Hometown: Guelph, ON
What school do you attend? University of Guelph
What is your career goal(s)? To be a successful Comedian/Actor. Have my own movie or TV show.
How did you find out you were sick? What event(s) led to the diagnosis?
I had a chronic cough, a sharp pain in my chest and I would wake up I in the middle of the night covered with sweat. I went to the hospital and the rest is history.
What year was it? What was your age at the time?
I was diagnosed in 2008 at the age of 25.
At what level of education were you at diagnosis?
I had graduated University with a degree in Theatre Arts
What was your diagnosis?
I was diagnosed with stage III Acute Non-Hodgkins T-Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (A mouth full)
What were your first thoughts when diagnosed?
I had a feeling something big was going on but when the doctors told me I had cancer they followed it up by saying it was very treatable so I had an "I can beat this" mentality right from the start. I didn't know what I was in for though, as I had no prior experience with anyone else who went through treatment. It wasn't until treatment began that I realized it would be the most difficult thing I ever had to do.
How did your family react?
They were shocked, scared, and upset. But they were very supportive and encouraging right from the beginning.
How did your friends react? Were you treated any different?
My friends were pretty amazing and supportive. All of a sudden I had friends that I didn't even know were my friends. All but one of my very close friends were awesome. One just didn't know how to deal with it and we pretty much haven't spoken since I was diagnosed. His loss right? Ha ha.
What did your treatment consist of?
I was initially an in-patient at the hospital for eight days being treated with some intense chemotherapy. I was then an out patient and had 10 days of radiation with chemo, and then I was in and out of the hospital on random occasions because of complications for a total of 40 days and nights. I go in for chemotherapy once a week every week for two years. I am currently in the maintenance and final phase of my four phase treatment.
Physically the treatment was incredibly difficult. I pretty much had every side effect that the chemo could dish out: Mouth sores, bone pain, ringing in my ears, stomach pain, insomnia, anal fishers (Anyone else get anal fishers? Those hurt like a #*%&@!), hemorrhoids, nausea and vomiting like you wouldn't believe, hair loss, lost 50 pounds. Anyone else unable to get a boner for a really long time? Ha ha. The list goes on and on.
Mentally and emotionally I had my ups and downs. Many more downs then ups for sure.
In which Hospital(s) are/were you treated?
Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, ON.
What is your current medical status?
I am in remission and in the maintenance phase of my chemotherapy protocol. I am 14 months in with 10 months left to go.
How is life different for you now post diagnosis (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)? Everything is different. It is a life altering experience.
What was the toughest part of your challenge?
I think it is hard to pin point one specific thing that was the toughest. Staying positive was tough when I was experiencing excruciating pain or when I was depressed. Trying to explain to people why it is so tough is the hardest thing to do I find. But I think the hardest thing for me may have been the sudden 180 your life takes in an instant. My life was completely flipped on its head and adjusting to a completely new way of living (just trying to live) was incredibly difficult.
What was the best part about having your challenge?
Ha ha. The best? Seriously? I don't know. The gifts. Ha ha. Just joking. I think it really helped put my life in perspective and appreciate things a lot more. I have always been a grateful person for what I have in my life but going through this just emphasized that for me for sure. I always thought I was surrounded by good people but now I know I am surrounded by amazing people.
What really motivated you to keep going while you were sick?
I am an actor and a comedian and making people laugh really helped me get through. I also told myself I would perform again so during my sickness I have been writing a one man show about my experiences, which goes into some of the comical aspects of the disease. Sometimes I think you have to laugh at this sort of stuff or it can just knock you out and take you over. My drive and passion to perform again forced me to get through this for sure and it still pushes me.
What lessons or messages have you taken away from your experience?
Be grateful for what you have and don't sweat the little things in life. The most important things in your life should be your health, your family and your friends everything else is just icing. But what's a cake without icing? Food is food, so shut up and eat it! Kidding.
What are your thoughts and feelings about your illness now? How have they changed since before your diagnosis?
Still sucks, right? Wish it didn't happen. But I'm alive, right? I have learned so much from it and am still learning from it every day. I am thankful to be doing well and fighting.
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?
Eat your fibre! A lot of info will be thrown at you and it is easy to get overwhelmed. Do your own research. Do one thing at a time. Others may try to tell you they know what's best for you but only you know what is best for your body so listen to it and respect it.
If you did not attend a support group, why?
I had so many friends and family around to help. Also, the support groups consisted of older patients so it was tough to relate.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer Canada?
I was doing stand up one night in Toronto and a woman watching the show had attended the retreat in 2007 and came up to me after the show and we exchanged info. She directed me to the site and I watched the video blogs and it was like they were pulling the words right from my brain and it was such a turning point for me to see others expressing themselves in a way I only wish I could. I wish I had or known about this site earlier. I had gone through the "hardest" part of my battle already when I finally saw the site.
If you are interested in connecting with Daniel Stolfi please email firstname.lastname@example.org.