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Homepage – Forum Forums Inspirational Survivor Stories Courtney’s Story – Cancer at 30 yrs of age.

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  • #41858
    Nightingale
    Keymaster

    Cancer at 30
    I was in my final year of studies in the Exercise and Wellness program at Arizona State University and life was good. I was the typical happy-go-lucky college student. But then, about 1 month before fall semester finals the symptoms started; frequent urination, severe pain/cramps, blood in the urine, etc. By the time finals rolled around my major concern was not how I would do in my exams, but would I even be able to sit through an entire exam without wetting myself. I knew I was unwell, but it never crossed my mind that it could be cancer.

    A week after finals I had my first ultrasound and then hopped on a plane back to Canada for Christmas break, not even thinking to provide the doctor with a contact number. While in Canada my symptoms did not improve, actually they got worse, the pain was so intense I could hardly get through the day. So having convinced myself I had kidney stones, I drove to the hospital emergency in a blizzard to see what could be done to relieve the pain and unrelenting urination. That was when everything changed… within a 24 hour period I had a cystoscopy, CT scan and emergency surgery to remove the newly discovered tumor in my bladder.  I was released the next morning and told the pathology of my tumor would take a few days. At this point I did not know if I would be going back south to finish my final semester at ASU. Everything was weighing on those results. When the results finally did come in, I heard the one word no one wants to hear… Cancer… (of the bladder).

    Nothing can prepare you for that word, CANCER.  It’s as if everything around you stops, all your senses shut down and you’re frozen. All you can hear are your own thoughts, “How did this happen? Could I have done something to prevent this? What do I do now? Am I going to die?” It is so overwhelming and unbelievable that it can take days, weeks even, to really sink in.
    Once the news does sink in, I believe there are two paths you can take. I firmly believe this is a conscious choice you have to make; you can give in or you can fight. Not wanting to give this thing more power than it deserved, I chose to do whatever needed to be done to beat this beast. In the next 6 weeks I had two more minor surgeries to check for any other cancerous cells in my bladder. Luckily it all seemed to be localized in just the one area. Unfortunately the tumor had grown into the muscle wall of the bladder which meant I needed one more surgery to remove one third of my bladder, but luckily not the whole bladder. This last surgery was supposed to be the end of it. I was ready to hear “We got it all.” But that did not happen, and I was told that not only had the cancer had spread outside my bladder but to the surrounding lymph nodes as well. To top it off, they were finally able to give me a stage and grade; Stage 3 – due to the fact that it had moved beyond the bladder to at least 1 lymph node, and high grade – meaning it could grow very quickly. This time the doctors told me surgery was out and my only option moving forward was chemotherapy, the one thing I was hoping to avoid more than anything.

    The chemo lasted 5 months and took all my strength to endure. If I have learned anything from chemo, it is the importance of staying fit and healthy. I was lucky enough to have been in good physical shape going in and it made the first half of chemo seem pretty easy. The last half was more difficult, but I still feel lucky considering the stories I’ve heard from other cancer patients and survivors. I did not get sick until my last treatment and lost a small amount of hair that was only noticeable if you were really looking. I was not prepared for the toll it took on my body, even after talking to doctors and people who’ve experienced it. It sucks every ounce of energy out of you. Aside from the tumour, I was a healthy, active young woman. I can’t imagine how hard it would be to endure this if I was not as fit as I was at the start of it.

    Two months after chemo was finished, I went in for my post treatment check-up and finally heard the words I was hoping to hear six months earlier; “You’re cancer free!” It took a few days to really sink in, but man, did it feel good! It took an entire year but I reached my goal of beating the beast. I have learned some invaluable lessons through this and I am happy to share those lessons with anyone willing to listen. The first lesson is that you always have a choice. Not everything is in your control, but how you choose to act is up to you. Secondly, positivity is the most powerful tool you have in the fight for your life. The mind has more power over the body than you can possibly know. And third, there are always people in your life you can count on when times get tough, so take advantage.
    Today I am 2 years cancer free. I completed my degree at the top of my class and now work for a medical clinic where I get to help other people every day. Life after cancer is good. I have a new found appreciation for life and do my best not to take anything for granted. There is always that thought “What if it comes back?” I don’t think that will ever go away, but I do my best to push those thoughts out and focus my energy on all the good things in my life, not the bad.

    If you know someone who is going through their own fight, be sure to show your support to them. We often don’t think there is anything we can do, but even the small things like bringing them a meal, sending a card or making a donation in their name can mean the world. If you are fighting your own battle just remember that everything you feel during your battle is valid. I cried every day of my battle, but I refused to let those feelings dictate every part of my day. I found that letting all my feelings out was the best way to move on with my day. Acknowledge them, but don’t let them consume you. You have more important things to do… like beating the beast!

    What is Metastatic Bladder Cancer?
    Stage IV bladder cancer is cancer that has extended through the bladder wall and invaded the pelvic and/or abdominal wall and/or involves the lymph nodes and/or has spread to distant sites in the body usually the lungs, liver and bones.  Stage IV bladder cancer is referred to as metastatic bladder cancer.

    • This topic was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Nightingale.
    #41872
    CD
    Participant

    Hi Courtney!

    This is a very inspirational story. My dad was diagnosed early this year with muscle invasive, high grade bladder cancer. He underwent a radical cystectomy followed by 4 months of chemo. The plan is to finish chemo next week and in 3 months have repeat blood work, CT scan, and urine cytology. Chemo kicked his butt. He’s had good days and bad days, but took so much strength out of him.

    Any advice while waiting for post-chemo check up. The unknown and waiting is already producing a lot of anxiety for my dad and mom. It’s a difficult journey but we are taking it day by day and just like you said refusing to let these feeling dictate our day.

    #41874
    Nightingale
    Keymaster

    Hi Donofrca,

    We are trying to contact Courtney to see if she can respond to your question.  We hope we’re able to.  Keep watching this space.

    my best,

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Nightingale.
    #42874
    Manon
    Participant

    That is so inspiring.  I see myself in you but i’m 55 years  of age.  Thank you for sharing

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