Recent College Graduate to Cancer Patient
I was just like you. I sat in the very same chairs you are sitting in right now. I listened to speakers talk about their experiences with breast cancer and ovarian cancer and how Sharsheret helped them to overcome their most difficult battles. I chose a major, minors, and took classes that seemed most interesting to me. I was involved in Jewish life on campus to help myself grow as a person and as a leader. I was in a sorority and a sisterhood that always supported each other. I was just like you, and then one day I wasn’t anymore.
On June 11th, 2015, I went in for a CAT scan for some stomach issues I had been having. I was expecting to hear that I had mild stomach issues that could be treated with medication and change of diet. That night I received the call.
“We found a 17 centimeter tumor in your right ovary. We don’t know anything about it other than it is there and you need to make an appointment with your gynecologist right away.”
I called my mother frantically and crying hysterically telling her about the call I just received. She raced home. We called a number of doctors. There were many questions and few answers. It all of a sudden became real. Just like that, I went from a recent college graduate to a patient.
Many people name-dropped Sharsheret to me. I decided that I would consider giving them a call if, and in this case when, I did find out that my tumor was cancerous. I was very concerned that because of my young age and rare diagnosis Sharsheret would not be of assistance. Boy, was I wrong.
The first time I spoke to a member of the support team, I was told they would do everything they could to support my social-emotional needs, at whatever time or place I was. Sharsheret would also find someone who had the same or similar diagnosis at the same age for me to speak with, a peer supporter as they call them. I told them that it would be nearly impossible to do such a thing because my diagnosis was so rare, one in more than a million. I got a call back within the next few days that Sharsheret had in fact found a peer supporter for me. My peer supporter was everything that I hoped I could become. She had been diagnosed in the fall following her college graduation. After a year of surgery and treatment she was able to get back on her feet. Today, she is 34 years old and a successful corporate lawyer in Manhattan. For me, her story was the light at the end of the tunnel. My peer supporter was the first person I contacted when I got my final diagnosis. She was the person I spoke to about what it would be like to lose my hair. And she was the person who gave me the support I needed to get through to the next day.
Not only did I have my peer supporter as a part of my support system but I also had my contact from the support team. In the beginning of my journey I called Sharsheret often with questions and concerns. Looking back, I called during my most difficult moments, including when I was losing my hair, and in my happiest moments, like when I was done with treatment. About two months into my treatment a good friend of mine told me that she was planning to coordinate a bi-coastal walk initiative, one to be held for my family and friends in LA, and the other for family and friends in New York. Choosing Sharsheret as the beneficiary of our fundraising efforts was easy for us. Sharsheret had been there and continued to be there in the best and the worst of times for me. When my friend told me the walk in New York would be in November, I dreamt of the idea of attending. All I needed was permission from my oncologist. I told my Sharsheret counselor that I had thought of coming to the walk in New York with the permission I needed. The first thing she said was that if I was allowed to go she would be there, too. Now, that is support. I was lucky to be given permission to go and spend time with friends and family in New York, and attend the walk. There were over 200 people walking and running with us.
Sharsheret has been there for me in the best of times and worst of times and has truly made this experience so much easier for my family and me. From the peer supporter Sharsheret put me in touch with to my many conversations with the support team; Sharsheret has been there through it all. I finished treatment at the end of September and have since been considered in remission. Thanks to Sharsheret I know that I have them to fall back on for whatever I may need no matter how grim the circumstance. Sharsheret taught me to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
To view the full presentation, click here.