Survivor Spotlight: Jonathan Elliott
I wrote my personal story a few months ago when I finally felt ready to revisit some of the memories. I thought I would share it more to support those that may be experiencing the same struggles in life.
A little over four years ago I found a lump. With this lump I found complete fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I was paralyzed with emotions. I’m unsure of the following 5 days leading up to surgery, as everything became a blur. I remember sitting in the waiting room with my mother. Everything seemed cold, the floors, the chairs – the people. The only warmth was from my mother’s hand holding mine. I recall not being able to walk on my own to the operating room. I became weak in the knees and fell in the hall as I was passing operating room equipment that was covered in blood from the prior individual that was in surgery. What was their illness? What was their fate?
As I was supported into this bright white room these questions quickly slipped away from my mind. I was frozen in fear. I found myself lying on a cold table – arms stretched out in both directions, naked, scared. I looked around the room and seen roughly 5 other people preparing various things. I.V and needles being placed in both arms – at the same time – as another individual began to write lines on my lower abdomen. Another individual approached me with a document that I had to sign – agreeing that no legal action could be taken against the hospital if I died – more fear. I was told to count backwards from 10, 9, 8, 7 – the walls melted.
I woke hours later – reaching down in disbelief and complete pain. I seen a nurse walking by and attempted to ask a question. I got as far as “Is it…?”. She immediately stopped what she was doing while nodding “yes”. She came over to my side and took my arm for a few moments in a supporting gesture. The only medical staff that had shown feeling towards me – and I never even got to know her name.
I was sent home later that evening, unable to walk straight, and heavily medicated. I kissed my mother, I kissed my wife. I held and hugged my son – and prayed for the child that my wife had been carrying for the past 3 months.
Now I waited - fear, anxiety, and uncertainty – with every ring of the phone. Waiting for the phone call seemed to take forever. I was unable to do anything on my own. I was depressed and had lost my independence. My wife helped me get dressed, showered, cooked meals, and even assisted me with using the bathroom. My wife that was 3 months pregnant- suffering from severe morning sickness – and still caring for our 2 year old son.
Three weeks after surgery the phone rang. My wife answered it however she had to come and help me out of bed to take the call, as the doctor would only speak with me - fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. The walk down to the living room was a mirror reflection of how I felt walking into the operating room.
I cannot remember this conversation. I can remember my mother and wife embracing me – warmth. The cancer had spread to my stomach, abdomen, and my neck. I spoke with my family, my friends. My father passed away from Leukemia when I was 8. My mother fought cancer a few times and had won. So, this is my fate? This is how it ends? NO!
I was back at the hospital within 24 hours being prepared for chemotherapy. My veins were collapsing so I had another surgery to have a PIC line placed in my left arm – a tube that lead to my heart to deliver the chemo into my blood stream. I came home and spent time with my family and friends. I got everything in order. Work, Bank, Rent – Everything – including my will.
Four years ago today I stated my first chemo. I had to change everything, and everything changed. I did not focus on how I felt – I couldn’t – nor did my wife, as the stress would not be positive for our unborn child. I fought – She fought – We all fought! My wife was not able to come to my treatments due to being pregnant. My mother and family came as often as they could – I preferred to be on my own, as I wanted my independence. I did not want to be seen for my physical appearance however for the strength I had found in everyone around me. The first week of chemo caught me by surprise. It was everything you think it is and even more. I adopted a routine – I took control. Nothing was going to fuck with me!
While at home it was an interesting juggle of things. I would be in the bathroom from midnight until the morning hours due to the side effects of the chemo. My wife would then be in the bathroom for most of the morning due to the side effects of pregnancy. This was a blessing on its own as we only have 1 bathroom.
Around the third week of chemo my hair began to fall out. I did not recognize myself in the mirror anymore. I felt sad and depressed for a brief moment - I took control. I did not want this change in my appearance to bother my son – so as I was looking in the mirror I decided to write my name with a nice bold spot as I removed my hair in little chunks. It took me almost an hour however I did it. I had a bald spot that said “Jon”. I went downstairs and eagerly asked my son to read it. It took him a moment and he sounded it out “Noj”? Apparently I forget to take into consideration that when you write using a mirror it comes out backwards. Lesson learned and we have never forgotten this.
As the first 3 weeks came to an end I was getting bored – and bored of being sick. I had read everything I could find about my form of cancer, joined all the groups online, seen all the specialists. – I was not content and very anxious as a result. It was time for another distraction. My wife was now 4 months pregnant and we had yet to renovate and establish a nursery – Mission accepted!
After taking the bus to Wal-Mart and Millwork I was set to begin my next task. Within 2 weeks the nursery was painted, furniture built – I was at peace – and exhausted.
I would often walk daily to the hospital for my treatments. I was blessed to meet extraordinary people during this time –sadly lost some of the bravest as well. As I was walking home one day I was stopped by the police. I was questioned as to if I had been drinking and using drugs due to my appearance. The officer did not believe me – questioning the marks on my arms. The officer continued to ask me if I have any dirty needles on me as he was talking into his radio – not paying attention to what I was saying – he had already made up his mind on me. I was asked for my I.D and provided it – along with my cancer patient I.D card and a long list of medications that I was prescribed. I smiled as he attempted to read them out loud. I now had his full attention – but didn’t care. I kindly turned down the drive home and asked to be excused. I walked the rest of the way home with a large question mark floating around in my head.
I got home and checked the mail – an eviction notice. I promptly went over to the landlord’s home and rang the bell. I was greeted by a new landlord that only opened the door a small crack. She promptly seen the letter in my hand and stated, “You don’t pay your rent – you’re out!” and closed the door in my face. I was exhausted and went home. I sat in the living room questioning what had just occurred over the past hour. I went into the kitchen to get some water. I looked around and was not pleased with the colour – another distraction had been found. Three days later the kitchen was repainted – and had a nice highchair to match!
I reached out for support and attended an office of parliament. Sadly this meeting can be summed up as to the same prior mentioned police officer for the way I was treated by the reception lady. After waiting for over an hour in the office to meet with someone I was told that no one would be able to meet with me. I was asked to sign consent forms to open a line of communication. I struggled to the desk area after being seated for so long. I began to read over the forms as the members of parliament exited behind me. I attempted to introduce myself however I was greeted by blank stares –I seen the hesitation in their faces as I reached out to shake their hands. I was again judged all too quickly. I left the office and never looked back – and never voted for him again. I should add that he lost the recent election. I returned home to my family.
I spoke with the housing tribunal along with some friends I had made along the way. I was no longer being evicted. Also we got a new landlord pretty quick after that – coincidence?
Days turned into weeks. I kept distracted – happy, full of humor and love, with a new aspect on life. I surrounded myself with those that I wanted to be like – people that treated me the way they wanted to be treated in return – unselfish and not materialistic – people that give back to the less fortunate and expect nothing else in return. I spent a lot of time with family – my mother was with me all the way.
On Friday December 18th I was told that the chemo was not working as my cancer cells had spiked. I went home – I was again lost. I found comfort in everyone around me and the ones I had met on this journey. I do not consider myself religious – however I prayed.
I prayed for my Son,
I prayed for my Mother,
I prayed for my Wife and Unborn son,
I prayed for my Family and all Loved Ones.
On Monday December 2st I arrived at the doctors to continue this fight. After being prepped for chemo again my fresh blood work results came back. Due to a “false negative” on Friday my tests were wrong.
I was in REMISSION!!
Apparently someone along the way had prayed for me as well.
Four years later I have 1460 days to be thankful for – surrounded by the best family and friends I could ever ask for.
Thank you for taking the time to read,