I was a 21 year old student at The University of Western Ontario when I noticed an odd lump on my neck. I chose, as many young people do, to ignore this lump because it wasn’t causing me discomfort and because I was just about to start a new job, so I did not want to be a burden on this company right out of the gate by missing hours for appointments. When googling the possible causes, I decided that it could be a plethora of different minor things that would just go away with time and that there wasn’t a reasonable chance that it could actually be the worst case scenario, a symptom of a blood cancer. About three weeks into the job, I started to have excruciating back pain at night and decided that I should go to my family doctor for that and may as well mention the lump on my neck. Weeks of appointments, scans, a surgery, and a birthday later, I was a 22 year old diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
A life-changing diagnosis like this is hard to describe, there is the very initial shock and then the toughest question you have to ask yourself comes next, “how do I drop the medical C-word on my family and friends?” I’ll never forget calling my parents to tell them that I have to quit both my jobs and that I won’t be finishing my undergrad that year because I have an appointment to start a 6 month chemo cycle in a week. Sharing scary news with loved ones is never something you want to do, but it is part of the reason why people need others in their lives. I have been so lucky throughout my experience with cancer, and throughout the rest of my life, to have an army of loved ones to help carry such a heavy burden. A huge reason that institutions like Wellspring are so important is because Wellspring can be that army for you with all of their resources, as well as giving you an opportunity to pay it forward by supporting other community members in their journeys as well.
During tough times, many questions go through your head like “why me?” and “how is this fair?”
As tempting as it may be to want to completely shut down and allow yourself to be consumed by questions, they are questions that cannot be answered and will just put you in a bad place mentally. Instead of questioning the reality of a situation, it is far more productive to ask yourself what you can do to put yourself in a better place to succeed and even go as far as to treat tough times like opportunities. Throughout my treatment, I got to learn a ton about myself and I got first-hand experience of what this terrible disease does to individuals and their families. Seeing other families struggle is a terrible feeling, but it reminds us that there are always people in our community who could use a helping hand. ONERUN has done a wonderful job to continue to shed a light on those suffering and has called our community to come together. ONERUN teaches us to reach out to those struggling because no one should have to go through anything on their own and that we need to be a helping hand to all members in our communities.
In February 2017, I received wonderful news that my most recent PET scans had shown that there were no longer any detectable amounts of lymphoma cells in my body and I was declared in full remission. It was so exciting for me to be able to share the good news to the community that spent so much time and energy supporting me and I wanted everyone to know how grateful I was for all of their help. Unfortunately, this good news did not last as long as we hoped it would and in September 2017, I was diagnosed with a relapse of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will have to be undergoing a Stem cell transplant. Even though there will be a tough road ahead, I am confident that I am in position to succeed because of the amazing staff in the London Regional Cancer Regional Program and because of the positivity that this community radiates onto everyone it touches.
Even in the toughest of times, it is so important to be grateful for everything that this life has afforded you. Happy Thanksgiving to all and thank you to everyone who continues to take even the smallest steps to make the world better today than what it was yesterday.