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Cassey (Blood Cancer Survivor)

Cassey (Blood Cancer Survivor)

Diagnosis / Detection

By the end of 2013, suddenly, I started feeling drained out. I was working all the time, so I didn’t consider it a problem. Next, I noticed a weird nodule on my neck. The very next thing I did was book an ENT appointment. But until January 2014, I didn’t get an appointment. Then the doctor prescribed some antibiotics and scheduled a meeting two weeks later. I completed the antibiotics course, and five days were left for the appointment, but suddenly things started getting worse. Bruises were all over my body, and giant purple marks appeared wherever I touched. I started looking like I had jaundice; my face was discolored. I faced trouble walking as I was quickly exhausted. Despite being tired, I kept on working. I thought I was anemic; something was wrong. I realized it, but how bad I didn’t sense that. My vision started blurring, and I faced difficulty in breathing. I consulted a doctor, thinking it to be an iron deficiency or something like that. Seeing my worsening condition, the doctor advised me to get admitted to the hospital and do blood work. That’s when it was diagnosed that I have hemoglobin level 4. Blood was immediately transfused; they sensed cancer but waited for bone marrow biopsy to confirm. To ensure the diagnosis, three bone marrow biopsies were done. 

Journey

Once cancer was diagnosed, my chemotherapy started before I could do fertility treatment. This type of cancer was rare for people in my age group. I was hospitalized for 32 days. During that time, I had a stroke. I had to relearn how to walk and talk during the ongoing treatment. Seven weeks after the initial treatment, I was informed that a relapse had occurred. Cancer was back. The worst part was that my body no longer responded to chemotherapy, so I needed a new treatment. The new treatment proved to be highly unsuccessful. It resulted in cytokine release, and thus I was sent back to the hospital. 

When cancer relapsed, chemotherapy immunotherapy, nothing worked favoring my body. The only option left was opting for clinical trials. I decided to go for clinical trials and did all the tests, but it was closed before beginning as one passed away. I was left without options. Another clinical trial at another hospital also had no slots left, so that I couldn’t get into that as well. My doctor suggested going for transplantation.

I went for stem cell transport, and my brother was my donor. He was my 100% match. Six months later, cancer relapsed again, and we then opted for immunotherapy to see whether it works instead of stem cell transplant. Thankfully after four rounds, I went into remission. 

Hence it was a three-four years-long journey.

Caregivers/Support system

My support system was my husband, dad, mother-in-law, and brother. My dad would show up every single day. They stayed by my side. Without them, I couldn’t imagine how I would have gone through this time. My medical team was also very supportive. 

Overcoming Challenges/Side Effects

To overcome the challenges, I first accepted what would happen and has happened already. I used a lot of medication to stop nausea. I also did different breathing techniques and drank a lot of warm water with a little bit of citrus like lemon. I did acupuncture as well. 

What kept me positive during the journey?

Those days were tough, and it was essential to understand why I was doing it. I was doing it for my family and not always for myself; hence I couldn’t let them down by not fighting as hard as possible. I felt like my job was to stay alive and live as healthy as possible. I had a lovely team by my side to help me in the process. Their efforts kept me positive. I also started to focus on one day and set goals every day. 

Lifestyle Changes during/after treatment

I ate what I could as I couldn’t do much cooking. I just made sure that I was eating was healthy. I stopped the intake of processed foods. All this helped me a lot to feel better physically. After treatment, I took utmost care of my mental and physical health. My lifestyle changed completely. 

Lessons during the Cancer Journey

I used to think that I was living a healthy life, but I wasn’t. Now when I look at the changes, it feels different. I used to stress a lot. This journey changed me. I started feeling more compassionate. The journey taught me patience. It helped me appreciate people around me whom I might have taken for granted. I am grateful for them and how they impacted my life. I realized that we are stronger physically, emotionally, mentally than we think we are. There is a deeper level that we harness to get through a challenge. 

Life after battling cancer

 I’m a cancer survivorship coach, and I help empower women to be physically, emotionally, and mentally strong after going through cancer. I have built a 13-weeks survivorship program. It’s about everything post-cancer. To build back physical strength, gain positivity, healing, and emotional resilience. It’s about addressing the trauma that cancer brings into your life. It aims in rebuilding the mindset. I have a dog named Lily, and I spend my time very well. I genuinely love what I do. 

Parting Message to Cancer Survivors/Caregivers

“Never give up. Never lose hope and do everything possible to help your journey, have faith that things will get better and easier with each day.”

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