Click For Hope

cancer story

"I have cancer, cancer does not have me."

CancerJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story:

Hello! My name is Nicole Munoz and I am 24 years old. Recently, I have become a two-time cancer survivor. First I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, stage 3B, in January 2009 when I was 16 years old. It all began with chest pains that increased, later to find a tumor the size of a fist in my chest. After 3 rounds of intensive chemotherapy and 28 sessions of radiation, I became cancer free in June 2009. I missed the second semester of my junior year of high school, but kept up as much as I could. When my friends were prepping for the ACT’S and thinking about college, I was hoping I could have a day without feeling terrible.

Since then, I graduated high school with honors and went to college. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Clinical/Counseling Psychology in May 2014 with honors at Saint Xavier University. I also minored in Sociology. I worked in the disability field, working with both adults and children in the school setting and home setting. My last job was working as a Behavioral Health Specialist at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center for women with misc. disorders and addictions.

In late August/early September 2015, I noticed my stomach was extending and it was uncomfortable when I would lie down. When I would touch my lower stomach, it was very hard. I assumed it was some weight gain because I had to eat dinner in the diner at my last job with the residents and my activity level went down having to work 2nd shift. I decided to see my gynecologist just to make sure everything was okay.

I went to see her in late September 2015. After an internal exam, and feeling the hardness of my stomach, she told me I was 5 and ½ months pregnant. I was at a loss of words because I was on birth control, I had no pregnancy symptoms, and I was told conceiving a child could be difficult from my previous treatment for the Lymphoma. She sent me to get an ultrasound later that day to see my baby. I was 23 and pregnant, my life felt like it was turned upside down, but I also felt happy and like a miracle happened.

Unfortunately when we went to the ultrasound, there was no baby. Instead, a large mass was found that I later found out by a gynecological oncologist was attached to my uterus, bowel, and bladder. It expanded my cervix, and that is why it looked like a woman who is that far along in their pregnancy. In order to safely remove the tumor to diagnose it, I had to undergo a total hysterectomy on October 2nd, 2015. We had hopes of being able to save my ovaries to use a surrogate down the road, but we did not have the time to freeze eggs because of how rapidly the tumor was growing. The chance of ever having my own child was taken away from me at the young age of 23. I went into this surgery also hoping the tumor did not break and spread throughout my body, if in fact it was cancer. Thankfully, we were able to get the tumor out in one piece.

Unfortunately on October 9th, 2015, I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in my uterus and pelvis after being cancer free for a little over 6 years. This was not a secondary cancer to the Lymphoma, but a primary cancer that happened suddenly and out of nowhere. This is also a rare placement for Ewing’s Sarcoma; my doctors could not find literature on a case like mine going back 50 years. It was so rare that a medical journal was written on my case. I come from a town that was known to have contaminated water for over 20 years, resulting in many of the residents getting cancer. From the details of my illnesses, it looks as if these environmental factors played a role in developing these cancers.

Treatment for the Sarcoma called for 17 rounds of chemotherapy that took about a year to complete. I began my first treatment on October 26th, 2015 and each round of chemotherapy required a hospital admission for constant fluid hydration. After 17 rounds and hospital admissions, some setbacks and extra admissions for fevers, and a sepsis scare, I became cancer free for the second time on October 3rd, 2016. Chemotherapy was very intense for me since this was my second cancer. This cancer was much different than the first. I was lucky enough to have a great team of doctors of many specialties to help with everything that affected me. Even though I am done with treatment, you do not go back to “normal” the day after. You go into recovery and that takes time, effort, and a lot of strength and energy. Each day I wake up I tell myself it gets better each day. Yes it hurts to walk and bend because all my muscles are recovering, but I know I have to work through the pain. I am on the road to recovery!

How has your story shaped who you are today?: 

My story has shaped me into a stronger, more appreciative person. I thank my cancer; although it caused pain and sadness, it also gave me courage, beauty, and appreciation for being alive. It helped me realize I have a purpose in this life and I want to help other young adults facing cancer.

What compelled you to share  your story on our blog?: 

I think my story can help other young adults with cancer as well as help me. Even though I am in remission, it still helps me when I find new outlets of support and make new relationships with others who simply get it.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

 For anybody newly diagnosed with cancer, let your emotions come out. Be sad, be angry, cry, do what you need to do. Then stand tall and say, “I have cancer, cancer does not have me.” That was my words to live by, and it is great to change it to “I HAD cancer, cancer NEVER had me.” Know that you have many support systems. Do your best to stay positive. Cancer changes your life, but make sure to have fun and try new things. For example, I would have never done a photo shoot until getting diagnosed again. You are going to be okay. Make yourself known. I am doing everything I can to get my name out there to spread awareness. You will hear more about me, I promise you! Remember, cancer does not have you!

Climbing the Mountain called Cancer

Cancer, ClickforhopeJasmine LopezComment

Please share your story: : It started early in the summer of 2016. I was breastfeeding my daughter, Savanna and I started to have some redness and hardness in my breast. She completely refused to go anywhere near that breast, so I knew something was off. Following my husbands request, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with mastitis. I was given antibiotics and was sent on my way. This went on for a couple of months. Nothing was making it better, if anything, it was getting worse. My doctor then sent me to a surgeon-thinking there was a blockage or something that might need to be taken care of. After a couple weeks under his care, and a negative ultrasound, he said, "it should be better by now, we need to do a biopsy." In this middle of all of this craziness, I did a bit of research. I came across something called Inflammatory Breast Cancer. I fell to the floor as I told my husband about it, everything that was written on it, just fit how I was feeling and my symptoms. It was Monday, September 19 when I was at work, anxiously waiting for the call from the doctor about the biopsy results. I looked at my TimeHop for the day, and realized that 2 years ago on that date, we found out I was pregnant-after a year of trying. When I realized this, I knew the news wasn't going to be good. I felt like this was a sign from God that He sent me this baby girl to help me through what was about to happen in my life. I wanted the news to be good, but deep down, I just knew it wasn't. Then I got the call that confirmed it, "I'm sorry, it's not good news, it's cancer." I immediately called my husband hysterical, called my mom and left work to go be with my daughter and husband. The next couple of weeks were filled with appointments and scans, and they all seem to be a blur. It was the most absolute terrifying weeks of my life. My instincts were right, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer. Anyone that searches this online knows that there is nothing good about it. The stats aren't good, the prognosis isn't good, it's just not good. Every time I talked to a doctor, the first thing I would say is, I just wanna watch my baby grow up. That's all I thought about and still is. I started chemo a couple weeks after the day of diagnosis. Chemo sucks. I have really great friends and family that helped with so much during this time. I didn't feel good enough or have the energy to do some everyday tasks and they all were there for me helping. The one constant is that fiery little red head of mine. No matter how I felt, no matter how much I wanted to stay in bed all day, I had to get up and take care of her. People couldn't be with me everyday and I didn't want them to be. Savanna kept me going, I call her my little life saver. I will never be able to explain to her what she did for me. I also dramatically changed my lifestyle. From the food I ate to the products I was putting on my body. I tried to have as little stress in my life that I could. I finished chemo on January 18 and was so relieved for that chapter to be over. After the 2 chemo sessions, I really saw changes in my breast, by the end, my doctor couldn't tell that anything was ever there. It was back to 'normal', but it still had to go. I had surgery on March 1, a double mastectomy with lymph node removal and I chose not to get reconstruction. I'm so grateful to say that the cancer treatment worked. I had a PET scan before surgery that came back clear, and the pathology report from surgery came back with a complete pathological response. Hallelujah! I still have to do radiation as part of the IBC treatment protocol. I am prepping to start that next month. I have learned so much through this and I feel like I'm a different person than I was 6 months ago. I have a new outlook on life. I hate cancer, but I love what it did for me and my life. I will continue to live as healthy of a lifestyle that I can so I can do what I can to prevent this from ever coming back. Take that cancer!

How has your story shaped who you are today?: I'm a different person. I physically don't recognize the woman in the mirror, bald and boobless, but I really don't recognize WHO I am. I don't want to be the same person I was before cancer, I want to be better. When faced with your own mortality, you think very deeply about life. I appreciate everyone in my life so much more now. I'm so grateful to be alive and I never want to take advantage of being so ever again. I want to live life to the fullest. And I will.

What compelled you to share your story with us?: I was at the Beautiful event last weekend and was so inspired with all the women there to support one another. It's incredible what we can do if we all just work together and be there for one another.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: You got this! Don't doubt yourself, ever. You can do this and you will do this. It's ok to be scared, cancer is a large mountain to climb but you can do it! And you ARE beautiful, even when you don't feel so.

CanPlan is Changing the World

Inspiring Business, Cancer, Clickforhope, Inspiring FriendsJasmine Lopez3 Comments

Please share your story: : Aloha! My name is Sharon Kim and I’m just one 25 year old determined to change the way people fight cancer. Why am I spending all my days working to create awareness when the rest of society is pressuring me with bills and expectations? Because I know how much of a pain in the ass cancer can be. I know what it feels like to be lost and confused about all the medical jargons and regimes. And I don’t want anyone to have to go through what my family and I went through.

When my mom was first diagnosed with uterine sarcoma cancer back in 2014, I had no idea what the word cancer even really meant. I’ve heard it thrown around in conversations, but it’s just one of those things you don’t think you’ll ever have to come face to face with (millennial thinking I guess). I figured cancer was just a glitch in the road for my mom and she’d make it through to inspire others with her story, which is why I filmed the entire journey (You can watch the tear-jerking video at the end of this post). Well little did I know how naive my mentality was when I was thrown head first into the world of cancer, unarmed and unprepared. Right after her diagnosis, she went straight to surgery and then straight into an intensive round of chemotherapy. Everything was happening so fast that it felt like we had no other choice but to go with it. What made the whole experience even more nerve-wrecking was that we felt so distant from her oncologist. We were constantly waiting on him to give us answers or to tell us what direction we needed to go in, but it always felt like we’d walk out of her appointments empty-handed. Long story short, she successfully got through chemotherapy and we all thought this whole ordeal was over and done with... but boy were we wrong. The cancer came back three months later and it was so aggressive this time around, my mom was sent straight to hospice to pass peacefully. We got to spend another two blissful months with her, before she passed away a few days before my 23rd birthday.

Since then, I quit my full-time corporate job and decided that life is too short to work super hard for someone else's dream. I spent the next year of my life creating a revolutionary tool designed to guide patients and caregivers through the different stages of cancer. After I had my very first prototype of CanPlan, a planner made to help patients and caregivers fight cancer day by day, I set up a Kickstarter project to obtain enough funds to print the planners in bulk. Seven days before my campaign was set to end, I was 100% funded and ready to get CanPlan into the hands of those who need it the most. Since July 2016, I have been distributing CanPlan to families and hospitals all over the world. I've also overcome my fear of public speaking and have been actively sharing my story at various Relay for Life and Susan G Komen events across California. I also recently became a guest blogger for the Huffington Post.

If you'd like to watch my story in detail, here is the viral video I made that helped my Kickstarter campaign become a success: https://youtu.be/xezvOLcPe48

How has your story shaped who you are today?: As you can see, the loss of my mom took a huge toll on me. So much so that I wasn’t satisfied with just telling people I lost my mom to cancer. I wanted there to be meaning. I wanted justification for her passing. The only way this wouldn’t feel like a loss is if I turned tragedy into inspiration and used my experience to help others facing the same ordeal. I wanted to give other fighters a chance to have a different end to their story. While I was going through all of this, I felt so alone. I had no idea where to turn to for resources or inspiration and I felt like I had no one to talk to about it all. Caregiving also took up 99% of my time, so I really had no energy or time to go looking for these resources. I wish I had an all in one tool that’d provide me with a roadmap for this journey. I wish I had a planner that’d show me what types of things I should be taking notes on, what I should be keeping track of and how to best utilize all this information. CanPlan does not only that, but it also provides daily reminders for positive thinking. It tunes you into the power of the mind and helps you to take action in the here and now and not dwell on the past or worry about the future. It is everything that I could’ve ever asked for while starting my journey with cancer, and I’m so excited to see the potential impact it’s going to make on the cancer community.

A little bit more about me?

Well, let’s just say that I’m a millennial looking to actually take action in making a positive social impact. I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Oahu and graduated with a BA in Psychology, Business Management & Communications from Santa Clara University. I’m your typical Asian nerd who cares more about my GPA than my relationship status. And yes, I do take pictures of my food. I was class clown in high school so you know I’ll throw in some jokes here and there. I’m very accepting of pity laughs. I’ve worked for various start-up companies in the Silicon Valley and I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset, but I’ve always struggled to find passion in what I was doing. Getting up each morning felt like a chore and I found myself constantly waiting for the next Friday or for the next paycheck. Unfortunately, I had to come to the lowest point in my life in order to figure out what it is I truly longed to do in this world. My mom had to die, so that I could finally start living… and that is the painful truth I use as fuel to motivate me to do what I do today. I want my story to teach people that they don’t have to wait until tragedy hits to start living a life of meaning and purpose. Don’t live just to live. Find what you love and let it kill you. Stay hungry and stay curious for it. Even if you have to try and fail a million times before you finally get it right…keep going because that’s far better than living with the guilt of all the “should haves” and “could haves”. Live the best life you possibly can and take action when it comes to your passions. It’s something you will never regret, I promise you.

What compelled you to want to share your story?: I hope my story is a beacon of light to anyone going through a difficult time. After my mom passed away, my dad got remarried one month later, my sister had a mental breakdown where she had to be hospitalized, my boyfriend was abusive both physically and emotionally, I was working in a very toxic environment, and I can't even remember how many times I've contemplated suicide. I had to challenge myself every single day to focus on the smallest pockets of positivity and I had to fight to become to person I am today. Every rejection in my life was a form of redirection and I had to have faith that God's plan for my life was way bigger than the plans I had for myself. I hope to encourage and inspire people with my story and my message.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: I know, you’re scared. You’re probably absolutely terrified because you’re about to do something you never thought you’d do. You’re about to leave comfortability and embark on a journey to the unknown, relying on your own inner confidence and the support system around you to get you to finish line. You’re sacrificing not only your time and resources, but also your pride, which may be a big pill for you to swallow. All for what? The unnerving, unfulfilling answer of “maybe things will work out”. 

It’s this very idea of investing in the uncertain that stops you from chasing after your dreams. It’s the fear of judgement, the fear of leaving your safety net and the fear of the risks being greater than the rewards that makes you unpack your bags time and time again. Why are you holding on so tight to the things you’re comfortable with? Because you FEAR something so great won’t happen twice. You FEAR the disappointment that might result from the gamble. You FEAR the thought of failure.

I was right there at the starting line with you about a year ago, and let me tell you..the journey has been far from smooth. I’m averaging about 20 hours of sleep a week, I always need to make sacrifices when it comes to finances, my social life is pretty much nonexistent and the amount of times I’ve heard “no” is comparable to the amount of times Donald Trump has denied accusations against him. Every time I walk into a cafe, I’m overwhelmed with pity stares as if I’ve just survived a zombie apocalypse. It’s not flattering. It’s not pretty. And there have been so many times I’ve wanted to give up and race back to comfortability.

So what is it that gives fuel to a dream chaser? What is it that allows them to sustain the early stages of deprivation? Aside from cold hard passion, the answer is: Fear (Oh and lots of SPF, which I’ll get to later). Now I know you may be thinking, “But didn’t you just say fear was the thing that STOPS people from dream chasing?” And the answer is yes. I live to confuse. But how you perceive and harness fear will be the determining factor that separates you from the ones who can’t seem to get their feet off the platform. Ever heard of the quote by Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend?” Well, make fear your friend by using it as motivation rather than a deterrent.

Let me give you an example. After my mom passed away from cancer in 2014, I found myself spending lots of time at her graveyard. The souls of the deceased seemed to cling onto me as I wandered through the valley, painting images in my head of what their lives on earth were like. It was the words engraved on a rather dull looking tombstone that filled my heart with sadness. Words I knew I’d carry with me for the rest of my life. It read: “Regretting all the ships that never sailed”. 

Ever since that day, I was convinced that my biggest fear is living a life defined by the things I didn’t do. To go through the motions each day with no change and no improvements. To have a voice that won’t be heard. To have talents that don’t get utilized. Sure failure is scary...but it’s something I can pick myself up from. I mean, in the end maybe things won’t work out. But maybe figuring out if it does will be the best adventure ever? So from then, I told myself to just start. I made myself develop temporary tunnel vision so I could block out every single fear except for one: The fear of not living a life I was proud of.

I can’t really explain what happened next since everything happened so fast after that. I was smacked with blessing after blessing all because I was able to use that fear as the driving force for all my decisions. I guess you can also say red bull literally gave me wings since I drank it religiously to get me through the long nights. But the biggest lesson I learned from this was that starting is always the hardest part. An airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. And you can’t always wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. So start where you are because once you take flight, you never know where that wind might carry you.

So as I leave you to travel to your dream destination, I just want you to remember the three things that’ll guarantee your safe arrival: Sacrifice, perseverance and faith (SPF). You’re sacrificing who you once were to become who you want to be. You’re persevering despite your failures and doubts. And you’re learning to trust that every rejection is a form of redirection.

How can we follow stalk you on Social Media:

Website: https://mycanplan.com

Instagramhttps://www.instagram.com/canplan/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CancerPlanner/