Region: Berlin, Germany
Cancer: Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma
Written by Sandra Ferreira
"Today I can do anything I wish. As they say, I am a rare case of success."
I was 17 years old when I first felt a strong chest pain and had difficulty in breathing. Three weeks later I had my diagnosis: Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, stage IV located in my mediastinum. I had the disease for at least one year before diagnosis. I remember asking my doctor how serious my situation was. He said, “I don’t know if you will turn 18.” I was scheduled to do four cycles of CHOP. I had to do eight because my cancer was highly aggressive and resistant. After each treatment I would stay one week in bed feeling sick but then I would make the most of the good days until the following treatment. I graduated high school while doing chemotherapy. I always kept positive because I had so many dreams I wanted to fulfill! I wanted to go to law school, become a lawyer and fall in love. It was not easy but after the eight cycles, I entered remission in 2000. My immune system was incredibly debilitated but I survived and I got into law school.
Just when I thought the nightmare was over, in 2001, the cancer came back. Exactly the same but more aggressive. I remember being calmer this time. I also remember seeing tears in my doctor’s eyes when he told me it was back. I was forced to quit law school. I felt like if I were in a glass house where everything was breaking. I did three rounds of ESHAP in the hospital but the treatments didn’t work. I had to start using a mask permanently to protect myself given my weak immune system. I underwent an autologous stem cell transplant. I was completely isolated in the ICU for almost one month, where I received the strongest chemotherapy that destroyed my cancer cells, but also my immune system. After the chemotherapy, I got a transfusion of my own stem cells and some weeks later I was able to leave the hospital. I felt re-born. It was hard to have my mom taking care of me again like a baby but it paid off. After many months of restrictions and limitations, I recovered. I went back to my life, to Law school, to love. Today, I am cancer free for more than 17 years old. After the stem cell transplant I was told that I would never be able to do certain things. Today I can do anything I wish. As they say, I am a rare case of success.