If You Think Running Is Hard… Try Chemotherapy | Featuring Alison Gomes
Article By: Luis Parades
Cancer can hit a person at anytime, no matter what stage in their life! Alison Gomez found this out as she started on the first steps of achieving her career goals! Alison had only one goal in her mind at the age of 19, to join and become a part of the US Navy. She began on her journey by taking a huge step and moved to The Great Lakes Navel Base to begin basic training and boot camp. It was at this navel base where she would be tested to see if she was ready. She loved every part of basic training, being an athletic and a fit individual and knew she was cut out for the navy!
Life sometimes has a cruel way of rearing it’s ugly head and one month into her boot camp training Alison noticed that something was wrong with her body. Her face would swell up and she felt light headed performing simple tasks that involved her bending down. The base doctor performed many different tests looking for the cause of these symptoms and they decided to send her to a different specialist, after failing to find the root case. The off base doctor thought there was something blocking her Super-venna cava and after undergoing an X-Ray, the doctor’s assumptions were correct. They found a 3’4-inch mass blocking her vein!
She had to undergo a biopsy to get the mass removed. She was being hit with everything all at once and was facing this on her own. She didn’t give up and kept pushing forward with her goal still in mind. Life can throw a wrench in peoples plans and life threw a big one at Alison. The doctor gave Alison bad news after a couple of days of recovery from the procedure. She was diagnosed with Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, to be more specific, Mediastinal – Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma. She had to leave boot camp and the US Navy due to the diagnosis and begin chemotherapy in Chicago. She completed her chemo back in North Carolina where she is originally from. She fought hard to defeat her cancer and went into remission after the chemo she went through.
“I feel like with YouTube, I am able to reach out to others struggling with cancer and show people how we deal with it and how our lives change.”
This was a huge victory for her and her battle, but her fight wasn’t over. Alison went for a routine check up after 3 months of being in remission and it was found that her cancer had returned. Her battle was back on, but she was as strong as ever and was ready knock out her cancer. She isn’t alone – she has her family and her husband offering all the support that she needs. Alison decided to share her story to the world by creating a YouTube channel “AliGomie”. She uses this platform to help and inform others about cancer and is a super solider in our books! We caught up with Alison to learn more about her battle and how she is doing.
MEET ALISON “ ALI GOMIE “ GOMEZ
What thoughts and emotions were going through your mind when your doctor diagnosed you with Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma? How did you feel when you were told that the cancer had returned 3 months later?
Tell us about the people who have helped you and are there for you while you undergo treatment and different procedures. How did they help you?
My parents stepped up in a huge way while I was undergoing treatment. When I was diagnosed, I was in the Navy and could no longer serve my country so my only choice then was to move back in with my family. My chemotherapy during the first time with cancer was for 5 days long, each cycle. My boyfriend at the time (who later became my husband) and my family would always make trips to see me since my oncologist was a 3 hour drive from home. My husband was there for a lot of my surgeries. Any time that I had a biopsy or had to have a lung collapsed, he was always there. It wasn’t until after I had beat cancer twice that I joined support groups. To me, all I needed was my family, but I know that some people don’t have that luxury.
When people find out they have cancer they usually want to keep it within their close family and friends. You went the extra mile and documented all your procedures, treatments and even surgeries! What or who gave you the idea and courage to go so publicly with your treatments?
Even though I had support from my family, there is only so much that they can help with or try to understand. I was the one who gave myself the idea to go public with my treatments and surgeries. It started off with picking up my phone everyday and then at the end of the week, I would piece something together and make a weekly vlog (video blog). Eventually I saved up enough money for a real camera. I needed a way to ensure I wouldn’t be channeling my feelings and thoughts to just one person. It’s easy to feel like you’re being a burden when you have so much going through your mind and always spill it to the same people. When I think about it, I don’t think that it took courage to make my situation public, all it really came down to was not wanting to suffocate my friends and family with my problems. I know that might not make sense to a lot of people but when you are suffering and can tell that your loved ones are suffering too, there is only so much that a person can take. I didn’t want my family to suffer more than they already were. It’s hard to make sense of what my mindset was, but the best way that I can describe it is, instead of complaining to my close group of family and friends, I would explain how I felt and show what I was going through with the world. Instead of causing suffering, I could hopefully show strangers who are also suffering, that they are not alone and how they feel is normal for the situation.
You created a YouTube channel to share your story on your battle with cancer with everyone. You have helped so many people in their own fights, would you consider yourself a role model to others who are battling cancer?
It’s always nice to hear the occasional thank you, or that I have helped someone, but I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself a role model. I like to think of myself as support or really just someone that can show others that what you’re going through is challenging but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t only do this for the cancer community, but for anyone who is going through tough times in their life and hopefully helped people gain perspective.
Cancer treatment has different and various tolls and strains on people. What was the toughest part of going through chemotherapy and treatment for you? What motivated you everyday to keep on fighting?
When you see movies about people battling cancer, you only ever see someone losing weight or throwing up but for me, it wasn’t anything like that. Nurses are really good about making sure that you are taken care of, to the best of their ability, when it comes to nutrition and nausea. Nutrition is critical and I know this because I gained 25 pounds with cancer. The toughest thing for me was never being able to feel like the same person. When I think back on how I felt and what I looked like, that to me, wasn’t ME. I wasn’t able to take a shower like a normal person. At times I would black out, so countless of my showers were spent sitting down. I would always have to wrap my chest with saran wrap, so even when I would shower, I would never feel clean. Chemotherapy made it impossible to taste anything. If I had to sum it up for you, I’d tell you that everything tasted like the ocean. Salty and foamy. This wasn’t even the worst of it. I had to do high dose chemotherapy for an upcoming bone marrow transplant that I had. High-dose chemotherapy gave me mucositis (google it at your own risk because the pictures can be pretty graphic) which made it impossible to eat for days at a time, or even brush my teeth, because the skin from my cheeks and tongue were peeling off in layers. This sucked so much because now I’m left with corroded teeth and can do nothing about it. So you’re probably wondering, how did I motivate myself to keep on fighting? I feel like a lot of what I’m going to say won’t really speak to many people unless they’ve been through it, but I’ll tell you anyway. Have you ever looked in the mirror, like really looked in the mirror, and thought to yourself, who is that person? When you can’t recognize yourself anymore because you have no hair or your body is different than what normal is to you, then that’s all it takes. Nothing pushes you more than seeing something that you don’t like, to get to where you want to be. The thought of just being normal again was all it took for me. Knowing that if I kept fighting, that one day I would be able to taste food again and stand up in the shower on my own.
Were there any sorts of activities or special places that you loved to go to escape all the things that were happening around you while you were undergoing your treatments?
When you’re battling cancer, your body isn’t anything like what you’re used to. So for me, I didn’t do a lot of traveling, even if it was just going to the grocery store. I spent a lot of time indoors which was a total change for me since I’ve always really been in love with the outdoors and all that comes with it. A lot of the time I kept myself busy with editing. You wouldn’t believe the amount of hours that goes into editing especially when you’re passionate about it. I find myself editing videos weeks in advance because it’s how I like to keep busy and when people ask me what I do for fun, I honestly feel silly. One thing I can tell you is, nothing feels better than creating something that you think is beautiful.
What is some advice that you would give to a person who is struggling through their cancer treatments and is feeling depressed about their situation.
To anyone who is struggling or feeling depressed, I have been there. Some days my mind still goes to those dark places. The most important thing is that you aren’t doing this for your family or your friends or your doctors, you are doing this for yourself. The only person that matters in this fight, is you. When my cancer came back for a second time at just the age of 20, depression set in more than ever. I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me and happening to me, again. What you have to remember at times like that is you can’t blame yourself. For me, I struggled the most with feeling like I was alone. Even though I had people trying to be supportive it never really made a big difference because deep down I always knew that they would never know how I felt or what I was going through. This is where it’s good for you to find a cancer support group, where there are people who have actually been there and can be more help to you.
Our main goal is to end cancer within our lifetime. We move closer to that goal everyday with donations to cancer research. Tell us how cancer research has affected your treatment?
Cancer research has affected my treatment in amazing ways. Without it, I couldn’t imagine how much of a nightmare my bone marrow transplant would have been. There are new ways to collect cells from the body in less painful ways that make a transplant easier. There are also new antibiotics out there that weren’t always an option, which I am grateful for.
Every year the Fight To End Cancer has a new group of men and women who step into a boxing ring for the very first time after months of intense and tough training all to raise funds that directly go back cancer research! What words of motivation would you give to them as they go through the tough times in their training?
Always remember that is it not how far you have to go, but how far that you’ve already come.
We want to thank Alison for sharing her story with us! She gives us such inspiration to keep fighting on in our fight to end cancer! We will always be here to support her in every step of her battle! If you are interested in donating to our fight or even joining the fight by volunteering, we look forward to hearing from you!!