Here We Go

Hellooooo everyone,

If you’re reading this it means my Facebook post worked and you guys are totally interested in my life πŸ˜‰ or you care about me, or you’re bored, or empathetic that I have WAY too much time on my hands now that I’ve deferred Uni and stopped working. All my life all I’ve known how to do is write, it’s how I’ve dealt with many things including my emotions, and if you haven’t tried it please do – it’s very therapeutic. Of course writing is my passion as journalism is my goal, so it seemed only natural to start a blog.

A little bit of background, which most of you may already know, but i’ll spell it out for those who don’t or are unclear.

May 3rd 2011 I was diagnosed with Stage II Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This is a type of lymphoma – a cancer that starts in white blood cells calledΒ lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system. I found this from a lump in my neck, above my right clavical bone, around the size of a golf ball. I was fifteen years old, and had eight rounds of BEACOPP Chemotherapy and two and a half weeks of Radiotherapy. On December 5th 2011 I was CLEAR – now all I had to do was stay PET NEGATIVE (no active cancer) for five years and I had survived.

November 2015 I found another lump, this time under my jaw. I had an ultrasound and it was misdiagnosed as NOTHING. Come April 2016 the lump hadn’t left and I knew something was wrong. I demanded another ultrasound, this time it came back as abnormal. After a biopsy I was told I had Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma (cancer of the saliva gland. They contain three cellular elements in varying proportions: squamous cells, mucus-secreting cells, and “intermediate” cells.) I had a big operation where the gland was removed as well as tissue and 30 lymph nodes. The cancer had been found to have spread to the margin and 1 lymph node but it was a low grade tumour (good sign) – which meant 6 weeks of radiotherapy were in store.

I had 28 doses of every day radiotherapy for six weeks. Three weeks later another lump emerged in the exact same spot. I consulted my physio who was treating me for lymphedema (a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a the removal of lymph nodes, which normally returns interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct, then the bloodstream.) She told me this lump was not scar tissue and to see my doctor immediately. I went straight to the hospital reception, saw my doctor and he sent me for a CT scan immediately. The next day he called to say I needed a biopsy so on Tuesday I went to the hospital for that. The biopsy took forever because they were struggling to extract cells, so they made an incision in my neck and I lost so much blood I had to stay in hospital that day so they could monitor me. On that Friday I got the call that the cancer was back.

I had a meeting with my radiologist that day and he told me I had one option left; one chance. An enormous surgery where a huge chunk of flesh would be removed as well as the tumour. They’re taking out the nerve to control my lower lip on the right side and the nerve that controls my tongue on the right side (which means my smile will be crooked and I’ll have a lisp and most likely need rehab to learn to talk again properly.) I’ll also require a breathing tube in hospital and a feeding tube as my mouth will be so swollen from the surgery. Not to mention, they’re cutting my jaw in half to access it better, so I’ll have a metal plate to reconnect it all.

This was a lot to take in, and after my many years of fighting cancer, treatments and heart break I wasn’t sure if I would take this option. I felt like I had had enough, I’ve tried hard for so long, I’ve battled and remained strong and experienced so much anxiety of a relapse or secondary cancer over the last five years that maybe this was the end. Maybe the reason it kept coming back was because it was the end of my time on earth. I was only 20 but maybe this was God’s plan, and I had to stop fighting fate and let myself go. I asked if I refused the surgery how long would I have, to which he replied “only a matter of months.” There is the option of symptom care, where they medicate you to help you get through the pain as you’re dying, but even so it would be a very slow and painful death for me where the tumour would grow and grow, breaking out of my skin, and I would eventually suffocate to death (so morbid, I know!)

After a million tears, I told my family, boyfriend and close friends my dilemma. I needed to make a choice and make it quickly, because I didn’t have time to waste. On one hand, I had a big surgery to undertake which ultimately would change my life and who I am forever. I was scared of who I’d wake up being. Was my journalism career over? Who wants to see a girl with a crooked smile on their TV screens and listen to a lisp? Even if I worked in print, would someone hire me after meeting me? All I’d ever wanted to be was a journalist, who was I without my passions and my dreams? I’m a very motivated person; my whole life I’ve had my ‘eye on the prize.’ I don’t do anything mediocre; I excel in my academics, my sport and my leisure life and I always give everything I commit to my 100%. How could I wake up and now live a confused, mediocre life where I’d gone from a confident and outgoing person, to a shy and embarrassed person who feared opening their mouth, or showing their face?

Yet on the other hand, if I chose not to have surgery the death will be painful and horrible. My friends and family will have to live with the fact that I had one chance and I let it go, and maybe that one chance could have saved me. If I do the surgery and it doesn’t work I’ll die anyway, so what’s the harm in trying – I LITERALLY have nothing to lose.

So I chose the surgery, and in doing that I’d like to say I chose LIFE. If I go down after this (POSITIVE THOUGHTS It will work – I will get through this) – but if I do – I want to be remembered as someone who never gave up even in times of immense adversity. I want to beat the odds and be in that 30% who survive. And who says I can’t be? I’m young and fit and most of all I am determined. This is my fight and I’m taking charge now.

So I’ve had loads of people messaging me, calling me and asking me for updates DAILY (because you’re all so supportive!) and I thought why not blog? I’ve never been an overly private person, I’m not afraid to talk about my fears or my adversities. So if you want to have a little look at what I’m going through or just keep up with my progress, this blog is here. It’s therapeutic for me, and it’s keeping you guys all in the loop about me and my fight. I’ve named the blog ‘Today We Fight’ after my faaaaaavourite quote by Jim Beaver.

β€œToday we fight. Tomorrow we fight. The day after, we fight. And if this disease plans on whipping us, it better bring a lunch, ’cause it’s gonna have a long day doing it.”

A little note to sort of put out there to find a good thing out ofΒ a dark placeΒ would be me warning you guys to PLEASE always check your bodies. Don’t think that because you’re young and fit and healthy that you’re immune to diseases. Cancer isn’t the only big, bad, scary thing out there that you can find either. Please look for lumps, and keep on top of your symptoms. If you have a nasty and recurring cough or cold, see your GP and don’t take no for an answer. Same goes for unusual feelings of tiredness, soreness, etc. Symptoms that ‘could be nothing’ aren’t always nothing, and you want to get on top of them as fast as possible so that you still have options. In saying that don’t be paranoid and live your life in fear, just be aware and mature about the situation. Your body is your responsibility. πŸ™‚ Take my situation as your inspiration to always be alert and take care of yourselves.

 

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31 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex says:

    Wow inspiring stuff, so brave. just wondering if there was signs of abnormality on the first ultrasound picked up would it of affected your chances dramatically?

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    1. jessicaleaxx says:

      Possibly! It may have meant the cancer wouldn’t have spread to the tissue and lymph nodes so I may not have needed radiotherapy. But I can’t be too sure – my radiologist thinks that the tumour was growing slowly for about two years before it surfaced.

      Like

  2. Jake Ford says:

    Jess, this is the most inspiring, strong hearted thing I’ve ever read! You truly are an inspiration to so many people young and old!! I wish you all the best with your fight!!! One little saying I’ve learnt not too long ago regarding football is that “there is no such thing as a 50/50 contest to the ball, if you have the will power, you will make the contest 51/49 or 60/40 and you will win that contest”. Same applies to your situation!! I believe you have the heart, the head and the will power to turn that 30/70% chance around to a 70/30 or even a bloody 100% chance!! You are one tough girl Jess and you will beat this. All the best champion xxx

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    1. jessicaleaxx says:

      Thanks Jake that’s such a good quote πŸ™‚ Sometimes statistics are with old people and people who are already sick so you can’t always rely on them thankfully they aren’t always fair. Plus the radiation was 80% meant to work and it didn’t, so anything can happen, this time hopefully in my favour πŸ˜‰

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  3. Kylie says:

    Jess you beautiful strong fun loving girl. I know you have an amazing family and friends that are there and support you but if you ever need anything you know where to find me. Sending you lots of love and support

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  4. Jake Ford says:

    Yeah that’s true!!! You’re Definitely in my thoughts bud πŸ™πŸ» your attitude towards the whole thing is well beyond your age πŸ™ŒπŸ» Stay strong Jess and make cancer your bitch πŸ‘ŠπŸ»

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  5. lyn franklin says:

    You are so young and yet so old. Your wisdom, strength and positivity can only inspire. …..your writing may be therapeutic, but it’s so moving it can only help other cancer patients.. ….someone like you is needed on this earth, so I pray this is where you stay…….my arms are wrapped around you, my heart is with you and whatever strength I have I send it to you. ……..if another nana’s love can help , you have it , beautiful girl……I have only known you, mum and Emily for a short time but three gorgeous, fun filled girls, I love. …..all this comes from within. ……..and that will not change…….go get it Jess……slay this dragon.!!!!

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  6. Jelena says:

    Ever since you decided to make the status on facebook about what is currently going on with your health, you have not left my mind Jess.

    Your determination, bravery and intuition is truly astounding.

    I am looking forward to reading your blog posts to see how well you recover and come out on the other end. My mum and I have prayed for you every night and will continue to until you are in the all clear.

    I have known you only quite briefly just through work but your will to survive and make the most of your life is so inspiring!

    I wish you all the best darling! X

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  7. Jenene Ireland says:

    Hey Jess
    Words I can not find
    For you have such a strong mind
    For this life we have to live
    Move over cancer we will not give
    And now it’s time to take control
    For at it’s end
    I will still be whole

    Go get em Jess
    We love you
    Jenene xx

    Like

  8. Brittni says:

    I don’t know you but from this read you sound like an amazing, brave, young woman. Congratulations on making your big decision and goodluck with this next big step. Wishing you all the very best and I will be following your journey with all the best thoughts and hopes for you and your family my dear ❀️ You’re beautiful

    Like

  9. Sienna says:

    Love you Jess ❀️

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  10. Helen Coates says:

    Oh Jess,you are amazing!You totally touched my heart and so many others i am sure.Stay strong you Beautiful,intelligent ,young woman.I will follow your progress and sending loads of love and positive vibes your way!My name is Helen and i went to school with your Aunt Lindy whom is soo proud of you and rightly so! Take care my love and all the very best! XOX

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  11. Jackie says:

    Wishing you every ounce of good luck for your journey, your positivity radiates through and I think you’re going to inspire a lot of people on your way. And do you know what, you’ll still be beautiful, differences create character. I’d take character over ‘bland’ and ‘perfect’ any day xxx

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  12. Marc Williams says:

    Very well written Jess, even ignoring the dramatic circumstances. I have a particular interest in journalists that can write clearly on topics of great importance, with impact and are able to resonate their story with people. I am not interested in the news models that can read a script. Reading your stuff reminds me of the former variety.

    You are a journalist already, this fact jumps out of every page and makes you know and feel something beyond the really difficult circumstance you are facing. It’s a rare talent to be in a war zone or similar and be able to convey more than just a report on what is happening.

    Keep writing, you’re great at it. We’re all willing you through this but I now you have to face it and you’ve been doing that with amazing strength and grace. You deserve to get through this, we need your writing skills and your humanity.

    Love

    Marc

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  13. Jess you have a gift with writing , unbelievable you are and thank you for doing this as yes we want to be with you every step of the way and through this we are. That is the best quote too.
    You fight lovely as we want to keep reading about you and you’re NOT turning off this highway yet. Jess my dad was told 30% chance and he was such a positive man and stayed positive for another 14yrs. Yes I know it’s easy for us to say but it takes special people to be able to do this and that is someone like you. Love you Jess you are our champion. Xx

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  14. Sheree Castle says:

    Jess u are such a beautiful strong girl and u have an amazing supportive family. My thoughts are with u and ur family and have been from the start stay strong beautiful xxx
    The Ireland and Castle family xxx

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  15. Chris Boothman says:

    You’re such a strong girl Jess! Your determination amazes me! Stay positive and stay strong! You can beat this once and for all! Love ya cuz! xo

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  16. John konnecke says:

    Wow young lady you are someone to inspire to,love your theory and you just passed the interview to being a journalist who wouldnt employ you as Bob Hawke once said if you dont your a BUM good luck in the future prayers coming your way

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  17. David Konnecke says:

    Jess you are an incredible young lady with a wonderful attitude. I think Rod Boothman summed it up on his face book post where I found this blog. Say positive and best of luck. xx

    Like

  18. Jill Boothman says:

    My beautiful niece Jess, you would have to be the strongest person I know, you have all the determination, strength, courage along with love and support from all of your family and friends to help you over this next hurdle. You are constantly on my mind and I am sending you lots of love and healing.
    Stay strong gorgeous, and ” Today we fight” πŸ’•πŸ’–πŸ’•πŸ’–πŸ’•

    Like

  19. Danielle Cush says:

    You’ve got this! Amazing words and I am a believer in positivity and happiness being one of the best medicines. I’m sending you a big dose xx

    Like

  20. Allison Diomis says:

    Jessica, You truely are an inspiration to anyone that reads your story !!! You are young, fit and positive with so many praying for you right now , you have to beat this shit thing called cancer!! All the best for a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing you back on the Physie floor soon ❀️

    Like

  21. Catherine says:

    This was the same diagnosis as the triathlete who just competed at Rio https://www.thesun.co.uk/living/1654546/inspiring-athlete-overcomes-cancer-diagnosis-to-compete-at-the-rio-olympics/ – sending you strength and prayer. Fight on x

    Like

  22. Your friend says:

    a hero…
    is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles…

    Like

  23. Jenny King says:

    Well written Jess you definitely have a talent for writing. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you come to terms and deal with this. Best wishes Jenny King xx

    Like

  24. Karen Gallagher says:

    Jess I have known you since I taught you in pre school. You were always an amazing little girl. You are truely an inspiration . I know you have got this. You are strong, positive and courageous. You have grown into a beautiful young lady. Your Mum should be so proud.
    I know you have an amazing support team. Keep writing you are already on your way to a big future. Sending hugs and love to YOU Mum and Em. Xxxx

    Like

  25. Lindy says:

    Jess luv u and are sending out positive thoughts to you. You are one awesome young lady. Fight the good fight. πŸ’–πŸ’•πŸ’–πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

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  26. Christine Bernasconi says:

    Jess,
    I only know of you from your Dad – my husband is a friend of his…
    I’ve just read your blog and already know you’ve got this. I can see it in your eyes, hear it in your words and most of all I can feel it in your heart…
    I’ll be following this blog and sending my love and strength to you…

    love chris xxx

    Like

  27. Alison Ioannou says:

    I’ve just finished reading your blog Jess…you are one amazing person and an inspiration to everyone around you. We will be praying for you throughout this journey you’re about to embark on and following your blog so that we can share your joy when you beat this. Lots of love sweetie xox

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  28. Deb Macgregor says:

    Jess u are a remarkable person with such strength and courage .never give up u can beat it I will keep u in my prayers and may the angels watch over u my love.

    Deb Mac xx

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