At the age of 34, I was living the dream as an entrepreneur and doing the things I was passionate about through my work. I had just gotten married to the love of my life 7 months prior. 2016 was supposed to be the year we were going to buy a house and start a family of our own. We had recently returned from a trip to Australia in the spring when I received my diagnosis - Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I was shocked and deeply saddened.
At first, it was very hard to accept the reality of being a cancer patient. I kept thinking what I had done to be afflicted with this disease despite being a fit, non smoker with no prior health issues. I was upset that my life would now involve frequent visits to the hospital for my treatments as well as having to deal with the harsh side effects. I really didn't know what to expect and was so afraid the quality of my life would be severely depreciated. I felt terrible and didn't want to be a burden on my family and friends.
I kept wondering how people make life work with a cancer diagnosis. Do you continue going to work or school? How do you socialize and what do you say to those you know and to strangers about your situation? I couldn't relate to anyone and felt very out of place especially going to the hospital where the majority of other patients were much older. Obviously, there's no guidebook for navigating your way through cancer but the same goes for life which helped me put things into perspective. I began to recognize that despite everything going on with my illness that I could still be the person I wanted to be and that cancer wasn't going to define me.
As an outpatient, I continued operating my business when I was physically able to and occupied myself with fun activities to celebrate certain milestones. I even surprised myself by running a 5km near the end of my chemotherapy for the Terry Fox Run and raising funds for the organization. A few months after all my treatments had ended, I decided to donate my wedding dress to The Wedding Project. One of the best coping methods for me was being able to give back and that's been a huge part of my post-recovery process. I still continue to be involved with philanthropy and I hope to do more for cancer advocacy in the near future. I'm incredibly thankful for the people who supported me like my husband, family and friends. I have a deeper appreciation for medicine and for the people who serve in it.
There's a saying out there about recognizing that you really don't know how strong you are until it's your only choice. For those of you currently fighting a battle, you will find that inner strength. All you need to do is believe in yourself.