2X Cancer Survivor, College Graduate, Before Age 26

by GregP_WN

Sara Bedard is a 26-year-old young Lady, a 2X cancer survivor, and a college graduate. The inspiring part about this is that she didn't know if she could survive cancer, much less be able to graduate College while in treatment. She is our WhatNexter of the Week, and this is her story. 

Sara After Surgery

Just a few years ago cancer was something I never expected would play a huge part in my life and boy was I wrong. In 2015 my mother passed away from Ovarian cancer. At the time, I was working a part-time job (which I loved but always wanted more). I always thought I would work in retail and never even imagined anything bigger for myself.

That’s when in May of the same year I decided to get a pap smear. I had been bleeding for a little over a year, it wasn’t heavy bleeding and not enough to cause any alarm. I thought it was just a normal girl thing and that nothing could happen to me at 24. It got to the point that I was heavy bleeding in between periods and it was very excessive. I was ruining bed sheets and clothes and it was just a disaster that’s when I made the phone call to get it checked out. 

I had my first appointment and then they scheduled me for a few biopsies. I was then recommended to an oncologist without being told what was going on. I had a LEEP surgery and then another one just to see what it was. Turns out I had a tumor growing on the outside of my cervix and it had been growing for the entire year and a half I had dealt with the bleeding. 

I got the phone call telling me that I had been diagnosed with stage 1b1 cervical cancer. I was absolutely terrified; my mother had passed just five months before and cancer just wasn’t something I even dreamed could happen to me. I had a radical hysterectomy and they took everything. I was out of work for a whole month and at the same time, my partner and I were going through some rough patches in our relationship. Cancer just seemed to get in the middle and completely take over my life. 

After I recovered from my surgery I went back to work, I was happy and content. Not to get too inappropriate but a few months after my surgery I was looking forward to being intimate with my partner again and I started to bleed and A LOT of blood came out. I went to the Dr the next day and my tumor had grown back in just three short months and was bigger than before. There was a lot of crying and I decided to go through chemo and radiation. I went through 7 cisplatin chemo treatments and did 35 external radiation with 2 internal radiation treatments.

Sara 1st Chemo
(my first chemo treatment, I had my port put in that same morning.)

Chemo was hard the first time, it lasted five hours and I felt instantly sick every single time. My work was very accommodating. I still wanted to work because cancer is expensive, no one can afford cancer and it costs more than people think it does. When I went through my cancer I felt alone, most of my best friends stopped talking to me and I don’t think very many people realized how hard it would be. My family wasn’t sure what to do and neither did I. It was tough but I thought this was my chance to get my life back in order and was pronounced cancer free. 

I realized after that that I needed something more out of my life and applied for college. I wasn’t happy with the way my life was going and who doesn’t want a career? I got approved and started school to become a pharmacy technician. I chose pharmacy because I wanted to help people going through hardships like most cancer patients have gone through, but I also didn’t want to draw blood or poke anyone.

Sara After Chemo

After all my treatments, I started having bowel issues and my stomach hurt so much that I sat with a heating pad on my stomach every single day for hours even during the summer. I couldn’t actually go to the restroom without taking a scary amount of laxatives. My oncologist didn’t think anything was wrong when I brought it up and assumed it was just left over troubles from my radiation so I decided to schedule an appointment with a gastrologist. You know that feeling you get when you know somethings wrong but no one else seems to realize it? That’s exactly what happened to me. 

The pain in my stomach lasted for almost 5 months before I had a colonoscopy which came up empty. The one good thing that came from having that procedure is that my oncologist decided to schedule me for a PET scan to see if maybe something WAS going on. I got the call and immediately got scheduled for surgery and here we go again, chemo was sure to put a damper into my schooling. 

This time around felt different for me, this was my lowest I have ever been. I felt that cancer was actually going to kill me this time. That it’s gone too far and there is no hope left. I pictured myself just ending it and getting it over with on my terms. I felt this way for a long time during my treatments. I still kept going to school and kept my grades up but inside I felt defeated. My chemo treatments were 9 hours long and wreaked havoc on my body, I was on cisplatin, taxol, and avastin. I had to quit my job and just do school. That’s when it happened, right after my second treatment things got worse for me.


Sara Hair Falling Out

A woman’s hair is her life, at least that’s how it was for me. My hair is my best feature and now it was gone. Not only was cancer changing what I looked like but it was also changing me as a person. My side effects were insane. I had a horrible reaction to the taxol my second treatment. I had no idea that it was even a possibility but it felt like I had stopped breathing, I was reaching for my throat and it’s like I forgot how. It was one of the scariest moments in my life and I am pretty sure I cried the whole night. After that happened I was scared it would happen again which made my chemo experiences much worse after that. I was gaining weight and had no hair. I was nauseated most of the time and I slept for two to three straight days after my treatments. I also wouldn’t eat for almost a whole week after treatments, I thought I would lose all the weight I gained but I never did. 

I spent more nights than I would like to admit crying myself to sleep and thinking about how unfair it is to be diagnosed with cancer. My parents would always tell me, “Today you can be sad and angry, even scream but tomorrow is a new day and it will be a better day.” I think that sentence alone kept me afloat. I started to realize that even though I have low points, life is good. Life is so short and honestly, I am still scared of dying but it doesn’t stop me. I always kept looking towards the future and that’s exactly why I kept going to school. Cancer doesn’t last forever but a good education does.

Sara And

Fast forward a few months and I was scheduled to do my internship and I still had one chemo treatment left. To graduate on time I needed to go and it was 40+ hours a week and tough! Working and doing chemo was extremely difficult so for the next 5 weeks I worked hard and went every day. I knew that I could do it though, I wanted this more than anything. Some people told me to just give up and just retake the classes and do your internship when you’re done with chemo. I knew that If I had waited I would have given up a huge opportunity. 

Sara Degree

Even while going through chemo and cancer, tiredness and nausea, I did it. I went to school, studied, worked hard and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. The best part of all of this is I didn’t give up. I didn’t give into cancer and that’s the best thing I could ever do in my life. Since I didn’t give up I am now employed at the same place I did my internship at. 

My struggle led me to a wonderful new life and I couldn’t have asked for anything better. (Other than a full head of hair). Now I go to Avastin appointments once a month to keep my cancer away and I get scans every three months. My hair is slowly growing back and my future looks bright. 

Whatnext has been such a great resource for me as well, I found this website right after I was first diagnosed and was able to ask questions and get answers from a patient/survivor’s point of view. I have so much respect for all of the wonderful people I have met through this website, they are caring, blunt, honest and understanding. When I felt my absolute lowest or just had to ask what a strange side effect was all about I knew I could always ask this community and get an honest answer.

Sarasmash 

Never let yourself or anyone else tell you that you can’t reach your goals. Cancer may be that mosquito always sucking the life out of you and is annoying but you can always swat it away and keep going forward. This terrible disease has made me a better person, not that I am glad it attacked me but I am glad that I learned to love deeper, listen more carefully, understand more fully and to spend more time with my loved ones. Cancer has taught me that Life is a beautiful thing, take chances and do things you’ve always been too scared but wanted to do. Who knows you might end up like me, happy and thriving!

Below is a video of Sara giving a speach to her graduating class. Great job Sara!

You can drop by SaraSmash's page at WhatNext here. Drop by and give her big congratulations for her courage and inspiration. 

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