“At 17, I Was Diagnosed With Cancer”

For two years, my “normal” was going to and from the hospital for chemo once a week, visiting different doctors, and never knowing what the day would hold.

I was just 17-years-old when I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I got the diagnosis in December 2014, my senior year of school.

When I was told that school would have to be put on hold since my immune system would be too low for me to attend school, I felt lifeless. I loved school and being told I wouldn’t be able to graduate at the same time as my classmates really hit me hard. Fortunately, during the toughest part of my cancer treatment, I was given the opportunity to be home schooled for my remaining credits.

Thanks to two teachers who would come to my house when I had the strength to study, I graduated on time with my friends. In June 2015, I attended my high school graduation bald and proud. My classmates even nominated me as Salutatorian, the student who speaks at the opening of the graduation ceremonies.

A few months later, I was ready to start school in September 2016 at George Brown College for hotel management. I successfully completed my first semester and made it onto the dean’s list.

For two years, my “normal” was going to and from the hospital for chemo once a week, visiting different doctors each week, and never knowing what the day would hold. It was important for me to achieve graduating high school with my friends, starting college and even getting my driver’s license because it made me feel just like my peers.

On January 13, 2017 at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, I rang the bravery bell, which marked my last day of cancer treatment. 

Right now, I’m taking a break from school. I’m focusing on healing from a hip replacement surgery that I needed as result of some of the medications I was taking for my cancer treatment.

My Advice for Cancer Fighters

During cancer treatment, regardless of what it might be, you lose a sense of yourself and who you are. My biggest tip to someone going through what I did would be even though you might “lose yourself” going through this, you gain a lot more. Below are some more of my tips:

  • Take advantage of the good days.
  • Don’t dwell on the bad days – always remember that it’s a bad day, not a bad life.
  • Ride out the waves. Accept the emotions as they come.
  • Allow yourself to feel down and say, “This sucks!” but you pick yourself up again.
  • Don’t stop living.
  • Your diagnosis doesn’t define who you are. 

It Takes a Village  

Something that played a significant role in my battle against cancer was attending the Look Good Feel Better workshops.

I didn’t realize what an impact the physical changes that came with cancer would have on me. But when the changes and challenges did come, I was able to accept them with a little bit of grace thanks to the tools I was taught in the workshops.

From the little things, like learning how to properly draw on eyebrows, to the big things, like knowing that I had the support of a group of women who were going through similar situations – the workshops really helped It was a safe space where I was able to be myself while going through a really difficult experience.

It may sound ridiculous, but it’s true when they say that rainbows always come out of storms.

When I look back, I realize that I’ve lived more now in these past two years than I would have had I not gone through this. I don’t know what tomorrow holds or where my life is going to take me. I’m just here to enjoy the ride and make memories along the way, just like everyone should.

Best Health Tip: June 15th is #WinkDay. For  every winking photo with the #WinkDay hashtag, $5 will be donated to Look Good Feel Better, an organization which helps women like Adriana who are facing cancer, feel more like themselves. Learn more about how you can donate and volunteer.