Janice was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in December 2017, only fifteen days after turning thirty-six. For weeks prior, Janice had been feeling off. Just before Christmas, Janice had daily headaches that would turn into migraines and was extremely fatigued and had incredible pain in her feet and knees. She also found a swollen lymph node on the back of her neck. All this made her quite anxious so she went to her doctor.
Her doctor ordered some bloodwork but told her it could take awhile to get the results back. So under her doctor’s advice, she went to the ER. And from there she was transferred to a larger hospital that specialized in blood cancers. as the ER doctor was suspecting Janice had leukemia or Lymphoma.
The next day, Janice had a bone marrow biopsy to determine her exact diagnosis. She also had daily blood work and a Hickman Line placed. Chemotherapy was started and Janice spent the holidays in the hospital.
Janice received several phases of chemotherapy as the search for a bone marrow donor was underway. Once remission was attained, Janice was readmitted to the hospital and they prepared her for a stem cell ransplant. She underwent intense chemotherapy and a total body radiation.
In June 2018, Janice received a stem cell transplant. Her donor was a young man from Europe who was found through the international stem cell donor registries. When a donor is from overseas, it is required to wait two years before contact information is shared, so Janice had to wait to request that information. A couple months after making that request, her donor was able to contact her and they have been able to email ever since. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, they will need to wait until travel becomes safe again.
The stem cell transplant was the most grueling thing Janice has experienced in her life. She spent a month in the hospital suffering from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, c-diff infection, mucositis, esophagitis, exhaustion, and so much pain. She was unable to eat for days and was attached to a pain pump to help ease the pain. Janice found sleep difficult and even using a restroom was nearly impossible. Once released from the hospital, Janice spent only a few days before having to return. She was readmitted because development of graft vs host disease (GHVD) of the gut. Two years later, Janice is still dealing with the effects of chemotherapy and radiation and has lingering GVHD of the skin and lungs.
Before Janice’s diagnoses, she was enjoying her career and was trying to start a family with her husband. They had bought a house the year before. But ALL changed everything. It left her infertile, leaving them to put on hold the idea of building a family. With chemo brain, pain, and excessive fatigue, she has not been able to return to work either. Not only has she lost her ability to work and have children, she has experienced hair loss, poor eyesight and hearing. Having loss of income has also been difficult. Time stolen by cancer has also taken away her trust in her body, her health, and confidence in a future she once thought would include cradling her grandchild. She describes it all as “a rollercoaster ride through hell,” as she now fights new diagnosis of hypothyroidism and hypertension, along with the fatigue, pain, chemo brain and a shortened life expectancy.
Janice has a new appreciate for life. But also has built new friendships with other cancer warriors. She has found great support through this community of people which allows her to embrace life and find joy in every single day.
Thank you Janice for sharing your story with us. We will keep you in our prayers to find peace and healing.