Fierce, Fighting Friday
Chelsey Gomez, 31
“I started using art as a way to process what has happened to me and I have gotten an amazing response! My biggest challenge has been to accept that the old me is gone and won’t ever be coming back”
Provide a brief biography to describe your life pre-diagnosis
Prior to being diagnosed the first time I was a 28 year old mother to a 2 year old. I was working full time and trying to juggle everything. I was a workaholic to a point and at one time even worked 60-70 hours a week. I remember thinking I didn’t have time to be sick…
Did you have any symptoms leading up to your diagnosis? What led you to see a doctor?
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 2 in October 2018 and again in October 2019. My symptoms were everyday things- fatigue, itchy skin, dry cough, some shortness of breath, vertigo. The thing that ended up leading to my diagnosis was a lymph node swelled up on the side of my neck. I went to urgent care and they gave me high dose antibiotics for 2 weeks. They did nothing. My family ended up making me go to the ER where a chest X-ray showed masses everywhere in my chest. October 2019 I found that I relapsed. No symptoms.
How did hearing the words “you have cancer” make you feel?
Devastated. I had a small child who I needed to be there for. My first oncologist told me I only had 7 months to live if I didn’t start treatment right away. I have never been able to get that sentence out of my head!
What is/was treatment protocol (Western, Eastern, Integrated, or otherwise?
I had 12 ABVD chemos. 3 Brentuximab, 2 ICE, BEAM, and an auto stem cell transplant.
What do you know now that you wish you had known back then?
That it’s okay and valid to seek second opinions and not rush into treatment. I went with the first doctor who I really didn’t feel that comfortable with. Turns out he didn’t handle my case correctly and ultimately I think his inexperience led to me needing the (stem cell) transplant.
How has life changed? What has been your biggest challenge since your diagnosis?
My life is completely different now. I no longer work. However, I do run my own Etsy shop called “Ohyouresotough” and on Instagram it’s under “ohyouresotough_designs”. I started using art as a way to process what has happened to me and I have gotten an amazing response. My biggest challenge has been to accept that the old me is gone and won’t ever be coming back.
What are some advice you can pass on to someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer?
Be selfish. Don’t feel like you owe anyone an update, a text back, or to make them feel better about YOUR diagnosis.
What do you wish people knew more about when supporting a loved one with cancer? We’re there any specifically things that helped you? What have been the most helpful ways that friends and family have supported you?
That you can’t fix it. Stop trying to. We don’t want you to. We don’t want empty words either. We just want you to tell us you love us and that you’re there. Acknowledge that this situation sucks. Treat us the same as you would before we got the label of cancer patient.
How have you learned to Thrive last your diagnosis?
By sharing my art to make people feel less alone. I also wrote a fun guided journal for cancer patients called “Cancer is An A Hole“.