My name is Jessica Olson & somehow you’ve found my journey.
I was like any other ordinary little girl until I turned 15 and was diagnosed with Stage II Nodular Sclerosing Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This is a type of lymphoma – a cancer that starts in white blood cells called lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are part of the immune system.
I found this out from a golf ball sized lump in my neck, above my right clavical bone, and had 8 rounds of BEACOPP Chemotherapy and 2.5 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, 4.5 years later, 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.) Mucopeidermoid carcinoma contains three cellular elements in varying proportions: squamous cells, mucus-secreting cells, and “intermediate” cells. It’s considered aggressive.
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 which meant 6 weeks of daily radiotherapy were in store.
Three weeks later another lump emerged in the exact same spot. I consulted my physiotherapist who was treating me for lymphedema (a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a the removal of lymph nodes.) 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 wanted to remove the nerve that controls my lower lip on the right side and the nerve that controls my tongue on the right side (which meant my smile would be crooked, I’d have a lisp and most likely need rehab to learn to talk again.) They were going to break my jaw, cut it in half to access my mouth, replace it with a metal plate and remove the floor of my mouth. Due to all the damage they’d have to insert a permanent breathing and feeding tube. After all this, there was a 10% chance of survival. They’d only seen one other patient like myself in the past 5 years, he followed their advice, and he did not make it.
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.”
I wasn’t sure what decision to make but the surgery just felt wrong. I knew I wouldn’t be myself when I woke up and began to look into euthanasia & the easiest way to commit suicide, in case I no longer wanted to live the life they’d given me.
Luckily, my surgeon was away so I had a few days to decide what I was going to do. I did research into alternatives and went to a Chinese Herbalist. She told me there is no way Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine could work side-by-side. I had to make the decision, one or the other. So I made the scariest decision of my life and said no to the surgery, followed the herbalists orders and adopted a vegan, no sugar, very minimal carbs diet and added many supplements she gave me and weird concoctions people either recommended or I read about.
3 and a half weeks later I met with cannabis oil suppliers who told me all about how cannabis can cure cancer via apoptosis. I was frustrated that I was now cutting my commitment with Chinese medicine to begin another treatment, but in the days that followed my family and further research convinced me there was hope and to give t a try. There were many incredibly hard days of depression, vomiting, weight loss, sleep and one emergency room hospital visit I achieved remission for 14 months.
Unfortunately, we’re back here, as in April 2018 I’ve found another cancerous lump. A relapse of mucoepidermoid carcinoma. A second relapse. My fourth diagnosis with cancer, and my third mucoepidermoid carcinoma diagnosis.
Predictably, I am in a whirlwind of confusion. Those who know me well, know that I need answers for everything; it’s just who I am. Therefore, not having answers as to why I’m back on this journey again has just thrown me completely. I hate not feeling productive, I love to share and I love to investigate into learning new things, which for me has been the alternate side of things; learning how nature can nurture. As time has gone on, my positivity has risen and optimism is begging to take over. So I’m documenting what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, and my goal is for you, my reader, to learn from me.
- Cancer does not have to be a death sentence
- You can take control of your health
- Healing comes in many forms
- Western medicine is not the only way to heal
And I’m learning too.
I’m learning that my mind plays a big part in healing and that if I want my cells to act accordingly, I might have to tell them. I’m diving into new waters of meditation, yoga, affirmations, oracle cards and intentions.
So please, enjoy my blogs and watch me beat cancer for the fourth time, and reclaim my health through nature.