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'I just beat cancer'
Times photographer Sara Guevara reads scores of Valentine’s Day cards Feb. 14 sent to her by Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School students. - photo by Tom Reed

Sara and the six-letter word

Times photographer Sara Guevara continues her occasional series in which she shares her experience battling Hodgkin lymphoma, a form of cancer.

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Try and try as it might, chemotherapy just could not get the best of me.

As my oncologist put it, I “breezed” through six cycles of treatment spanned over three months.

Chemotherapy was fairly easy for me; I thank my body everyday for tolerating the months of toxicity I put it through.
I did not experience any nausea. I did not lose weight (in fact I actually gained weight, much to my chagrin, due to the steroids I was taking).

I didn’t even lose a lot of hair. In fact, as I write this, it has been three weeks since my last chemotherapy treatment and I still have most of my hair.

Although I may make light of the fact I did not have many side effects from chemotherapy, I am amazed that I managed to scrape by almost unscathed. I emphasize these successes not to gloat, but to shine light on the positives of my experience in the hopes that you might find the positive in your own daily struggles. I could tell you about the slight fatigue, that one morning I had to take a two-hour nap after merely making breakfast. I could tell you about the metallic taste I had for days after treatment. But why waste my energy on the negative?

If I have learned anything from this cancer diagnosis, it is this: A positive perspective will carry you miles farther than a negative one. Please don’t wait for such a life-changing event in your own life to reach this conclusion. You can achieve happiness whenever you dare to allow it into your head and heart.

I believe that I breezed through my treatments because I never once looked back from the day I broke down in tears in the parking lot with my husband. I remained optimistic. I remained strong and, most importantly, focused.

Once I received my diagnosis, I quickly took to completing all of the necessary procedures so that I could start chemotherapy treatments right away. I viewed my journey from diagnosis to recovery as a checklist; with each test or cycle of chemotherapy, I simply checked it off and went on to the next task. I knew that if I could simply reach the end of my list, that I would be cured.

That’s right. I am cancer-free.

I squealed in the waiting room the day I heard the news. I was a smiling idiot for the rest of the day. I didn’t even mind sitting through my second-to-last chemotherapy treatment because I knew it was only a matter of time before my life returned to its normal pace.

True, it may take a few more months before I can achieve that sense of normalcy. I am currently undergoing 20 radiation therapy treatments. I have to drive almost an hour to receive a mere 10-minute treatment and then head all the way to Gainesville to work an eight-hour day. By the end of the week, I am tired and spend any free time I have catching up on sleep.

So what? I just beat cancer.

These final treatments are just another task to cross off my list.

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