My Cancer Diagnosis: From The Beginning To Now

My Cancer Diagnosis: From The Beginning To Now

If you didn’t already know about this, I’m sorry to shock you and I’m sorry if we are friends and I haven’t gotten around to telling you. I’ve been in a state of complete shock and ‘fight-or-flight’ for the last two weeks. But basically, as the title suggests, I have cancer. And no, you aren’t confusing me with my Dad because he has it, too. This blog post will clear up most of your questions, I hope. But of course, contact me on my Instagram page if you’ve any more and I will do my best to get around to them. Click here for my Instagram.

I suppose a large extent of the shock has worn off and I’ve begun to accept that some kind of twisted, unfair fate has landed me with a pretty hefty cancer sentence. But that doesn’t make the process any easier.

As you all know, Dad was diagnosed about four weeks ago with Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. His treatment has begun and his prognosis is good. He’s currently undergoing hormone replacement therapy, then he’ll go on to radiotherapy and chemotherapy (the order is unknown as of yet). But we’re looking at a long year for his recovery and with a bit of luck, his remission starting at about Christmas time, hopefully sooner. His spirits were relatively high, of course, until we found out about me.

Basically, and I’m going to be very basic and brief in all of this, I found a lump on the left wall of my vagina (which could be also felt in my groin area) at the end of December 2017. This was around the time that Melanie’s Blog Life (a beautiful Irish blogger that I follow) launched a campaign for all of her female followers to check their areas and encouraged people to get smears. I followed suit, gave myself a check and ran a similar campaign on my Snapchat. You might remember it.

Following the finding of the lump, which at this stage was about the size of a small marble and firm, I went to my GP who advised me that it was a Barthalion’s Cyst. Apparently very common in young women and that it would go away and I would be fine. I was prescribed antibiotics. After a week, nothing changed. In fact, the lump grew. So, I went straight out to Holles Street as an outpatient (Ireland’s National Maternity Hospital- also known for their gyno unit) for further investigation.

Long story short, following months of tests, many conversations with many nurses and doctors, and antibiotics that did not work, nobody could figure out what it was. Under the belief that it was probably the cyst that was mentioned before, I was operated on and a biopsy was taken. I was called back in to the hospital a week later and told that what they found was, in fact, sinister. I was then diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer called Sarcoma. Trust me to get the rare one.

Understanding Sarcomas are difficult because there are over 50 different types and all require different treatments. And what I’m about to tell you is nothing I’ve found online because I’ve really done my best not to google anything. I’m basing my knowledge on what my oncology team have told me- which is particular to my case.

I have been diagnosed with a type of Sarcoma named Leiomyosarcoma, which is really unlikely to happen to someone my age. It normally happens to women a lot older- in their 50s or 60s. Sarcomas generally develop in tissue, bone or blood. The type that I have develops on smooth, soft tissues. For example: the bowel area, the womb and the vaginal walls. I know this is a lot of information but bear with me.

For the most part, it looks like it’s been caught in time. The MRI shows that, although it is in a delicate area, it is still regional. This means that it basically, based on the tests we’ve done so far, they reckon it hasn’t spread. Which hopefully means that a major surgery will be planned, possibly some radiotherapy and probably no chemotherapy.  However, this is not a concrete plan. My treatment plan is yet to be decided, there will be more tests undergone and I will have to have more scans. This is just what we’ve been told is the likely route that will be taken. And although this sounds like a positive outcome on a terrible situation, there are extreme, permanent side-effects that will come with this treatment plan. I will more than likely be left infertile, for one, and there will probably be difficulties around me using the bathroom and a plan will be needed to put in place there. This is what was discussed at this morning’s oncology meeting which is why I am in shock all over again and finding it a bit hard to process things right now. To be honest, I’m actually extremely devastated. I was a lot more positive over the last week because, me focusing on the positive, I was coming around to the idea that I might get away scott-free following some treatment, but apparently not. I will talk more about this when I come out of shock and feel more comfortable with it. Obviously, the region that the cancer is in is a bit uncomfortable to talk about anyway but for the purpose of awareness, I don’t really give a fuck about my dignity anymore.

Sarcomas generally travel or jump to the lungs or chest if they have jumped or moved at all. So I had a CT scan this week and it was discussed at my meeting this morning with my oncologist. There are markings there that need to be further investigated. If it comes back that they are sinister, I will probably need chemotherapy. Again, not set in stone but something that has come up in conversation. As I said above, for the most part, they reckon that it hasn’t spread.

To say that I am terrified is an understatement. When I first got diagnosed, the shock was absolutely unbearable. At just 22 with the world at my feet, how could this happen to someone like me? I’ve never even broken a bone. I had no idea how to react. I was just absolutely heartbroken and terrified. Especially because for the first week, I had no idea whether or not it had spread or whether or not I would live.

At this stage my fear is not around life or death, but rather how the treatment will affect my life both when I’m going through it and after it. I wish I could just jump ahead of time to when I am on the road to recovery. At the moment, everything is up in the air, the treatment plan is still yet to be decided and I’m just praying and hoping it will be effective but with the least amount of pain.

If you haven’t already guessed, I am no longer moving to New York in June. Hopefully in a few months, maybe in a few years. But for the moment, I have moved home to my parents and am waiting to undergo treatment and get well. For the most part, I was feeling positive. I’m taking this as a sign from the universe (or something) that I need to slow down and focus on myself for a while, really get well and tune into my health. But as mentioned above, my meeting today has knocked be a bit off whack.

I know in a few days that I will come around, once again, from the shock and that I will be feeling positive all over again. I also just want to take this opportunity to thank each and every single soul that has been there for me over the last few weeks. THIS INCLUDES the followers that have written in and sent love, positivity and heartfelt messages. Of course, my family who’ve rarely left my side. People have been so kind and really just reached out in so many ways, too many to count. It really is true that at times like these you find out who your friends are, your true friends. People that I never thought would be close to me have stepped up and provided simple things like a bit of company, or support at meetings. And unfortunately, some friends that I’ve known my whole life are nowhere to be found.

I am trying my best to turn this whole experience in to that of a learning one. I have also gone back to a 100% plant based diet, which has been scientifically proven to fight and prevent cancers and other diseases. I’ve been sharing my meals on Instagram if you’re interested, actually. I also want to raise awareness around this. Because in all my research, I have found that there are actually other people my age that have been diagnosed with sarcomas. Although they are not generally linked with youth, it is becoming more common. I found a guy my age down in Cork that has written a blog post about HIS sarcoma diagnosis and although it’s a different story to mine, it’s equally as important for awareness purposes. CLICK HERE to read his story. (It’s not too long, he gets right to the point!)

So if you take anything more than the gossip away from this post, let it be this: just because you are young, does not mean that you are immune to things like this. Do you want to know what my main regret was the moment my consultant said cancer? The amount of time I spent working toward getting it. All of the alcoholic drinks, party drugs, sun-beds, cigarettes, the amount of time I spent WORRYING and STRESSING about things that don’t actually matter. The damage I let my body undergo, always assuming that ‘something like that wouldn’t happen to me’. I’m not saying that these things caused my disease, but I sure felt like a gobshite wasting time on them when I could have been traveling, exploring, laughing, eating good food and hugging people for longer.

And if I have to be an example to save someone else’s life, so be it. But please do not cross yourself off like I did. If you find something strange on your body, get it checked. Do not stop until you get a solid answer and diagnosis or the problem has been entirely resolved. If you are smoking, eating unhealthily or abusing your body in anyway, rethink why and maybe try work toward a more positive outlook on life. Or you can wait until your diagnosed with cancer (or something worse) like I did, and feel like a total nob-head all together.

And if you are a model of health, that doesn’t cross you off either. Of course, you should be incredibly grateful that you are healthy, fit and on the ball. But unfortunately these diseases don’t discriminate. One of the questions I had for my consultant was whether or not it could have been inherited, seeing as though Dad has had cancer twice and is currently fighting, too. The answer was no. Sarcomas are random. There is no reason and it is not fair. So just be really mindful of your body, get checked regularly and be persistent if you really feel that something could be the matter.

Also, people seem to think that once someone is diagnosed with cancer, they are  a complete write-off and sit like a skeleton in the bed. This is not true. I am fit and healthy and in no pain whatsoever. Which is the annoying part because I had no idea I was as ill as I am. All I can say about my physical state is that every now and again, I get a bang of fatigue that leaves me horizontal within minutes. This has been happening for a few months but I put it down to working mad hours and being stressed with college.

Oh, but on the bridge side, it looks like I might graduate on time! I’ll need a few extensions on projects and some things will have to be moved around, but for the most part, I should be graduating in September.

So, I tried to fit as much of an update in there as I could. Of course, my head is absolutely fried and I’ve just been sitting beside a salt lamp and dosing myself in Lavender Oil hoping that some God might appear to tell me it was all a lesson and I’ve been magically healed. I know that’s not going to happen, though, so I am living moment to moment, constantly praying for the best outcome. Spending as much time at home and with positive people as possible.

Tomorrow morning, I have a 6am start with The Happy Pear for training- which generally is yoga, flexibility or a sea swim. Although the cards are stacked against me, we all know how tough I can be. So even though I don’t feel like leaving my bed, I’m going to. Because this is not going to win. I might be left with some life changing effects but my mind will still be the exact same. I will still show up and do my best. I will still find humour and strength in even my darkest days. Because if I even consider letting this take over my mind, you can put your money on it that my body will follow. So although I don’t feel like swimming in the sea at six in the morning, I will because I know sea water is healing. And I know The Happy Pear crew are positive people that do not judge and want to help me. Although I would rather a McDonalds and an easter egg, I’m going to eat seaweed and spinach because it provides me with an opportunity to fight this. Although I would rather cry into a pillow and cuddle my dog until this all goes away, I have to show up at hospital appointments with courage and trust my oncology team enough to do their job and save my life.

I understand everybody has a lot of questions, as they’ve all been booming on my social media accounts and I totally appreciate that. I am doing my best to reply to them all and stay on top of emails etc. However, on bad days my phone is being turned off. And as much as I love blogging, my health comes first. Awareness campaigning, blogging, sharing, posting… there will be time enough for that when I am on the road to recovery and feeling much better.

Thank you so much, again, for all of your love and support. My Instagram is getting updated, for the most part, DAILY at the moment. So if you don’t follow me on there, my username is ‘jaydamccannx’. I reply to all messages and post Instastories too. And believe me, considering my current situation, they are mostly positive!

So to confirm: Yes, I do have cancer. Yes, they reckon it is treatable. Unfortunately, there will be an aftermath of the surgery that has to take place, we don’t know exactly what that is yet. Yes, my Dad also has cancer. Right now my life is on hold. But I am trying my best to keep positive and get on with daily things in order to keep myself sane.

Sending you all my love,

J xx