October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and Liver Cancer Awareness Month. Cancer… the worst thing that ever happened to our family. My Ma won the battle but lost the war. She died cancer free after 7 years but the treatments were too much for her body. Nothing in our lives have been the same since. How did cancer change your life? Let’s talk about it…

Barbara Carleton: “I was in cancer treatment or post-treatment for 15 years straight. It would be difficult to say how my life would have played out if I had never had cancer, but I do know that that experience gave me more than it took from me (and it took a lot, my breasts, my marriage, and more). It changed my life because it changed me. I was 38 with two young children and a husband when first diagnosed. I had goals, dreams, plans. I am now 65 with two adult children and two grandchildren and the ‘love of my life’ (not the aforementioned marriage partner).I still have goals, dreams, plans.But now I also have a deeper realization that life is not contained in what I can imagine but is actually a much greater potential experience than my imaginings can formulate. Anything can happen. And so much more has happened than I ever thought possible at age 38.”

Jane Hope: “I was born in China. My father was a smoke addict. He smoked almost everywhere and anytime. I hated him and his cigarettes. I did not know that one day his smoke would lead to lung cancer in my mother. My mother was found with lung cancer shortly after I found my first job. We had plans to travel around the world, but now I am just trying to figure out how I can help her; how can her cancer be cured and what should I do to make more money? She is my only love in the world. I can’t lose her.”

Nesterenko Anastasiia: “I didn’t have cancer myself, but both my aunt and my mom did. My aunt had bowel cancer when I was a kid, and I remember taking care of her and making her soup. Sadly, she passed away from it. What hurt even more was that my family kept this secret from me for two years.This was the first time I realized that people we love can die, and that my mom could keep such a big secret. Later on, my mom got cancer too. I saw her lose her hair, wear a special device to collect lymph, and struggle because my dad had left us. She was often sick, and our relationship became strained because she wouldn’t tell me the truth about her condition. All of this pushed me to learn as much as I could about cancer, to understand it better. I also realized that I might be at risk of getting cancer myself because of my family history. So, I started studying everything I could find about cancer, taking online courses, and it became a big part of my life and career choice. My aunt’s memory is still with me, and it’s a constant reminder of why I’m so passionate about fighting cancer.”

Ward Chartier: “Interesting question since for the past few years I have been engaged in significant personal change after my cancer experience. For a long time, I worked in manufacturing operations management, but between 2009 and 2013, I had to deal with a type of cancer called diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. This involved surgery to remove a tumor, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and a stem cell transplant. The whole thing cost about $550,000, but luckily, my insurance covered most of it. During my recovery from the stem cell transplant, when my immune system was practically at zero, I had a lot of time to think about my life. I decided to do three things: consult, give guest lectures at universities, and volunteer with cancer patients. I did this for a while, but over time, my interest in consulting and lecturing faded.In 2018, I moved to Malaysia and began volunteering at a cancer center in a hospital. I also took a seminar to improve my ability to help cancer patients. I’ve made some big changes in my life; I got rid of most of my work-related stuff and learned to let go of professional habits that didn’t help me in my new role. I’ve become more empathetic, and I’m trying to use less harsh language. I’m looking forward to completing more levels of the seminar. While I do have some lingering side effects from my cancer treatments, they don’t significantly limit me. I can’t climb ladders, for example, but overall, I wake up happy and stress-free every day.”

Deborah Elizabeth Finn: “One thing that changed my life after I was diagnosed with cancer was the realization about how I felt about death. It became clear that I was afraid of the process of dying, rather than of being dead. Somehow, at some point, I had made peace with the fact that I am mortal – even though I felt a lot of fear about being in pain or surviving with a very poor quality of life. I had some really good conversations with my physicians and some close friends about my intense fear of heroic measures and of being kept alive in a vegetative state. Fortunately, I live in a jurisdiction that allows me to select a medical proxy, and I keep the paperwork up to date. My medical proxy has the legal right to veto any heroic measures to keep me alive, and he doesn’t have to wonder what I would have wanted him to decide. Before each major surgical procedure, I have told him clearly (and in front of witnesses) that he has my full confidence in deciding to take me off life support, if he decides that there’s no hope of a decent quality of life. The realizations about exactly where my fears lay, along with the candid conversations with people I trust, were direct results of a cancer diagnosis. And they definitely changed my life.”

Scarlett Trillia: “At 16, I started using hormonal contraceptives to avoid pregnancy. After a trip to Europe, I noticed unusual belly growth, but didn’t think much of it. I experienced pain in my pelvic area and digestive issues, but didn’t see a doctor. One day, severe pain sent me to the ER, and I was told I was pregnant with complications. Surgery revealed a tumor that was surgically removed.I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called dysgerminoma originating from my ovary germ cells. I underwent tests and monitoring for years. However, it turned out I wasn’t actually pregnant but had a tumor producing a pregnancy hormone. Years later, I faced abdominal discomfort and irregular periods. An ultrasound showed a mass in my pelvis. I struggled to get a clear diagnosis and faced financial and immigration issues. My symptoms improved temporarily, but I later discovered a mass had grown. After surgery, I found out it was cancerous. The recovery was painful, with complications. I started chemotherapy and lost my fertility. Despite the challenges, I appreciate life and focus on healing. I remain positive and trust in my treatment. Today, I’m grateful for my health and the perspective I’ve gained through this journey.”

Shubham Chauhan: “My mother was hospitalized on July 25th, 2018, after a long battle with cancer that had begun in 2014. The doctors proposed inserting a tube into her lungs to remove accumulated fluid, with the hope of relieving her breathing difficulties. However, her condition suddenly worsened, leading to her admission to the medical ICU. Doctors let us see mom. My mom wanted to say something to us but the doctors didn’t allow to take off her oxygen mask but we understood from her gestures that she was saying that she could not breathe and telling dad to do something and to save her. The doctors said this was the end. Her heartbeats were 180-190 per minute ( like a person running). Now the question was how long can a person run? There was not even a single part of her body which was not cut. Hands , legs , breast, neck ,lungs ,heart every part was affected either by cancer or by chemo. She died that day. I promised my mom that I would always make you proud and be a good person by helping others. I ask all of you , please respect your parents and don’t ever take them for granted. Spend more time with them. Go out with them. Take pictures, make videos, make memories because one day those will be the only things you will be left. I can’t cry in front of my dad and sister so I wrote this answer so that I can distract myself from all the negative thoughts and always feel positive after looking at this.”