A true story of sur­vival and de­ter­mi­na­tion to live

Great Health Guide - - CONTENTS - Jodie Guerrero

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



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.

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