My cancer journey so far

By Grace Chantiam

2020 was one of the worst years of my life! I turned 40 (haha!) in January and then we headed into Covid lockdown in March. My wedding was cancelled in May (due to Covid) and then I started not feeling great. I started to notice that I was bleeding in-between periods and after sex. I knew something didn’t feel right so I made an appointment to see a doctor. We did an array of tests and an ultrasound located a mass on my cervix. Through more additional tests, I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Cervical Cancer in August. I had no idea about Cervical Cancer or HPV was – up until then, I was a healthy girl! I had kept up with my pap tests and never had any issues ‘down there’.

Besides being shocked, I was terrified to tell my family and friends and so many questions ran through my head: What would they think of me? How could I have cancer? Am I going to die? What do I do now?

I cried for an entire day before I shared the news with my immediate family. I didn’t know what to say or how to say it … but I knew that they had to know. Once I shared the news, the support and love was UNREAL! Everyone wanted to hug me (damn Covid!) and wanted to reach out and do anything to help me. I’m so grateful for all of my family and friends.

My care team at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre consisted of a radiology oncology team and a gynecology oncology team. All of whom walked me step by step and even held my hand throughout the entire process. My treatment plan consisted of 25 external radiation therapy sessions combined with 5 chemotherapy sessions (Cisplastin). I also had 3 internal radiation/brachytherapy sessions. I was lucky that I was prescribed the right “party-mix” of medication to assist me with the chemotherapy side effects. I didn’t have any nausea and felt okay after each session. However, the radiation therapy knocked me out! I was exhausted and fatigued as the sessions continued. Brachytherapy was just unreal and I felt so awful after each one.

In November, only a week after my last radiation treatment, I lost my best friend and first furbaby, Sheldon. I was heartbroken and yet we just finished celebrating the end of my cancer treatment. I realized then that 2020 really sucked! However, I knew I had to keep fighting for my son, Alexander.

Many people ask me “what was the most difficult thing during your cancer journey?” It was having to tell my four year old in terms that he understands that mommy was sick – because at his age he couldn’t really comprehend. Additionally, I stopped working. I love what I do and I was trying my best to work throughout treatment. However, I had no choice to take a leave of absence because my body couldn’t take it and I needed to take the time to heal.

Many people also ask me why do you share your journey? Because I want women to know about this “silent killer” disease and know that it is completely preventable! Keep up with your pap smears, get vaccinated for HPV, trust your gut and advocate for your body. Cervical cancer is completely preventable through screening!

Following my treatment in November 2020, I had to wait until January for my follow-up scans (MRI, CT & PET scans). Unfortunately, my scans showed that I am not cancer free as they located a small mass in my iliac lymph nodes. I am currently going through another round of both radiation and chemotherapy treatment in the upcoming weeks, which I’m not looking forward to but I know this is another step of my cancer journey.

I have an amazing support system including my family, friends and colleagues at work. I’ve had an amazing experience blogging my cancer journey and I encourage you to follow my blog as I continue to my cancer journey!

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