This past year has been an interesting one, to say the least. I’m a singer-songwriter who wrote and released an album in October 2017. I thought the year was going to be an amazing one–promoting and performing–unfortunately, I performed one time and I began to literally unravel.
In December 2017, I caught the flu. Normal stuff, not too bad right? Well, about three weeks in, it got worse. It turned into walking pneumonia. Chest X-rays revealed a blood clot lodged in my right-side lung. I was coughing up significant amounts of blood and having to inject medicine into my stomach–very painful.
This was the beginning of my cancer story. After a 5-day hospital stay, three blood transfusions, and the discovery of a huge mass leading from my arm (that had grown into my rib cage region), I was told to go have a mammogram.
The test was performed, and I was told, you either have lupus, sarcoidosis or Lymphoma. I was still in shock–you know the kind of shock you have where you hear words, but you don’t really let them in to accept them–that was me.
So here I am 11 days before my birthday, walking into dinner with my dad. I see my cousin and her husband, and the doctor calls and says you have cancer while I’m being seated. We sit, and I’m trying my best to not fall apart–I needed more answers. In my mind, I said, “What! What do you mean? No, I don’t, that’s not true. What do I want to eat, nothing? I can’t eat right now.” I began to mentally calm down, “Don’t panic, it’s not true. Just act normal.” All of these things happened loudly in my mind that day: I kept my composure, barely ate, kept talking, deflecting, asking questions, etc. I know my cousin was looking at me going, “Who are you right now?” We are always joking– jerks in love towards one another. I wasn’t joking; I was actually shaking but trying to have conversations like everything is normal. However, things were everything but normal.
Over the course of having a lumpectomy (to remove the large tumor, which still hurts me to this day), a bone marrow test, and the results of testing of my entire body, I was diagnosed with CLL Leukemia, Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My doctor looked at me and was in a bit of a tizzy on how to treat me because normally you have either Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Non-Hodgkins. She is very smart, but she decided to involve colleagues for my treatment. So here I was, facing 12 rounds of chemo, being told that you need to go home with family and heal, and unfortunately, your treatment will be harsh, and it will be very difficult for you to do alone.
I was fired from my job while I was out getting one of the several blood transfusions, which resulted in having to give up my place and live with family. This wouldn’t be so bad had I not been the independent person I have always been: The type of person who taught herself how to swim, drive, cook really well, etc. I was the poster child for ‘What’s that? Oh, I can make that after watching someone else cook it or looking at it carefully.’ This woman now was losing all independence that made her who she was.
With the help of my family, I am at my last treatment on Wednesday, January 2nd. I have fought through so much. My tongue turned black, my teeth have started to lose enamel and chip off, and my gums are scarred in the front of my mouth. I have severe neuropathy in my feet and a chemo-induced hand-and-foot disease which had blisters cover them. They were so sensitive that I couldn’t hold my purse or open a door without pain. My lungs are damaged, and I’m not able to take in as much air now. I get tired and weak out of nowhere and have to lay down. Before, you couldn’t pay me to sit if I had things to do or not. I shake really bad some days like some sort of Parkinson’s thing.
Throughout my journey, even with all my disabilities now added, I know I’m an overcomer, a conqueror, and a warrior, who believes that Cancer Doesn’t Have to Be Ugly. Mental strength is and always will be your power through adversity. With one more treatment left, I AM CHANETA THE SURVIVOR. Fighting Like A Girl and Winning Like A Bad Ass Woman beating Three Blood Cancers in 2019.
Submitted December 31, 2018
This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.