4
February
#WorldCancerDay
#WeCanICan

Leslie, Puerto Rico

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My Victorious Story

My name is Leslie Rivera Quiroz. I was diagnosed with stage-4, Burkitt's lymphoma, a form of the blood cancer Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in September 2009.

My first son, Víctor, was only 5 months old at the time. He was born prematurely weighing one and a half pound when I was 28 weeks pregnant. After his birth, besides feeling depressed, I started feeling bad, though I thought it was normal to feel aches and pains after a cesarean surgery.

I went to my primary care doctor and to the ER a couple of times but they did not find anything wrong with me. The third time at a medical office, I asked for a blood test to check how I was doing. The results showed an extremely low platelet count. My primary care doctor referred me to get a CT-scan, and the results showed tumors all over my body. He immediately referred me to an oncologist.

During this, my first visit to an oncologist ever, he performed a bone marrow biopsy and guessed a preliminary diagnosis of advanced Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. That same day I was admitted to the hospital to start chemotherapy as there was no time to lose. The oncologist was very direct and told me about the side effects of chemo, including losing my hair and becoming sterile.

After an infusion of platelets, to get me ready for chemo, I started treatment with Rituxan, a drug that helps stop the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. I had immediate adverse side effects, I felt dizzy and hot, and after having to vomit and evacuate myself, I passed out. I thought I was going to die of cancer. The Rapid Response Team stabilized me, a nurse put diapers on me and I realized why people fear cancer; it means death. There I was, hooked to a machine, wearing diapers and prostrated in bed.

A few days into my treatment I decided I was going to fight the cancer; I spoke with God and abandoned myself to Him. Prayer became my source of strength.  Exactly two weeks after being hospitalized, I started losing my hair. It hurt. From a psychological and physical standpoint; I was losing... but the hardest part of being hospitalized battling cancer was that I could not see my son and having to see my mother devastated.

My treatment lasted 12 weeks. I was in the hospitalized most of the time. I spent 10 weeks isolated in the hospital with no immunity but I kept fighting. Besides an aggressive IV chemo treatment, I also received spinal chemo, six doses to be precise. Overall I got 18 blood transfusions, many units of platelets, and a wide variety of drugs. I got far more drugs than what my body could tolerate. But I was resilient and faithful, and God was holding me. Plus, my Prayer Warriors were continuously praying for my health.

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After being bombarded with chemo, I reached remission. I was weak, fragile and sick but slowly gaining my strength back. My immune system remained weak. I have received two rounds of immunoglobulin (IV IG) treatment for a total of 12 months, helping boost my immune system.

Three years after chemo I got pregnant, but the pregnancy did not progress, which was devastating. But a year after that, I was able to conceive and in November 2013, I welcomed a healthy daughter, María Victoria.

On my way to recovery, writing became a way to express my feelings and heal from that traumatic experience. I captured the details of my story in the inspirational memoir Victorious: My story as a cancer survivor, which is available on Amazon. To the fellow warriors on this journey, keep calm, pray hard and never give up.

Peace, love, and health!

Leslie

@LeslieRQuiroz