My cancer journey began in August 2021. I had an earache and swelling in my throat, so I went to the doctor, who referred me to a specialist. They confirmed that it was a stage four tumor at the base of my tongue and had a bilateral infection in the nodes of my neck. I had treatment for the latter half of 2021 and was declared cancer free in April 2022.
I am unsure if I have a family history of cancer because I was adopted, and I don’t know much about the medical history of my biological family.
Our first reaction to the news
My first reaction was shock, but then, there is this waiting period where the doctors don’t tell you what cancer it is and what stage it is. You don’t know whether the cancer is terminal or curable, and you’re just telling the people around you that you’ve been diagnosed with cancer. Some people start distancing themselves from you because they think cancer is infectious, and I think it is great that more people are talking about it and creating awareness.
Treatments that I underwent
I was initially told that I would have three cycles of chemotherapy, but I was done with it after two. After chemo, they moved me to radiation therapy, and I had 35 cycles. The radiation therapy went on from Monday to Friday for seven weeks.
For me, the radiation therapy was easier than the chemo. I was not too fond of the idea of chemotherapy from the get-go, but I understood that it was necessary, and I had to give my best shot at fighting the illness, so I went ahead with it.
Comorbidities as a result of the treatment
I had and still have anxiety from the time I went through treatment. It was initially because I did not know what the treatment outcomes would be, and the second round of chemotherapy had adverse effects on me, so not knowing how it would turn out was another reason. Anytime I felt like this, my anxiety would pop up, but I have a psychologist, and I have been working on it and learning to deal with it.
Things that helped my mental and emotional wellbeing
I did a lot of journaling, which I have now turned into a book. Like I said before, I wanted more people to know what I underwent as a cancer patient and a recovering patient daily, and journaling helped me do that.
Other than journaling, one of the other things I did was take a walk whenever I could. There is a small resting area that is not far from home that I walk to whenever I can, and I also began painting again, which took my mind off the things that were going on. The cancer journey, for me, was not overwhelmingly difficult to the point where I was fatigued all the time. I had my good days and bad days, and the second round of chemotherapy was the only time I was very fatigued for around four days, and even then, I tried to watch TV and escape from what was happening.
I also think acceptance is a big part of the journey because, at some point, you come to understand that there is a start, middle and end to life, and the sooner you accept the latter part of it, the better it will make your life. Understanding that you are mortal and working towards improving the lives of those around you, rather than focusing on the problem at hand, will help someone a lot.
Lifestyle changes during and after cancer
I started growing a chilli plant some time ago, and it has grown pretty well, considering plants don’t flourish in the UK weather. I have come to grow 30 more plants till now, and that is something I have gained through the journey. I have learned to make better use of the time I had at hand and even do business out of it. I would say that this is one of the lifestyle changes I went with after the cancer journey.
My top three learnings from this process
The first thing would be to accept what was happening. Regardless of whether you accept or deny it, the fact is that you have it, and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can come out of it.
My second learning is to ask as many questions as you want and visit as many doctors as possible before deciding on the treatment. It is essential to clear your doubts before you start the process.
My final learning is to accept help. There may be times when you don’t want the help that your family and friends offer, but you may need it, and it doesn’t hurt to get help from them. I personally am a very stubborn person and tend not to ask for help even when I need it, but I have come to understand that it is okay to accept help from your loved ones.
My message for the cancer patients and caregivers
The one thing I would say is never give up. As far as I’m concerned, life is not over until you stop breathing, so fight until you stop breathing. Even if you are terminally ill, give life the fight it deserves. It’s as simple as that.
We are all going to die one way or the other, but at least with cancer, you have an opportunity to fight death and maybe actually win. So, never give up.