I SURVIVED THREE CANCERS
A true story of survival and determination to live
IT was late 2006, as I sat on my hospital bed and looked out over the city, my heart was heavy and I had no idea what the future held for me. A week ago, I was in my full-time Aerospace job, a mother of two little girls and a devoted wife. Now I was in hospital and dying inside. I knew it was serious, but I knew very little about the disease that was trying to consume my body – it had managed to weave itself through the majority of my torso – eating into bone, nerves and muscle.
Day after day, I lay in hospital, trying to keep my chin up – each day was a new challenge and provided new clues and new answers. I had no idea how sick I really was. Family and friends and co-workers would visit me – themselves floored by the fact that a seemingly young woman could actually be extremely ill and close to death. My diagnosis was also delayed – big time. In the past eleven months, I had visited seven doctors and counted twentyone separate medical visits to get help – but to no avail. I was just a hypochondriac.
So after eleven months of illness, I presented to my hospital ER, pleading for help and
someone who would listen to my concerns about my very strange symptoms. It was only until after a CT scan was performed, a ‘whitefaced’ senior consultant bravely came back to me with the news that they had found ‘something strange on my scan’. I would need to stay overnight or a few nights in the hospital. My brain was instantly in complete shock.
I had a sense of relief that someone finally believed me. I remember that night, my husband was with me – a young Asian doctor came to me to ‘tell me what they had found’. She must have got the ‘short straw’ – as what she was about to tell me, would shatter my perfect life, my perfect existence with my husband and two kids. She said, ‘We have found a mass in your back – it is pressing into your spine, causing your sciatica symptoms, threatening your right leg function and we think it may be malignant. We don’t know what it is or where it’s come from – it’s going to take some time before we know what you are fighting and what to do – so, you’re going to be here for a while’.
‘How long is a while?’ – I said to her, ‘What about my job, my kids, and my house?’ Suddenly a thousand thoughts flooded my mind. I was eventually diagnosed with Stage 4 Follicular B-Cell, Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Low Grade. Although that is a mouthful – it was an important diagnosis in regards to treatment and the kind of chemo I needed.
In 2008, I continued to fight the disease. I thought it was a relapse for a third time, but found it was a diagnosis of scaring, from my
THE REAL MESSAGE BEHIND A CANCER DIAGNOSIS IS TO PERSIST & BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE.
THE LIFE GOAL IS TO BE A CANCER SURVIVOR, NOT A SUFFERER.
initial and second relapse. This was due to nerve damage from tumours/radiotherapy in the area. In 2014, I felt a familiar pain and tests revealed that I had developed a new cancer, called Myelodysplasia (RCMD), which was caused by chemo treatment from my two previous Lymphoma episodes. I ended up needing an Allogeneic (donor) Bone Marrow Transplant with stem cells. This was donated by a thirty-year-old male, located in the USA. I now use a lot of medication for pain and wear a leg brace. However, I am more than happy to be alive.
Always listen to your body first, keep asking questions for your health – don’t let anyone tell you that you are well when you know you are not. Advocate for yourself, at every doctor’s office – make sure you don’t leave without a satisfactory answer. If you disagree, you are paying for his/her time and it’s important you get the most out of it. Believe in your ability to survive, no matter what your obstacle. Make it your goal to get through every day, as a cancer survivor and not a sufferer. You have so much more to offer and so much more to contribute. Now, I am still in remission and happy to advocate for others – patients, health consumers, people in distress or facing difficulties, particularly women with illness and disability. My passion is for women, like me who must raise their kids, whilst they battle illness or a disadvantage. We can all find the strength to endure. SURVIVE & THRIVE!! It’s imperative to keep going – even with a poor prognosis or a non-favourable outlook.
Take heart as you continue to live and be encouraged – you can survive – not matter what faces you, continually stand firm in your beliefs – I believe you can.
Jodie Guerrero, Health Consumer Advocate. See her website for more of her amazing and incredible story.