Steinberg, Rachel – Surviving Mesothelioma

Steinberg, Rachel

I am in charge of my life. About a year and a half ago I started experiencing excruciating pains. They started in my upper abdomen. Slowly they worked their way down. I tried to ignore them. The pains just would not go away. Finally, I confided in my parents. They took the matter lightly. I thought they out of all people would understand, but they did not. My mother would try to give me home remedies. The pains got so bad that I could not concentrate on school, and it was interfering with my life. First, my mother took me to urgent care. The doctors did not help. They tried diagnosing me with excess gas and lactose intolerance. I knew they were wrong. So my family and I tried again. This time my mother graciously took the time out of her schedule to make an appointment with the family doctor. The family doctor, a woman who was very intelligent, still could not find the culprit of my pains. Finally, she recommended me to see my gynecologist. A couple tests later and appointments down the road, my gynecologist diagnosed me with cervical cancer.

Sadness and fear overwhelmed me. Nobody in my family knew how to deal with cancer. For months I could not face anybody and tell them my horrible secret because one, I did not need the sympathy vote; and two, they would not truly know how to comfort me. I felt that either way I lost. My gynecologist suggested different treatments. She did not want to resort to surgery—even though that is what it looked like the end result would be. She offered to wait first to see if my immune system would fight it off. If that would not help then maybe we could take more serious steps in removing the cancer and making sure it did not come back. For months, I sat hoping that my immune system would fight the disease off. To be truthfully honest, I wanted her to cut out the lesion dwelling in my cervix. Every night I would cry to sleep. And though she tried to comfort me with the commonness of the cancer, it did not make the pains fade away. The first months were the primary stages of trying to overcome my cancer.

Eventually, I started to realize that I needed to take my life into my own hands. I sought guidance from my closest friends. One of them was my mother’s closest friend, Ana, who was herself battling cancer. She had survived eight other cancers—the first beginning at the breast. Soon cancer consumed her whole body. Her face was paralyzed from cancer eating away her nerves, and doctors notified her that she would only survive a year or so once the cancer reached her bones. She was my idol, my survivor.

Together we researched every opening option there was before reaching a final decision. I asked my gynecologist with a couple other doctors how to avoid surgery. I wanted to live out the healthiest lifestyle and be independent. To avoid at best from the lesion spreading I would have to steer clear of cigarette smoke, adapt to a better eating style, and training to be in physical great shape. These three things would be the base in building a stronger immune system. Most of all, I needed to be mentally in great shape.

Instead of letting cancer hold me back from living life, it’s made me strive harder to becoming educated and experiencing more. I don’t let it impede me anymore. It’s somewhat of a platform that I construct my future off of. In college, I entered the medical field at first to help others. But more than anything now that I have been a victim of cancer myself and going from doctor to doctor being diagnosed repeatedly, I have decided to take matters into my own hands. I want to be a doctor, not merely to help others, but to contribute something more to their lives. I know how it is to not be satisfied with results that doctors give patients because I have been in the patient’s shoes. I want to achieve something greater. I want to find ways in curing cancer and properly treating patients without resorting to extreme measures such as chemotherapy and radiation. Just as my mother’s friend, Ana, who survived cancer countless times again and again, I feel like I have become another survivor. And to this day, I still have not had surgery.

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