My name is Talaya Dendi, and I am a ten-year cancer thriver. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011. On my cancer journey, I just noticed a lot of gaps in the care I received. Although I had a great oncologist, the emotional support was missing. So I took what I learned on my cancer journey and started a business called “On the Other side”. And I am a cancer doula. So I provide emotional support, different information about mindset, communication, helping people diagnosed with cancer understand their treatment options, and several other things. So I walk with my clients on their cancer journey using what I’ve learned over the past ten years.
I was diagnosed with lymphoma. It was stage two B. And I was diagnosed again on April 8, 2011. I started my treatment on May 5. My treatment consisted of six months of chemotherapy and a month of radiation.
My first reaction was I couldn’t believe it. I was a reasonably healthy person. I never had any health issues. I never even had a broken bone or anything like that. So I was shocked. I kept hearing those words repeatedly to make sense of what I had heard. When I shared the news with my family, they were also shocked. They also had several questions, but unfortunately, I couldn’t answer them.
My support system
My support system consisted of my mother and my brother. But my mom was the leading champion. Also, I had several friends who supported me as well.
I did meditation. I did massage therapy. I studied mind-body connections and also created healing scriptures. I made a healing scripture book for myself that I read every day.
Experience with the doctors and other medical staff
I had a wonderful oncologist and medical staff. They answered all of my questions. They talked to me like I was a human being. We formed a partnership. They explained to me my options and what I thought about them.
Things that helped me and made me happy
One thing I did after being diagnosed with cancer was work out. Once the treatment started, I couldn’t work out like before. But walking helped me to be happy. I watched a lot of comedies when I felt like crying at times. It helped me to stay out of long bouts of depression. I maintained a journal which helped me a lot with my emotions.
I made a lot of lifestyle changes. I changed my diet before being diagnosed with cancer. I ate a lot of desserts, sugar, and things like that. And after my diagnosis, I cut on them. Now, I didn’t allow things that used to bother me anymore.
When I heard that I was cancer-free, I cried tears of joy. I was happy when I was told that there was no evidence of disease any longer. I had a small celebration with my family. We went out to dinner.
My life after cancer
Life after cancer is good. It’s a lot better because I’ve matured emotionally. Things that I couldn’t handle before, I can handle now. I look at things differently. I don’t let anything bother me anymore. I take one day at a time and don’t overload myself anymore.
Message to other cancer patients and caregivers
My message to cancer patients and caregivers would be: don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself grace. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’m sure you have friends and family. There are support groups you can come to and get the support you need. You did nothing wrong. And take one day at a time. Sometimes you might have to break it down to 1 minute at a time. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s a sign of strength.
Overcoming my fears
I overcame my fear of treatment by doing the research. As a cancer doula, I hope people understand their treatment options. It boils down to having the knowledge behind the options and making the best decision for yourself. So I think because I played a part in treatment decision-making, it wasn’t thrust upon me. It helped me get over my fear.
Fear of reoccurrence
I did have a fear of recurrence, probably for the first five years. When I got past the five-year mark, I stopped thinking about it as much. I think about it once or twice a year when I have to go in for a mammogram or blood work. But I tell myself that if it happens to show up in my life again, I can get through it again.
The stigma attached to cancer
The stigma attached to cancer is enormous. I hope that people will become more educated about cancer. There are plenty of such stigmas. You can’t catch cancer from someone else. Everyone that has cancer doesn’t look the same. Everyone’s not going to look sick. Everyone’s not going to lose their hair. Cancer does not mean that your life is over. These days, more and more people are surviving cancer. I wish that people would talk about it more openly. Instead of saying the big C and other terms to avoid saying the word cancer, they talk about it. And most of us know someone who has cancer or has had cancer. So it’s becoming more and more prevalent in our lives. It has to be discussed, even though most people don’t want to discuss it. It’s not pretty, but it’s necessary to have those conversations. And it all comes back to education, awareness, sharing our stories, and honesty about what that looks like. And it’s different for everyone.