Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Valeria Z. on October 28, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
chronic myelogenous leukemia and Stage II breast cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
June 6, 2008
Employment Status:
full-time
Age:
38
Type and Description of Treatments:
Gleevec (oral chemo for leukemia) and adromicin citoxin and taxol (iv chemo for breast cancer) After a year in Gleevec I am presently starting Sprycell to see if the leukemia finally goes into remission.
How do you feel today?

Today, I feel ok, I have my good and bad days but I have a lot of support from my family, friends, and co-workers to face anything that comes. Everyone that's around me knows in detail what I am going through because to me this is a fight that you don't fight alone. Cancer not only changes the life of the patient it changes the life of all of those that surround you. So everyone needs to know the good and the bad so that you have all the support you can to overcome the symptoms this disease and its medications cause. I feel blessed to be here and to have the awesome support I have.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Since my double diagnosis my life hasn't changed much because I have tried to make everyday the happiest even when I have felt horrible. I gain my strength from living with my mother who is a 19 year multiple myeloma survivor. I have had days when I have cried not asking God why I am sick but just because I felt really bad but once I got it out of my system I was ready to move on and deal with the pain, nausea, etc. I live everyday to it's fullest and enjoy it as much as I can.

What is going well for you right now?

My breast cancer is in remission and I am enjoying life to it's fullest. Doing everything I couldn't do after the many surgeries. Life is back to normal.

What is not going well for you right now?

I am working towards getting my leukemia in remission once that happens everything will be ok.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Having to talk about it over and over in a way has been difficult because some days I can talk about it and some day I can not even say the word before falling apart. I have some days when I fear a recurrence or a new diagnosis but I guess that is normal.
I think the most difficult part is seeing how your family suffers.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

My belief in God, my family and my friends are my support systems. I was referred to support groups but I never felt comfortable going to a group of strangers and talking about my feelings.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

Looking forward to getting my leukemia into remission is my immediate goal. Once I have achieved that finishing my breast reconstruction is my next goal to accomplish. Overall having a normal life is my ultimate goal.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

I am back to working 40+ hours a week.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

Since I had to have several surgeries I have been in and out of the hospital, which has made me miss a lot of hours at work. I have a lot of limitations when it comes to strength and the physical things I am able to do.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

Knowing that my company was interested in my recuperation and that they have worked with me to accommodate my limitations made dealing with the illness easier. Also their constant support to encourage me to fight to get better helped a lot.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

Before going to work make sure that you fully understand your illness and its ups and down. This would allow you to accept anything that comes your way emotionally and physically. Educate yourself with everything you need to know, good and bad.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

My side effects included a lot of bone and joint pain doctors prescribed a lot of pain killers but I tried not to use them as much unless the pain was unbearable. Nausea I did not want to use a lot of medication so I tried chewing different gums until I found one that calmed the nausea. When I started to lose my hair, I had my 12 year old daughter shave me and made it a fun event for all my family; they took turns shaving and making different hair dos before leaving me bald. I also lost my finger and toe nails after taxol chemo and since I did not like how they looked, I bought gauze and made myself finger band aids and drew happy faces on them to remind me that it was something temporary and that helped me a lot. I think humor helps deal with this disease if you are sad about everything you become depressed and can fall into a depression when you make fun of all those things you can not fix it helps you deal with it better.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

Do not fear the unknown and be strong to deal with everything that is coming your way. Cry if you have to. Be mad if you have to and laugh as much as you can. Do not try to find someone to blame for your misfortune because you will find no one. Instead accept your diagnosis and make the best to overcome all the obstacles it comes with. Laugh and enjoy life as if you were not sick.