My chemotherapy journey began on August 27, 2018 at Princess Margaret Cancer Center after finally being diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma. Receiving a cancer diagnosis was the utmost earth-shattering event of my life; however, I was somewhat weirdly excited to start my treatment. I was happy that things were finally moving along and given the long diagnosis process, I was ready to start fighting this thing. Inevitably, I had to start informing my family and friends about my new diagnosis and the journey I was about to embark on, and I felt terrible when I saw their tearful eyes as I explained.
I clearly wasn’t the “typical” patient at the cancer hospital. Nurses would call my name and they would greet my mother, not realizing the appointment was for me and not for her. I would often look around for younger patients in the hospital to help feel the slightest bit normal, when most times there were none around. When there was another younger patient, we would strike up a conversation that lasted for hours and exchange contact information, immediately forming a strong bond, people whom I can now call my friends.
I was often nauseous and not feeling up to doing ordinary activities throughout the months of treatment, and my face and body were swollen and puffy from the steroids. However, I soon realized how much more weighing the mental effects were than the physical ones. Mentally, it was completely draining, which I deem is common with younger patients. I witnessed my peers doing incredible new things after graduation; getting exciting jobs, starting their graduate studies, or travelling, all of which I knew I could no longer take part in. My life was on hold, which was hard to grasp given my “go-getter” attitude. I no longer identified with the shell of a body I felt stuck in. Some days I didn’t want to get out of bed and face the day, despite the outwardly positive attitude I portrayed. I overall just really didn’t feel like myself.
One of the toughest parts of chemotherapy was losing my hair. It’s funny how given a life-threatening illness, I was still so worried about my hair falling out. After I cut it and then shaved my head, when more than two-thirds of it had fallen out, I couldn’t look in the mirror for weeks as I loathed my new look. I kept reminding myself that it was just hair and it would grow back, and it has.
Staying active helped improve my energy levels, nausea, and mood throughout chemotherapy where I continued to exercise and went on walks daily. It also helped to get involved in courses, charities and fundraising events, such as Take It to The Mat, a yoga event that Lymphoma Canada put on. Lastly, keeping up with friends and family helped to maintain some feeling of normalcy throughout it all.
Enduring chemotherapy as a young adult truly put my inner strength, grit and fortitude to the test, all of which I know I thoroughly excelled in. I’ve been lucky enough to enter the world of remission, which I believe is because of support, positivity and never giving up.
I’m still struggling to find ways to cope and get used to this “new normal” that is my life, but I am slowly feeling a bit more like me each day. Even still, my entire body cripples when I hear the word “Cancer” out loud and I’m not sure that will ever go away. Strangely enough, I’m thankful to have gone through this. It forced me to grow as a person, understand what truly matters in life and establish deeper connections that will last a lifetime.