August 18th, 2008 is a day I will never forget. A day that will forever be burned into my mind. The day I first heard the words, “Sasha, its cancer.” At the time, I was a 31 year old, single mum with three beautiful boys, Samuele (7), Sebastian (5) and Stefano (2). I sat there in complete disbelief and thought to myself it had to be a mistake, I felt fine and I did not have time to be sick. I needed to be a mother and I had things to do. Then, instead of those things that I loved to do, my life became a whirlwind of appointments, meetings and those terrible moments when I had to tell those that I loved that I was sick and see their heartbreak and have my own heart break all over again. I was told it was a rare form of small cell cancer called Adenocarcinoma Small Cell Neuroendocrine, which is normally only found in the brain or lung. I have always been special, one of those people who does not do things by halves, and well, it seemed my cancer was going to be the same.
I listened to the doctors odds; I listened to the gloomy predictions that I would not survive the year. I had my treatments at Peter Mac Hospital, a place where I still spend lots of time to this day. I think I know more about SCCC than some of the doctors there these days! I endured five rounds of chemo, each one lasting for three days, as well as 42 fractions of external pelvic radiation (1 per day) and 4 internal radiations. I spent most of this time in the hospital, away from my kids, my family and my friends. I was in extreme pain and was fighting for my life. I was sick on a daily basis, had absolutely no appetite and barely had the energy to function. Cancer is not pretty. On the 6th of January 2009, I found a new favourite word: REMISSION! It was over now? Yes? NO. Before I could really celebrate, they discussed the need for prophylactic whole brain radiation to prevent central nervous system metastasis from forming. This commenced in March 2009, and I had treatment on a daily basis for about a month. This stuff made the first stuff look like a picnic but, again I just kept swimming on and out the other side.
On August 8th 2009 I received the BEST news!! I had all clear scans. I was cancer free. It is now 2019, I am in my 11th year since diagnosis, I have lived at least 10 years longer than those doctors thought I was supposed to and I love those years. I am looking forward to next 10 years and the 10 after that will be pretty great too. I am here with my boys, who are now young men and I am here to watch them grow. Watch them discover the world and to share it with them. I will see them fall in love, marry and I have definite plans on being an amazing Nonna one day. The four of us now live with my parents and together the six of us continue on, defying the odds and loving a life worth remembering.
I am not the same person I was before cancer and I carry the scars. I have side effects from the brain radiation (which in hindsight they have said they think I didn’t really need…whoops), have lived through blot clots, radiation damage, Addison’s disease, sarcoidosis and lymphedema and I have broken every milestone that the doctors said I would not. My mind is not what it was and I can be a little like Dory, well a lot like her actually. I have also changed in good ways, ways that I am proud of. I have learnt that tomorrow will be a better day (even when it sucks) and I am the master at finding a silver lining. I have realized that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought. I am alive and not just going through the motions and I will live on and fight on every single day. I laugh, I love, I NEVER miss a checkup, and I hope that every woman (or man) that reads this will do the same.
I thought I was alone in my battle for so long until a 5 years ago at 2am I typed into Facebook “small cell” and I discovered I was not alone. I found my cancer sisters. They are my sisterhood and we fight together. I am no longer alone in our fight. We understand each other on a level others do not. Our hearts break with sad news and we have joy for the good. We are Rare but There….