“My body wasn’t my own”
At 28-years-old, Jen was trialing all of the wellness crazes and ‘anti-cancer fads’ out there. Then she received a blood cancer diagnosis.
This story is a first-person account, contributed by a member of our wonderful community – all words are their own.
When I was 28 years old, I joined the club no one wants to be a part of. The Cancer Club. It was obviously a shock. I was the sort of girl that was trialing all the wellness crazes and “anti-cancer’’ fads. Alkaline foods, celery juice, going sugar-free, high-dose Vitamin C, essential oils, detox saunas – I’ve tried it all. At the end of the day, nothing could stop what was around the corner.
I’ll never forget the phone call that would change my life forever.
After a routine blood test, I was called just hours later by my GP with the shocking news. My white blood cell count was extremely high – worst case scenario it could be a form of blood cancer. It’s the sort of phone call that drains all the blood from your head and sucks the breath right out of you. What started as a perfectly normal day ended in a hospital bed, with my future uncertain.
Waiting for a diagnosis was by far the worst part of the experience. The only thing that stops the fear of the unknown is answers. Once we had an answer – acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (Philadelphia negative) – and a plan in place, the fear slowly dissolved. My old life ceased and my new full-time job as ‘Cancer Fighter’ began. Gone were the days of waking up, going to work and spending time with friends, family and my fiancé. Suddenly my life was all about pills, blood draws, chemo, radiation, neutrophils, chemo, x-rays, a stem cell transplant and of course, more chemo.
My treatment plan was long and comprehensive, but it was achievable. It was all about ticking off each step in the treatment plan. The physical side of treatment was half the battle, the rest was mental.
Being stuck in a hospital for six weeks straight, eating hospital food three times a day, getting prodded and poked, losing your hair and feeling like your body isn’t your own would get anyone down. The antidote for me, was talking to the cancer community.
When I first got that unforgettable phone call, my first contact was to one of my best friends who went through her own blood cancer treatment a year before. I was also put in contact with someone who did a similar trial to the one I was considering for my treatment. It was then that I decided to put my story on social media, in the hopes of connecting with more people going through something similar. I was so surprised with how many people I connected with. People all over the world who were going through the same diagnosis as me, or who had been through it and were on the other side. Beautiful people who reached out just to offer words of encouragement or advice for no other reason, but that they had been exactly where I was and knew the feeling.
What joining the ‘Cancer Club’ gave me
The cancer community is full of empathetic, like-minded individuals and carers who know the struggle and who can offer their own experience or an ear to listen. It’s full of people who have been given another chance to enjoy the beauty this world has to offer, and they appreciate every moment of it. They’re willing to drop their plans to be with you if you need advice or someone to just sit with you. I know some people want to hide away from the world when diagnosed, but please know you’re not alone in your fight – we are all behind you and we’re here to talk when you’re ready. The Cancer club is the club no one wants to be in, but you’ll find it’s full of some of the greatest people you’ll ever have the pleasure of meeting.