Life After Cancer

A young cancer survivor reunites with the doctor who saved and changed her life.

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I figure it took about 10 seconds. Ten seconds back in 2017 for a doctor to tell me that what I had previously been told was a cyst or a swollen ligament was actually cancer. Ten seconds for a life packed with plans and upcoming adventures to get turned upside down. After a few days in the St. Michael’s Hospital’s Emergency Department, I found out I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and the treatment was aggressive chemotherapy. I was 25 years old, and my life as I knew it stopped in its tracks and changed forever.

Chemotherapy is a challenge I would wish on no one. In my case, it was four months of headaches, nausea, hair loss and pure exhaustion. I remember counting the minutes each day, and telling myself to just get to the next day, the next treatment. I felt like I was hanging on by a thread. I made it through in large part because of St. Michael’s Hospital and the incredible care and kindness of Dr. Martina Trinkaus. St. Michael’s is the most supportive place to undergo such a traumatic experience. They care for you and your family when you are at your most vulnerable – and do so with compassion and warmth. And as for Dr. Trinkaus, she’s one of the most amazing women I know.

In March of last year, I was pronounced cancer-free.

After I completed my treatment at St. Michael’s, with the support of friends and family and thanks to a great cancer doctor at a great cancer hospital, I was ready to resume the life I had put on hold. And I have. Cancer changes your perspective on life, and I am doing many things differently now. One of those things is doing my very best to help other young cancer patients and support them through their treatment experiences and entry into survivorship. I work with many of Dr. Trinkaus’ younger patients and find it so rewarding to be able to take the traumatic experience that I had – and use it to help others.

Now I’m a more confident version of myself. I’m more willing to be bold in the choices I make. I’m living a life that I am proud of. The support, care, and kindness I received at St. Michael’s saved my life, and I will always remain grateful to the community of donors who made that possible. Thank you.

Joanne is a historian and PhD Candidate at Queen’s University. She is the founder of Livy Consulting, a freelance writer, and a sought-after public speaker – delivering keynotes on surviving cancer, helping loved ones through a health crisis, and on topics related to her research and business.

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