Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - 32

Advocacy PROFESSIONAL HEALTH ADVOCACY
Transition from Treatment
BY RACHEL WESTLAKE
ing too much. I always
was exploring my own
health and seeking a
window to healing. I
knew I was impacted and
struggling from the cancer I had as a
teen. I did some helpful self-inquiry,
and I found some good support, but
there was a kid in me that was still
running from the pain of what I
experienced.
When I was diagnosed again
in 2015, I left California and returned
to New York to be treated
where I received care as an adolescent.
I both managed my care
like a boss and slumped into those
old coping mechanisms. This cancer
had a much more " this could seriously
take me out " feel. It wasn't easy but
I dug in and found ways to be held and
supported. I made it through chemo and
allopathic stem cell transplant. Exhausted,
and as intact as swiss-cheese.
In January of 2016 I finished radiation,
I
32
n late 2014 I had knee pain that brought me to the ground. Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma was
found in the bone marrow of both my legs.
I was already a survivor. I had cancer when I was 15, in 1995 - when choker necklaces,
chunky shoes, and thank goodness, Ani DiFranco (bald) were cool. In 2015, when I was
diagnosed the second time, my team looked back at the old pathology from 1995. They
found previously undiscovered follicular lymphoma in that earlier sample. This type can mutate
and is considered incurable. I was told follicular lymphoma could have progressed to become
the new 20-year-later aggressive cancer, but they didn't know.
After my diagnosis as a teen, I struggled. There were many years of undiagnosed PTSD due to
a lack of comprehensive support after active treatment. My medical team, the parallel support
I found, and my friends and family were wonderful, but I needed support specific to surviving
this treatment as an adolescent.
In survivorship I started helping other people navigate healthcare systems and illness. I felt
at home doing this work. Not only because I had so much personal experience but because I
loved the work, the research, the networking, the resourcing, the advocacy, helping people get
some peace of mind.
I went about my young adult life, but there were years I was detached and lacking direction.
I had some destructive behaviors that I understand now were coping mechanisms, like drinkELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
SEPTEMBER
2021
packed my bags, and hightailed it back to California.
I love New York, and " I Love Gorges "
(says every bumper in Ithaca), but I really love
the ocean. My partner, my dog, the friendships
I'd forged in my adulthood were here, on the
northern coast amongst the redwoods, egrets,
and rivers. The fear of losing more time to the
illness that already took so much was potent.
After treatment I often got the impression that
I should be living it up but didn't want to, or
simply didn't have the energy. I knew I needed
to work on healing from cancer and treatment
from many angles.
I found an incredible therapist that I could
work with consistently. I had stopped drinking
completely. Sobriety and leaning in suited
me. I began to have the emotional capacity
to value my present and future. There was
space made in my life for creativity. I sought
and found medical professionals that were a
great fit for me.
http://www.ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM

Elephants And Tea - September 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - September 2021

Contents
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - 1
Elephants And Tea - September 2021 - Contents
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