Part 2: Reflection
By Katie DeMasi
Getting a cancer diagnosis at any age will rock your world. (See Part 1.) But as a young adult, it seemed to have hit harder. We are a forgotten age group in terms of cancer. When people think of cancer, they often associate it with the elderly or with children – nothing in between. And at this age, we think we are invincible. My life was looking pretty good leading up to this mess. How could anything stop me? But something did. Well, it tried to.
It’s kind of funny. Senior year of college, I took an oncology nursing elective. We didn’t learn about lymphomas, but I learned about chemo drugs and radiation and all of the fun stuff that comes along with them. We learned how to help a patient with everything from pain to hair loss to constipation. Because of that class, I was so prepared for chemo. I had learned about each drug that I would be given, including my anti-nausea meds, so I was prepared when I looked in the toilet after chemo and saw that my pee was red from the Adriamycin.
But the class never touched on the diagnosis part of the whole cancer scenario. Like, someone had to tell the patient they have cancer, right? How do we help them cope?
I wish that we had spent time on that. Maybe I would’ve asked more questions or been more expressive. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt as angry and alone and betrayed by my own body as I did during that first month. Maybe I would have learned how to deal with such life-changing news at such a young age. But I also think that this is one of those lessons you can’t learn from a textbook. It’s about trial and error and figuring out what works best for you.
At such a pivotal moment in my life, I had to put everything on hold. And dealing with that was sometimes harder than battling the nausea or the exhaustion of chemotherapy. Even though there’s a pill for the nausea and I could sleep off the exhaustion, there wasn’t a sure-fire cope for the diagnosis itself.
Talking to people, especially others diagnosed with cancer who are around my age, helped me tremendously through the whole process. Writing and exercising also became great ways to relieve stress and compose my thoughts. These are all things that helped me get to where I am today.
I’m now three months cancer-free and on my way to start my much-anticipated, post-cancer life. It wasn’t the road I had planned to take to get here, but I never listen to the GPS anyway.