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University Student Shares Lessons She has Learnt on her Cancer Journey

Emma Danilowitz (21 yrs) and a student at Stellenbosch University, shares her cancer journey:

January 2020 – As some of you know, 2019 was quite an interesting and somewhat terrifying year for me. I was diagnosed with a germ cell tumour in January and I’ve learnt so much throughout this year that I thought I just had to share some of it to make it all worthwhile.

So for those of you who don’t know, the 10 by 15 cm tumour was removed and I was thrown straight from recovery into an oncologists office where I was bombarded with a terrifying treatment plan involving 4 cycles of intense chemotherapy, where I would have to live in hospital for 5 days every three weeks. The oncologist then looked at the wound and decided we should wait a month before starting chemo to allow the wound to heal.

I decided to go back to Stellenbosch where I was studying to try and resume normal life until then. During this time, I was lucky enough to have found a wellness centre where they treat cancer in a more natural and holistic way. I started treatment immediately to try and boost my immune system before starting the chemo.

A month later I went for my blood tests only to discover that the cancer count in my blood had dropped from being in the 500’s to 17. The oncologists still told me chemo was the only option, but I decided to stick with the natural route for a bit longer just to see how it would pan out.

Month to month I did blood tests and scans and each month they improved and so did my general health and immune system. So here I am a year later and I am completely clear of all cancer and I’m at my healthiest that I’ve ever been.

Anyway so that was just a summary of the year. Of course it came with many challenges but the lessons I learnt where priceless and worth sharing.

First of all, when it comes to the medical world – it’s so important to use your own discretion and listen to your gut. As qualified and knowledgeable as doctors are, they often only present one treatment plan or medication option. It’s so important to do your own research, seek other opinions and listen to your gut. What worked for me was extremely controversial and I experienced quite a bit of comeback from some doctors but you just have to listen to your gut and stick to your guns!

Secondly be open about how you’re feeling and what you’re going through with those closest to you. I found myself closing myself off so as not to burden people but in reality, people are good and kind and want to be there in times of need! They won’t know that they have to support you and be there for you unless you’re open about what you’re going through and I learnt that a bit too late and actually still struggle with it today. This applies to any hardship in life! It’s always better to be open.

It has taken me ages to accept this one but it’s so important to fight one battle at a time. I was initially adamant to try and study and go through treatment at the same time and was absolutely devastated when my lecturers gave me no option but to defer my year. However, I learnt that health and wellbeing are more important than anything and that committing fully to the treatment and getting in as much rest as possible, resulted in me being where I am today. This applies to any adversity you may face. Take it one day at a time, one task at a time and don’t allow your plate to become too full.

Another harsh but important lesson I learnt, was that you have to take responsibility for your own health and lifestyle. At this age, there’s a fair amount of pressure to drink and smoke etc. However, we are not invincible to serious health consequences, even at this age. It’s so important to listen to your body and if there are signs and symptoms telling you to stop a certain bad habit, try your best to do so now! It will make life easier in the long run (and if you do it will be long).

Another vital lesson I learnt, was to ask for help if you need it. No matter the nature of the help, whether it be physical, mental or something more trivial, people won’t know you’re in need unless you voice your need for help. I know it can be scary because you don’t want to inconvenience anyone but as I said earlier, those that love you will always be there to support you in any way you may need.

Basically, be positive, be kind to all those closest to you, check up on your friends and family and look after yourself! Life is such a blessing and it should be treasured! Spend it with those you love and who love you so they can help you through the hard times and be by your side during the happy ones!

Thanks for reading, I know it was long! I would really appreciate if you could share this so that it can reach as many people as possible!

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