“Last night I lost the world, and gained the universe..”
Lisa Ward was diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She has successfully defeated her disease. She now runs a website by the name “World is my cure”.
She was diagnosed with Stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2009.
“ My name is Lisa and yes, I survived cancer.
When I was twenty years old I was just ending my second year of community college. I was in love and kicking ass in academics by getting a full ride to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill set up for the Fall of 2009. In April of that year, I found a large bump on my left collarbone about the size of a grape.
I went to my pediatrician who assured me this was not cancer and most likely a swollen lymph node. After taking antibiotics with no success of my new grape like bump disappearing, I was sent to a different doctor. Now at the time, I did not know what oncology was. I do not think I fully comprehended where I was being sent to that day.
As I walked out of the elevator I saw a sign that read “Pediatric Child Cancer” with an arrow to the room I was expected to enter. Things happened pretty fast after that. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Stage 2A. In other words, this means my cancer had spread to two places and I had no symptoms.
At twenty I went into survival mode for the summer of 2009. My mother moved back to New York from Atlanta to take care of me and my boyfriend at the time would stay over a lot while his mother stepped up as my home care nurse. I had a few more classes to finish at my local college before I could move on to UNC in the fall. School made me feel normal so I continued with my education no matter how sick or tired I became.
At this time I was undergoing chemotherapy and had a port in my arm with bandages around them. I became nauseous easily and was injected with a chemical they referred to as “red ruby” that would burn your skin if it slipped out of the needle. I was on steroids that made me gain 15-20 pounds pretty quickly. The shots I received were a slow dull pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
The day my hair fell out I bought a razor and fake brown wig from the local market in town. I even bargained the salesman down in price! As I shaved my head, a calm washed over me and an overwhelming amount of wisdom and strength appeared itself to me that I did not know existed before that moment. I sang I am every woman by Whitney Houston as I did it. Yeah…I probably looked like a lunatic to an outsider but to me I felt in control. I knew then that I would be ok. No matter what, I was going to be ok.
I finished chemotherapy and two weeks later went to Chapel Hill to start my undergraduate career studying psychology. Numerous times in the week I would board a bus to Duke Hospital at 7 AM to receive my radiation treatments. I was exhausted but it was more manageable than the chemotherapy. I made it to every class I had scheduled that Fall semester. I went into remission a few weeks before my 21st birthday.
This is where the real fun started. I did not know who I was anymore. I was “healed” on the inside but what about mentally? I questioned everything and I did not recognize myself. I felt like I was playing pretend everyday when I would step out of the shower and put my wig and sports cap over my bald head. I isolated myself from making new friends for a long time because I did not want to be known as the sick girl.
Shout out to the person who saw the real me even beyond the pain I was going through at the time. You absolutely know who you are. I began to have nightmares and would overeat angry at my body for the trauma it just suffered. I even started smoking cigarettes again just because. (It is a common act to treat yourself roughly even after a cancer diagnosis because of the anger felt toward your physical being). I was up and down with my emotions which eventually led to the end of my relationship at the time as well. I would lash out at him as if his very being reminded me of cancer. I told a therapist I was suicidal.
As time went on I began to heal. I took charge of my experience and spent three years at The Leukaemia & Lymphoma Society counselling others about young adult cancer. I spoke at local schools and as a patient hero was on posters throughout Long Island. Even though this was such a positive experience for me, I still felt shame for having cancer. I believed I had bad DNA and no one would love or accept me. I decided to create a cancerversary.
Even though I technically went into remission in the month of October, I changed it to June 25th. The reason I did this was to celebrate the strength I found the day I shaved my head. This day symbolized something to celebrate. Every year I do something I have never done before. One year I went to a strip club, another Israel, had a French dinner blindfolded in the dark in NYC and this year had a party with all of my loved ones.
Today I try and live without fear. I have travelled and pushed for every opportunity I have wanted. Living without fear landed me an internship with MTV. It brought me to many parts of the world. This longing has brought me here today talking to all of you.
I have created a healing project (www.worldismycure.com) where young adults from around the world can tell their warrior stories of surviving cancer. Telling my story, putting words to paper has brought me clarity.”
Motivation to fight cancer
“My biggest motivation is being able to reach out to other young adult cancer survivors and help them move forward from the process of patient to survivor. It can be a very confusing time and I would like to help guide others through this process. (i.e writing, travel, meditation, yoga).”
“My biggest hindrances while fighting cancer was maintaining my grades in school and finishing treatment.”
Message to other cancer patients
“Take it day by day. Love yourself first no matter what”