“You don’t think it’s cancer, do you?”, I said to my parents as I rolled backward and extended my legs into an L shape on their bedroom floor.
“Of course not”, they replied almost in unison. The only people I knew who had cancer died. I was basically asking if they thought I was dying. They said no, but I found out later, that they weren’t sure.
It had been a few months of a lingering cough, that just keeps making its presence known, fatigue that hovered over my body like a dark cloud that increased over the year, matched with an innocent mindset that wondered why I couldn’t keep up with my high school teammates. Of course, it wasn’t cancer, I was only 14.
A day or two later, my dad came home early from work, (he never came home early), it was then I knew it was cancer. The sounds of the car in the driveway in the sunny afternoon told me all I needed to know.
I learned about a new kind of cancer that day, Hodgkins’ Disease, Stage 4 C, the answer to why I couldn’t keep up with my friends and why I was a teenager in bed, in the middle of the day.
Chemo started within a couple of days, I traded school for the hospital, teachers for nurses, and it was then my life changed forever. Over the next two years, my family and I were challenged and tested and we fought every day. We fought through chemo, transfusions, fever spikes, infections, long hospitals stays, the unknown, awaiting test results, a double stem cell transplant, radiation, we continued to fight until it was gone and I will continue to fight now that it is gone.
Although cancer might be gone, for now, my anxiety and worry have never left. Now I am faced with a new fight, this time, not physically but mentally to live to be my best, share positivity, and appreciate the days I have without cancer.
GRYT is running your first half marathon for my 20th anniversary off treatment, when many said I couldn’t and doctors always said, Beth, you should rest. GRYT is running my 4th half marathon, within a year, with a fractured foot, when most said I shouldn’t. GRYT is waking up every day and fighting thoughts about getting sick again with stating 3 things I’m grateful for. GRYT is sharing I am a survivor and ignoring the worry that it will come back and GRYT is knowing that if it does, I will fight and win again.
No one can ever prepare for a cancer diagnosis. Certainly not a 23-year-old new mom who was about to celebrate 5 years of marriage to her high school sweetheart.
Fear, anxiety, heartbreak; these are just a few words to describe what I felt when I was told that cancer had been growing in my body without any warning. Just like any human would, I automatically thought the worst. I thought about being so sick I wouldn’t be around to watch my son grow. I thought about death and what my husband and child would do without me? I thought about my parents losing a child, which no parent should ever have to endure. What am I supposed to do now? How do I keep living my life normally?
Weeks went by and after I was poked and stabbed with every test the oncologist ordered, we had my full diagnosis; Stage IV Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. A rare but curable form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Keyword — curable. That word was my tiny ray of light at the end of this dark tunnel. I then chose no matter how tiny my light was, I was gonna let it shine.
I choose life. I’m going to fight to the very end to make sure I’m there for my son’s first birthday, his first steps, my wedding anniversary, my sister’s college graduation. Everything that I was planning before, is still going to be my reality later. I’m choosing to smile through my treatments in hopes to show others that if I can do it, so can you.
Cancer will not take over me. I will conquer as a wife, as a mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I’m grateful for the life I’ve been given and I will live my life to its fullest extent.
GRYT is being diagnosed with Stage IV Lymphoma two months before your child’s first birthday. GRYT is enduring chemo during your child’s first Christmas. GRYT is still enjoying work because life doesn’t stop after cancer.
My name is Lourdes Camas, I am 35 years old and I live in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Since I was a child everyone has called me Lula. I was a normal person, with a normal life and I was having the best time of my life. I was married, with a good husband, and three amazing kids; Mariana, Santiago, and Sebastian. I had my house, a job, a car, and everything I wanted. I did CrossFit, so I was physically fine. I ate well and my life was perfect.
Until that day… April 28, 2015. I woke up with terrible dizziness. I couldn’t walk. I was feeling really terrible. I was confused because I was healthy, I had control of everything in my life, so I was afraid of what I was feeling. My husband took me to the emergency room, I couldn’t walk, I needed help. It was the longest drive of my life. It took an hour and a half to get to the emergency room. I felt that my head was growing and growing, and a terrible headache started, a big sound on my ears and my vision turned blurred. Finally, we came to the hospital and they had to take me in on a wheelchair because, at that time, I couldn’t stand up. I was really afraid, I was thinking of my kids, they were so young. I had to do a lot of things for them, and I couldn’t even walk by myself at that time.
The doctors did a lot of tests and everything was fine until they ordered an MRI and there it was, a tumor on my brain. They had to remove it immediately. My brain was swollen, so they had to treat it first and a couple of days later, I had surgery. My emotions came out, I felt so small. I was afraid of everything; money, for my kids and my mom. She was having a bad time at that moment (physically), and of course, for my husband, I didn’t know if he could do everything I did for our family and his responsibilities as well.
I had surgery on May 1st, 2015. My amazing Dr. Enrique Azmitia removed the complete tumor and I had a normal recovery. (Really hard for me). But everything was just starting when a couple of days later, the results of pathology came. I was diagnosed with Oligodendroglioma Stage 2. It was cancer. When I heard that word, I immediately thought of my kids. I wanted to be there when they graduated from high school, when they got married, for everything. I cried a lot. But the news got worse because the treatment was really expensive and I wanted to receive the best treatment. Because in my country, the public health is terrible. Many people die before they receive any medicine. So my family, friends, and a lot of people got together to help me. That was amazing. I was on TV shows, in magazines, newspapers and we made a lot of activities to collect the money I needed. We sold t-shirts, cookies, bracelets, and everything we could.
A couple of months later, I went to Miami, FL to receive the radiotherapy and then came back to my country to receive the chemotherapy. I was born again. It was like a new a beginning, it made me realize that I didn’t have the best life, I had to take care of myself first, to take care of my emotions, to learn how to be really happy, but from the inside out. To do whatever I dream, and to care about other people.
Right now it’s 2019, I am 3 years cancer free and I do a lot of things to help people who are on this beautiful road of evolution. I am a speaker now, I go to schools, universities, and companies to talk about my experience and everything I’ve learned. I teach them how to really live, and the key to being happy in life is to care, to have tolerance and acceptance. I also share on my social media, the tips of how to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. My life now is better and I live it, one minute at a time. Because I now have another opportunity to do it, just for me.
Life is beautiful and it needs just a second to change everything. We have to live one day at a time. Enjoy what you have, who is with you at that time and always be grateful for that.
GRYT is to accept with love what you’re going through. GRYT is to accept that sometimes you need help. GRYT is to use that fear as a strength to beat cancer. GRYT is to be thankful for your body for fighting with you. GRYT is to get in charge of your emotions. GRYT is to live one minute at a time.
At least that’s what I’ve been telling the people I can confide in. The truth is, I’m really struggling. Struggling with school, struggling with my mental health, struggling with making sense of everything I’ve gone through. Because it isn’t fair. It will never be fair that I got cancer, and it will never be fair that anyone gets cancer. There is not a single person who deserves such a terrible fate. I don’t deserve to struggle with PTSD after treatment. And I don’t deserve to struggle with depression and have trouble even getting up in the morning to go to class.
Life has been rough ever since I was first diagnosed almost ten months ago. People assume things get better once the cancer is gone. And while I might have clear scans and not be totally wiped out from chemo every day, I still get tired walking to class, have trouble overdoing it, and get tired out fast at theatre rehearsals. Cancer isn’t just cancer. It affects a person so much more than you would think.
I’m ready for things to go back to how they were. I’m ready to be pre-cancer Rachel, happier, and oblivious to the pain post-cancer Rachel has experienced. Is still experiencing. But I’m growing through all of this. As much as I hate it, as much as I just want to be normal and be able to go for a run or have energy all day long, there’s something to be said for going through hard things. These things are what shape you into a stronger, more mature, more free person. Cancer has challenged my perfectionism and my inner critic. It is challenging me to show myself more grace and be okay with getting a B+ on a paper or a test. Because that’s okay. What does one test matter in the grand scheme of things? I’m learning what I need to and applying it as best I can. And my body is still recovering, so how can I expect perfection from myself, especially now?
This doesn’t mean I’m okay with my cancer yet. I’m still angry and upset and learning to accept what I’ve been through. And I may be far from it, and that’s okay. Because I’m learning to give myself grace.
How many times have people asked: where do you see yourself in ten years from now?? How many of us would have answered: Living with cancer?
One year ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. One year ago my whole world fell apart and broke into million pieces that I’m now trying to fix as best as I can.
One year ago, the fight began, and my mind was only focused on the treatment; the chemo, the surgery, and the radiotherapy. I have achieved all these goals and now I can say I am cancer free. It’s hard to believe though.
I’ve learned a lot during this year: how to love myself, how to heal, how to survive and how to take care of me. I’ve learned that it is very important to share our feelings and experiences in order to help those who need it. I know I have to stay strong for myself, enjoy every minute I can because life is worth it.
I can’t say the whole cancer process is only sadness and suffering; it is also meeting and getting to know a lot of people, stars who shine brightly up in the sky or here in the earth. Those people have helped me a lot and they’ve been able to make all the loneliness I felt as a cancer patient disappear.
Where do I see myself in ten years from now? I don’t know, but who cares? We have to live the present, the other things don’t exist yet. Never give up, no matter what.
GRYT is knowing that whatever it takes, I have my family beside me.
GRYT is thinking about the next time I can go to a new place in the world.
GRYT is helping other people by showing how I’ve managed some things, giving tricks to other fighters.
I am a performing artist and 2x lymphoma and brain cancer survivor. I was diagnosed when I was 18 and at 25 I am now 4 years in remission. My first journey took me through chemo, radiation and 16 surgeries. During this time I chose to stay in full-time music school as I knew I needed to continue doing what I loved rather than sitting in a hospital bed waiting to die.
After going into remission for 2 months I was diagnosed a second time and deemed terminal. I decided not to continue treatment so I could live out my time feeling fully myself. I began to adopt the perspective that if this cancer was meant to kill me it would, and if it wasn’t meant to kill me, it was meant to teach me a lesson. So I decided to find that lesson, learn through it, and apply it to my life.
I also started thinking of the science of my body and how I could create an environment that cancer cells couldn’t live in such as making my body alkaline and my blood oxygenated.
Cancer is the best thing that has ever happened to me.
It has given me the ability to love myself, to ask for help and to heal wounds that held me back from feeling worthy of love. Being in remission and looking “healthy” now to others can turn this into an isolating and invisible disease so as a survivor I feel it is my responsibility to give support to those still fighting, honor those who have been taken, and spread awareness to our supporters.
GRYT is going to full-time music school during treatment because you won’t let cancer steal your dreams. GRYT is being able to ask for help without feeling ashamed. GRYT is knowing you are worthy of love. GRYT is saying no to the traditional medicine that didn’t work and healing cancer yourself.
I was just about to start my volleyball unit in December of 8th grade. Despite my excitement, I was soon to come face-to-face with a cancer diagnosis, right after winter break was over. My first diagnosis was sarcoma botryoides, a rare sarcoma found in pre-pubescent children. Gym was over for me. So was swimming, dancing, fencing, and pretty much everything else. Classes turned into biopsies. Exams turned into hospital stays. I was told I could wait a week for my surgery so that I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to act in my school’s annual winter musical.
Everything was going pretty well after my surgery, and I started chemotherapy on schedule. Right before my fourth infusion, the doctors found another tumor — larger than my first — surrounding my bowel. I also found out my cancer diagnosis had changed to non-HPV cervical cancer. I started radiation, which required daily trips to the hospital, which hospitalized me and prevented me from going to school.
I was discharged about a month after I was admitted, and then re-admitted again for some nausea and vomiting problems. Another scan yielded even worse news: the tumors had spread to my lungs and liver, and the doctors wanted to keep me hospitalized so they could monitor my disease, and start a new treatment: immunotherapy. This time it would be every other week, and it would take some time to show its effect. My lung collapsed shortly after starting. Another procedure would take care of that. I still remember the day after I was discharged, in August, I shadowed pediatric open-heart surgery.
Skipping ahead to now, I am doing well, and am currently receiving immunotherapy every other week.
GRYT is acing your AP calculus exam in 9th grade after being diagnosed with metastatic cervical cancer the year before. GRYT is going to school and taking exams, like a regular student, while on weekly chemotherapy. GRYT is continuing to fight after you’re told chemotherapy no longer works. GRYT is becoming an EMT a year after your surgery to pay back the community. GRYT is knowing you’re not alone in your fight and that there’s a beautiful destination waiting for you on the other side.
April 12, 2018 — 10:15am, I read the words that would turn my life upside down: Invasive Ductal Adenocarcinoma. For a moment, I wished I didn’t know what that meant. For a moment I believed that if I don’t say them out loud, it would go away.
I thought I was doing all the right things, I applied sunscreen everyday, I didn’t smoke, I did pilates, I ate an apple a day, I laughed a lot and I was in a very happy and healthy place in my life. So what happened?
Apparently I was the unlucky 1 in 8 breast cancer statistic. But that explanation wasn’t enough for me. I am 28 years old and I have my whole life ahead of me, I will not let breast cancer be a bump in my way. Instead I will use it to push myself forward, appreciate every good & bad day, use my story to raise awareness on early detection, health and well-being. In doing so, I have found purpose, hope and strength.
GRYT is being patient with yourself, when the things that were once so normal become tiring, like going up a flight of stairs or driving.
GRYT is holding your engagement party the day after your first chemotherapy session.
GRYT is accepting the fact that you have breast cancer at 28 and continue to move forward despite all its hardships.
GRYT is allowing yourself to cry when you need to, then picking yourself up & continuing the fight.
When my brother was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2015 at the age of 34, he was the first person in our family to have cancer. Since we had no family history of cancer, we were all shocked! A year later, when I turned 34 and started to feel a lump in my throat, you would think his cancer would have entered my mind, but it didn’t because I had been reassured that Lymphoma wasn’t hereditary.
After multiple trips to the doctor, misdiagnoses (like acid reflux), and imaging tests, a biopsy was done of a lymph node in my neck and it was confirmed that I too had stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. After 8 treatments of the chemo cocktail ABVD, a scan showed no evidence of disease and I became a “Survivor”. However, just a month after chemo ended, I started having breathing difficulties and was admitted to the hospital for more testing. It was determined that I had Bleomycin Lung Toxicity, which is a potentially fatal side effect from one of the chemo drugs. I was put on steroids for 2 months and my lungs eventually healed themselves. It took about 18 months for my body to recover from everything it had endured, but some things will never be the same.
Cancer doesn’t end when treatment ends. The trauma and scars from the past several years take time to heal and you can’t do it alone.
GRYT is having a lymph node removed the day before your 34th birthday, then being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 5 days later.
GRYT is continuing to work through chemotherapy AND plan the all-school dance for your child’s elementary school.
GRYT is continuing your exercise schedule of 3 times a week during chemotherapy.
GRYT is completing chemo, being told your are in remission, only to be hospitalized a month later with Bleomycin Lung Toxicity.
GRYT is slowly recovering from the mental trauma of cancer with the support and love from your family and friends.
GRYT is starting a local social club for young cancer survivors in your region by putting up flyers in local businesses to find your people.
GRYT is continuing to educate people about and fight against the stigmas surrounding cancer patients.