Young Adult Cancer helped me get through the toughest time of my life. When I really felt like no one understood I could read some of Geoff’s journey and know that mom could get through it. Or I could go to an YACC event and spend time with amazing volunteers that truly wanted to help. it really made things easier. At a time when I felt like no one understood YACC was there, helping me to take it in stride and to really appreciate everyday. Now I find when I am having a bad day it is such a help to read some of the posts on the Portal, to see how strong young people can be when faced with such challenges puts things in my life in perspective and reinforces a positive attitude.
Your Cancer experience
Who did you support with cancer?
My mother was diagnosed with Leukemia (AML) on Apr
How did you find out about the cancer? What event(s) led to the diagnosis?
Mom had noticed bruises on her legs about a month before she was diagnosed. She never really thought much about it; she had always bruised easily and figured it was low iron or something. Four days before she found out I walked into her room and she was on the phone with her sister asking if my aunt knew what could be causing the bruises. She showed me these awful spots on her legs, there were 18 on just the top of her right leg. She was also very tired and not “mom.” I did what I do when I think there’s something wrong with me. self diagnose myself with the help of google, and of course when I typed in mom’s symptoms every hit was about cancer. I freaked out and tried to force mom to go to the hospital. She chose to wait until she could see her family doctor on Monday.
What year was it? How old were you?
It was the spring of 2003. I had just finished my
What kind of cancer was he/she first diagnosed with?
She had Leukemia (AML).
What were your first thoughts when you found out about the diagnosis?
I was scared to death. Mom had never been sick, ever. I think my first thought was this isn’t fair, its mom, she was honestly one of the nicest, sweetest people ever, she had never done anything to deserve this. Of course no one ever does.
How did your family react?
I saw my father cry for pretty much the first time. That was what made it real to me. Mom was the one telling us it was going to be ok. I have a younger brother and sister and the doctors recommended not telling us kids until they had identified the method of treatment and found out how far the disease had spread. Unfortunately it was pretty obvious to my brother and sister as they walked through the hematology unit that it was Cancer.
How did your friends react? Did your friends begin treating you different?
My friends were really upset. It was a big shock for everyone because my mom was so young and she was never sick. She was a real “mom” to all my friends and everyone took it really hard. I guess we were all used to grandparents being sick, but when it’s a parent it really hits home.
How did you support him/her with cancer?
I spent a lot of time with mom in the hospital. I would leave work just about every day and take over for my dad who had been there all day and usually the night before. It was hard to see her go through everything, but I wouldn’t give up the time I spent with her for anything. Whenever I wasn’t at the hospital I got to play mom to my siblings (this wasn’t so much fun).
Being so sick all the time, mom appreciated me and dad being there because she was never the type to have other people doing things for her, so she would never ask the nurses. She was more comfortable with us around.
Then when she went to Halifax for her bone marrow transplant I went about a week after and stayed with her for most of the following 2 months.
Do you know what the treatment consisted/consists of?
Describe the medical side (chemo, radiation, in-patient, out-patient)
When she was in hospital in St. John’s she began treatment 4 days after being admitted. She had three rounds of chemo and then a break and then three more rounds because she didn’t go into remission right away. She was given additional drugs for a number of infections (one that the nurses called “ampho-terrible” and “shake-n-bake”) and other related problems; along with on average one unit of blood and/or platelets a day.
In which Hospital(s) was he/she treated?
She was at the Health Sciences in St. John’s for her treatments and then to the QEII in Halifax for a bone marrow transplant.
What was the outcome?
Mom’s cancer was fairly advanced so it took a couple full rounds of chemo to get her into remission. Once she was (after 80 days in hospital in NL) she went to NS for her transplant. The transplant itself was successful, but the strong chemo caused some pretty bad setbacks, a couple close calls and trips to the ICU. Unfortunately one of the anti-rejection drugs she was on (Cyclosporine) complicated things and she had a brain hemorrhage and passed away a couple weeks later, she died on day 49 post transplant.
How is life different for you now that you have had a cancer experience?
Cancer has made more of an impact on my life then I could have ever imagined. I lost one of the most important people in my life and quite possibly my favourite person in the world, and that will never stop hurting. However, as I am a strong believer that everything happens for a reason I can truly say that it hasn’t been all bad. The week before mom was diagnosed I was upset because two of my closest friends were moving away for the summer. At the time this was a huge deal. But a week later none of that mattered. I was going to miss them and it would be hard to deal without them but there was nothing in my life that meant more than the challenge we were facing. I have a much better outlook on life now; I know I can deal with just about anything. I also have a much stronger connection with my family now, I respect my father for his strength more that I would have ever thought possible and me, my brother and sister have become much more important to each other.
What was the hardest thing about adjusting to life after a cancer diagnosis?
Cancer has taught me more about life than I could have ever imagined. I know more about myself than I think I could have learned in a lifetime. I used to get queasy at the sight of blood, and said that I would never have kids because the last thing I could imagine doing was cleaning up the stuff that comes out of them. man has my perspective changed. I know now that I can deal with anything, vomit, sleepless nights and loss of a loved one. I also learned just how amazing my mother was. I always loved her, but in the 8 months she was sick I developed a strong sense of respect and admiration that I did not know was possible. To know that she raised me to be like her and that that kind of strength has been instilled in me is amazing.
What really motivated you to keep going while he/she was sick?
My mom oddly enough. Throughout the treatment she was extremely positive, so in turn, so was I. Where I was the oldest kid, if I admitted I was scared, my brother and sister would think the worst (this may not have been the case, but it was how I felt). My father was always very upset, so I had to keep a positive outlook so that he would feel silly for being so worried, if that makes any sense! I understand that I was essentially denying the reality of what was going on, but I dealt with it in my own way. talking to close friends, aunts and counselors. I think it really worked for me.
What are your thoughts and feelings about cancer now? How has your perception changed since before you were faced with a challenge?
I have had several family members with cancer but they were always older relatives. my mother was only 48 (mind you I thought 48 was really old before all this). Mom was also always healthy; the day she was diagnosed was one of the first days of work she missed in her whole life. It was so scary that someone so healthy could get so sick. She did everything right, but it still happened. I don’t hate cancer like a lot of people say; it’s a part of life. I do, however, have a respect for its power and have made some life changes that are certain to help me avoid it.
Did you attend any support groups during your challenge?
I never actually got to a support group, but I did see a psychologist. There were support groups available, but not very often, so it was never convenient. I preferred to seek help on my time and my terms.There were some available, but never conveniently. And I guess if I felt it would have been a great help I would have. I found my support other places.
How are you connected with Young Adult Cancer?
A friend of mine had cancer a couple of years ago and he found the organization helpful. Last summer I was spending most of my free time at the hospital, unable to do anything to help, so I contacted YACC to become a volunteer. I stayed connected and helped out throughout this past year and when I graduated a position on the YACC staff opened up. So here I am, dealing every day the best way I know how, by doing something that makes a difference, and I couldn’t feel better about it!