Hello, my name is Renee, I am 36 years old and I am a 3 year cancer survivor.
I was diagnosed at the age of 31 with Ewings Sarcoma, an extremely rare type of cancer that usually occurs in children but can occur in young adults. My tumor which was about the size of a golf ball, was located in my neck and connected to major nerves and arteries in my face. I was living in Las Vegas at the time and felt like my life was just beginning to take off. I had just been promoted at my job and was starting to travel the world when suddenly I began to experience intense pain and burning sensation on the right side of my face and losing my voice at times.
It took me over 8 months to get diagnosed. I was misdiagnosed several times, but I knew my body and I knew something was not right. I kept going and I didn’t give up until I reached a doctor who would give me the tests I needed.
I flew to California where I had some family support, to undergo a high-risk surgery to remove a portion of my tumor so that enough tissue could be obtained for a biopsy.
On December 17, 2017 three little words changed my life forever… you have cancer!. I was shocked, you never think it’s going to be you. In matter of seconds, I lost everything I worked so hard for. I had to leave my whole life in Las Vegas to move back home to California where I would undergo a very aggressive and long treatment.
My treatment was over a year and a half. 14 rounds of chemotherapy, 31 rounds of radiation and numerous hospital stays, trips to the ICU and blood transfusions because my body was so incredibly weak.
But through all that I maintained a positive attitude and leaned on my humor and the amazing support of my family, friends, doctors, and nurses who stuck with me. Without them I would not have made it.
On April 30, 2019, a day I thought would never come. I rang that belI! My treatment was complete! I was declared in remission with no evidence of cancer in my body.
I am incredibly grateful to be here today. Life after cancer has not been easy. Many cancer survivors struggle with the aftermath of treatment and how to navigate with what many call the "new normal". Even 3 years NED, I am still dealing with both physical and mental side effects that treatment has caused. PTSD, trauma, pain, and the fear that it will return are just a few to mention.
Fast forward to September of last year I decided I needed a change. I decided to move to Seattle Washington, where I have family and where I knew I could continue to have my NED monitored by a knowledgeable team.
Moving to a brand-new place has been a challenge: the weather and seasonal depression are very real, however I moved here to be closer to family.
When I arrived in Seattle, I did not realize my insurance would not cover me here, which was a huge shock and a very big issue because getting the expert care I need as I move forward in my recovery is very important.
This is where my connection with the NW Sarcoma Foundation comes in. I was in contact with Tracey, a wonderful social worker at The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance who suggested I get in touch with the NW Sarcoma Foundation because they had programs for Sarcoma cancer patients and survivors.
Through their website I was able to connect with a Sarcoma support group called Casual Chat that meets once a month, which I thought was great because it’s really nice to connect with other Sarcoma patients who understand exactly what I’m going through. The foundation sent me a wonderful care package that made me feel so welcome and I was awarded a $500 Help$ grant which I was so grateful for. The grant assisted me in paying off some of my medical bills and help with some very high co-pays which enabled me to seek mental health care.
I am very grateful to the NW Sarcoma Foundation and that's why your support this evening is so vital; they help Sarcoma patients not only survive but thrive in their lives after cancer.