My Jasper Story: Danielle
Danielle, a licensed mental health therapist who uses her counseling practice to provide support to fellow cancer patients and their families, shares her experience with colon cancer and how she found support with Jasper.
I first started experiencing symptoms in 2018. I was having stomach pains and although I kept feeling the urge to go to the bathroom, nothing would happen. My husband finally insisted I check it out with the doctor.
When I met with my primary care provider, she listened carefully to the symptoms I was having. Although I had been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) a few years earlier, she noted that a few of the symptoms I mentioned could be a sign of something else, so she referred me to a specialist.
After speaking with the specialist, he diagnosed me with pelvic floor disorder but recommended getting a colonoscopy and endoscopy regardless. I agreed and in the meantime familiarized myself with the signs of pelvic floor disorder, which aligned well with what I was experiencing.
We scheduled my colonoscopy for New Year’s Eve, when my husband was able to take me to and from the procedure. When I woke up, my doctor told me I had cancer. I was in shock.
How I Found Jasper
I came upon Jasper on my social media feed. Because I follow different people in the cancer community, I always take note when someone shares something that looks like it could be helpful or supportive. When I looked into Jasper, I loved the idea of having a central database of all the topics that might be important to me.
I’ve found that when it comes to cancer education, a lot of the articles tend to err on the side of unnecessary information. I’m not a doctor, and a lot of the people living with cancer aren’t doctors, and yet many of these articles are written as if they were intended for medical readers. I’ve greatly appreciated how informative and digestible the Jasper articles are for the average person. I’ve particularly enjoyed the articles on nutrition and mind and body wellness.
I had my first surgery at the end of February 2019, during which I had an ileostomy that my surgeon said I would need for six weeks or until I was healed. Then I learned that my cancer had spread to nine out of twenty-three lymph nodes and that I would have to undergo chemotherapy.
I began my first round of chemotherapy in April 2019, which consisted of twelve rounds over six months. In September 2019 I finished chemotherapy and two months later I had my colostomy reversed, after which I was officially declared NED.
Unfortunately, scans done in February 2020 showed signs of growths in my liver, which turned out to be the same type of cancer they had found in my colon. They put me on six weeks of what I call the “high-test chemotherapy,” which happened to coincide with the emergence of COVID and the first pandemic lockdowns. My kids were home from school and my husband was working reduced hours all while I was undergoing treatment.
Though the tumor did shrink after chemotherapy, I went in for surgery in June 2020 to have it removed. Then my surgeon gave me the all-clear and my oncologist put me on the oral form of chemotherapy, which unfortunately caused some really terrible side effects.
Two months later, additional scans showed a lesion on my liver and nodules on my lungs. My doctor told me that even though they were too small to determine whether or not they were cancer, he didn’t want to wait to find out, so he recommended that I go back on IV chemotherapy. I trusted him completely and followed his advice.
Later, I thought it would be a good idea to get a second opinion, so I made an appointment at Moffitt Cancer Center. During my appointment, I learned that the growths in my lungs had grown and that I had stage four metastatic lung cancer. He told me I had three years to live.
Confronting a diagnosis like mine is incredibly difficult, but I’m grateful to have the support of my family, doctors, therapist, and Jasper. At times, I find using humor can be a great tool to approach some of the more difficult and frustrating realities.
I’m fortunate in that, so far, the side effects of my treatment have been manageable and that I’m still able to work and do a lot of the things that I love. Even as a cancer patient, I take pride in my health. The fact that I’m able to continue living my life gives me hope for the future. Interestingly, probably 99% of the people who know me don’t know that I have cancer.
Understandably, I have days when the reality of my diagnosis hits me hard. On those days, I cry and get really upset. But I’ve found that allowing myself to have those feelings helps me to avoid letting them take over my mind. And though toxic positivity isn’t helpful, focusing on the ways in which I can improve my quality of life has been really meaningful. Jasper plays a small but important role in helping me to improve the quality of my day-to-day life.
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