that my iron was low and put me on iron pills but that didn’t work! I was still tired. My family and friends just thought I was being lazy. I was also late for work a lot, I just didn’t want to get out of bed and I didn’t want to move. They also thought I hated work because I didn’t want to go but I just didn’t have the energy. At work I was falling asleep while doing my work and after work all I wanted to do was sleep or lie down. I didn’t even want to cook or even clean the house, for everyone who knows me, know that I love to cook and clean.
Around late October, I had a sharp pain in my neck and when I felt my neck I noticed a lump. I was on a treadmill earlier that day so I thought I might have done something to irritate my neck because I was in a car accident three years before that and my neck bothered me anyway. I left it alone for a couple of weeks to see if it would go away but it only got bigger and hurt more. I had to get two moles removed off my back and I had to see the specialist for that so I asked him to look at the lump. He felt the lump in my neck and said that it may be a fatty lump or there is an infection somewhere in my body, but usually when a lump appears in your neck there is an infection in your chest. It is not usually cancer or a tumor because it was not big enough and I was too young!!
I called my family doctor to see what was going on, I thought I had a chest infection or the flu because I had a cough and I wasn’t feeling well, but I couldn’t get an appointment for a couple of weeks. I decided to go to emergency. The doctor saw me there and said that I probably had an infection in my chest so he gave me a prescription for antibiotics for two weeks. He said if it didn’t go away to see your family doctor, so obviously it didn’t go away so I called my family doctor. I had to wait two weeks for an appointment. By this time, the lump was getting bigger and when I saw her (early November) she put me on antibiotics again for two weeks. The lump just got bigger, so I called back and got to see her, then she sent me for a chest x-ray I got in the next day.
A couple of weeks later, my husband, David, and I went to Toronto for a few days and I ended up getting really sick. It felt like the flu but it didn’t. My neck and throat hurt! While I was up there my family doctor called and said that something showed up on my chest x-ray so she scheduled me for a CT Scan. Again, I had to wait until after Christmas to get it done ,which brought me to January. When it was done, I got the results two weeks later and my family doctor sent me to the same specialist that removed moles from my back. I saw him and he scheduled an appointment to take out the lump for a biopsy. It took a week, which brought it to February 14th Valentines Day.
On mine and David’s six month wedding anniversary, the specialist called me at work and asked me to come in so he could take a look at my incision at the hospital. I went alone because he never said he had my results, and also it was at the hospital, not at his office. I never asked David to go with me! When I went in the hospital, he called me into the room and said to have a seat. He started talking about my results and it kind of startled me at first, then I faintly remember him saying that it was serious and that I had a Lymph node disease. He told me that I had to have treatments and even though I heard the name Hodgkin’s, he never said cancer or chemo treatments so I didn’t know what it was or what was really going on! I didn’t really think it was that serious!!
I called David and I told him what I thought I heard. I was upset because I didn’t know what was going on. I then called my parents and my sister and they sounded upset so then I was starting to get scared. I was going to go back to work but everyone was telling me to go home so then I was starting to get really scared!! I asked David, my husband, to call my doctor to see what the specialist said, but I think my family already knew or had a good idea. I had a twenty minute drive home so I talked to my sister all the way. She kept asking me if I was alright. I was saying “yes” and wondering what she was talking about and why was she keeping on asking me that, but she never told me what was going on.
When I arrived home David met me in the doorway. He was very upset, so I knew that there was seriously something wrong. About 10 minutes later, my parents came in the door. I asked everyone what was going on, what do I have? Then they told me that I have a type of cancer!! I was in shock. Then I asked what did the doctor mean by treatments and they told me that I would have to have chemo or radiation!!
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
I was 23 years old.
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
I was a high school graduate from Bonne Bay Academy and I have a Hairstyling Certificate from The College of the North Atlantic.
What was your diagnosis?
Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Scelorising Stage IV B
What are your career goals?
To go back to school and doing Funeral Services & Embalming.
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I didn’t know what to think at first. Then all I thought was that I had to start treatments and start getting better. I was scared because I didn’t know what kind of treatments I was going to have and what was going too happened to me. I wondered if I was going to be all right!
How did your family react?
My husband was very upset I don’t think he could believe what was going on. My parents and sister were scared and shocked, and the same goes for the rest of my family. I lost my grandfather 5 months before that from bowel cancer so now I had cancer. It was very upsetting to my family. I took this a lot better than my family did. I guess when it happens to you, you have no other choice to not worry about it as much. All you are thinking is you got to fight this and get better. Some of my family were there more than others but they had their lives to. I understood that, but I know that they were there for me if I needed them.
How did your friends react?
Some friends said that the cancer I had was curable and not to worry. Sometimes I got the feeling that they didn’t know what to say or do. But a lot of them called and wrote me emails. I had a lot of visits from people! Visits from friends that were close to me and some that I hadn’t talk to or seen for years. It felt like that I lost friends or they were not there for me and that was hard. Novelty wears off; even when you are sick. At first everyone is there for you all the time. Some said that they didn’t want to bother you by calling and stuff but sometimes I don’t know. I don’t hold a grudge or feel bitter, but you really find out who your friends are and who cares about you. There are some friends that were there for you and will always be there for you. At a time like this you meet new friends and there are friends out there that you didn’t even know you had.
What did your treatment consist of?
Medical Side: First I had to see were the cancer was and what stage it was at! I had to have a CT Scan done, as well as a Gallium Scan to detect what areas of my body the Hodgkin’s was. Also I had to have a Bone Marrow biopsy (It really hurts) done to see if it was bone marrow, that was done on the same day as my first treatment (what a day)!! I took my treatments as an outpatient, I had to have chemotherapy (ABVD which means Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine, & DTIC) every two weeks. It took about 5 to 8 hours depending how I felt. The doctor said that I would have 8 to 12 treatments. After my first treatment I ended up in the hospital for a week. I was neutropenic!! After that I was put on neuprogen needles five every two weeks but after I was on it the first time I had really bad bone pain so they put me on four every two weeks, after that. Then I found out that I had cancer in my neck, chest, underarms, lung’s and liver, so then it went from 8 to12 to having 12 to 16 treatments. After my 9th treatment I had another CT scan. While I was having my 10th treatment, I was thinking two treatments left. My doctor (Dr. Adams, I could not have asked for a better Doctor! He was great!!) came in and told me that he had the results of my scan and that it was gone from everywhere else but I had several spots left in my lungs so I was going to have to have 16 treatments which was very disappointing!! I was happy that it was gone everywhere else, but I was sad, mad, upset and so on, that I had to continue with more treatments. I had my last treatment on September 29th.
Non-Medical Side: Sometimes I was tired!! Sometimes I was sad!! Sometimes I was mad!! I was sick a lot; everything that I ate or drank made me sick. I got turned from a lot of foods. Which that made me very frustrated a lot of times. I tried to hide that I was sick a lot of times, wanting to do what everyone was doing. I hated getting my treatments because they made me sick and I hated the feeling. So the day before, and on the days of my treatments I was very mad and upset at everyone. I was living 7 hours away from home, and my husband, which I found hard. I was sad for my family because they had to put a lot on hold for me. My sister had to leave where she lived and her work to take care of me. My husband wanted to be there with me but he had to work to make the house payments and pay monthly bills that don’t go away. I tried to keep a positive attitude as much as I could. Sometimes I felt down but I tried not to let anyone know. I know I shouldn’t have but I didn’t want to make everyone upset. I thought why me? a lot of times. Financially it was hard as well. I worried about that. It was a big financial burden for us, my parents and my sister. I received only 15 weeks unemployment insurance and David didn’t have enough medical insurance to pay for all my medication. The extra expense of having to live away from home and the cost of travel was also a lot of stress on me and my family.
In which hospital(s) were you treated?
Health Science Center in the ATP unit (the nurses were the best) in St. John’s, NL
What is your current medical status?
I am now in remission as of October 27, 2005
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
I am trying to get my life back to normal, but after having cancer you can’t get it back to normal very easily. You always have it on your mind. You try to forget, but you are always feeling for lumps! If you get itchy you get scared that it is going to come back! I am I trying not to give into my fears! It is like an emotional roller coaster!! Everyday I am thinking about how lucky I am to be alive and thank God that I got through! I’m alright! Having cancer in my life has made me realize I have so many blessings to be thankful for. Even though I probably don’t show it. I am thankful for my family, my friends and so many things I have in my life. This little quote also helps explain it: It was the humility I needed, strength I thought I had lost, courage I never knew I had.
What is/was the toughest part of your challenge?
I would have to say the toughest part, was the chemo and being so sick all the time. Losing my hair at first was hard but that changed really fast. Not being able to do things that I used to do and if I did anything, getting so tired. Being away from my husband and home a lot was hard Always wondering if I was going to get better and what was ahead for me was hard!!
What is/was the best part of your challenge?
It made me realize life is so short and so unpredictable! You don’t know what is going to happen in your life! It made me realize I should live it with pride and be happy and do what I wanted to do in my life! Do things that make you happy not what makes you sad. It seems bad that it took being diagnosed with cancer to realize this, but that is the way life is and everyone is like it. I knew it but knowing even more that I have a wonderful husband that cares for me and loves me more than any thing in the world. Knowing that I have such great parents. Also spending time with my sister and getting closer to her and know that she would do anything for me. Living with Craig (my sisters ex boyfriend) for the nines months (which was the best!!) and know that he also is there for me no matter what! And WHEN IT WAS ALL OVER!!!!
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
I wanted to fight this! I was not going to let cancer get me! My stubbornness! My family & friends that needed me.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
Be positive; never give up even if you want to. And to remember that you can still have fun.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
If you want to survive cancer you can not give up! You got to fight it and not let it fight and defeat you. It is not an easy illness. I would not wish cancer on my worst enemy but in a way I am happy that I got through it and I survived it! It made me stronger and a better person. It made me realize what life is about and what is important in life. My feelings changed since before my diagnosis: when I heard cancer I thought of death mostly because I lost my grandfather 5 months before my diagnosis, but I knew that people could survive it, but I was hearing about cancer all the time and it was always bad news. But I survived it!! When you don’t have, nor had cancer, you look or stare at people who have it wondering what is wrong with them. Now I know how people feel. It is not a good feeling sometimes! Also having cancer you notice more when you look at someone who is going through it.
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?
I am not sure that there is any. Eat healthy and take care of yourself just in case something do happen in your life like this is so you have the strength to fight what you have. Listen to your body! If you know or think that there is something wrong and it is not right get it checked out and demand second opinions! Don’t let it pass as nothing. You and only you know you body!!
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
No! I came home from St. John’s and walked the victory lap at Corner’s Brooks Relay For Life, while I was getting treatments with my Aunt who had Breast Cancer. It helped me by doing this to see all the people who did survive Cancer!!
If you did not attend a support group, why?
I never really thought about it at the time. I was doing chemotherapy and I was not feeling well during that time. Yes, I think it would have in more ways than one. It would have helped me get over some for my fears and probably it would have helped me with my anger and sadness of having cancer!
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
A friend sent me an email and told me that she was at a convention and that she went to see a presentation and (Geoff) was the presenter. He had survived cancer and had a website to see how other people are coping with having cancer. She said that it was very inspirational for her and that she hoped it would be for me, and it was very much so. My sister heard about it also and told me. I decided to check it out and see what it was all about, and I am glad I did. I think it is great and I am hoping to get to the next retreat. I was having chemo at the time of the last one and I was very disappointed that I had to miss it. I really want to talk, and share my experience, with young survivors and people that are going through it.