Hi! I’m Susie Weinstein Davies and I live in Los Angeles. Life before chemotherapy? I was kind of on-top of the world, or so I thought. My husband and I were only eight months into marriage and we’re truly in newlywed bliss. I had just left my job to start a new position that I was extremely excited about. I had only been working there for about two weeks before the diagnosis. Life was good — dream job, dream husband, everything felt really solid around us.

I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 28 years old in November 2019. My initial reaction was pure shock and devastation. I had a bunch of symptoms that lead me to getting a colonoscopy, but I assumed the results would be much less severe. My mom died of stomach cancer when I was 13 so I had thought of these things before, but I never expected to be so young. I really just broke down. My husband went into work mode and made sure every appointment was made and we were seeing the best doctors we could find. I still went to work the next day, I just didn’t know what else to do. The hardest part was having to tell people the news. For the first year or so, we kept the news pretty private. All of our close friends and family knew, but that’s about it. It was so hard to keep telling people the news that I eventually I just stopped telling people. I barely knew anyone at my new job, so until I left, only three people at the company even knew what I was going through. The first few months were a complete blur, filled with endless appointments and tears.

My first chemotherapy was terrifying. It was December 31, 2019. I spent that morning getting a chemotherapy port implanted into my arm (heads up: I was awake for that surgery) and returned to the hospital in the afternoon for my first treatment. The type of chemo I’m on runs through the port for 48 hours, so I bring it home with me. I did eight rounds of that type of chemo. After that, I had a surgery to prepare my body for radiation. I went through six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy pills. I found the pills to be unbelievably easier than the pump. In November, I went through a major surgery to get rid of the remainder of my cancer. Unfortunately, we later learned it spread to a few more places we have to tackle. I’m currently going through eight rounds of chemotherapy again. I’m not sure what the next step in my treatment plan will be, but I am certainly grateful to be finishing chemo. Some days, it’s really the worst. Other days it’s not so bad.

My husband has been my rock. Neither of us expected to live out “in sickness or in health” in our vows so early, but he goes above and beyond every single day to make sure I am taken care of. Our families and friends have been incredible as well. The day we got the diagnosis, my in-laws dropped everything to be with us. I’m incredibly lucky to also have the greatest group of friends who have supported us throughout this entire journey. My family came to stay with us after my major surgery to help us which was incredible. Cancer impacts the entire family, not just the patient

.I wish I had known that before I started chemotherapy that I didn’t need to settle! My advice to others: Don’t settle!!!! Your doctors really don’t want you to be miserable. No matter how much pain you’re in or how nauseous you may be - there are options. If one medicine doesn’t work, try another. It took me many rounds of chemo, but we finally figured out my nausea. After many painful, sleepless nights, the doctors also figured out a remedy for my pain.

Also - chemo literally changes everything in your body, something I never knew. Everything from the texture of my hair to my taste buds changed. A lot of things returned to normal pretty quickly, but I definitely feel like I’m in a different body. Before starting radiation, I took a leave of absence from my job. My doctors had been encouraging me to cut back on work for awhile, and it eventually got to the point that I needed to take a permanent break to focus on my treatment. Between that and COVID, I’ve had to really work to create any sort of routine in my life.

The first type of chemo I went through gave me crazy neuropathy. My hands used to get really cold which would lead to pain and I had to wear gloves a lot. The chemo brain is so real!!! I never heard of it until I went through it but my short term memory is completely shot sometimes. I’ve been mid-sentence and forgotten what I’m talking about. This time, my biggest side effect has been hair thinning and body aches. It feels like I have arthritis in my legs, definitely something I didn’t expect to experience from chemo. And mouth sores! Those are some of the strangest side effects - use the mouth wash, even when you don’t want to, it will make a huge difference.

Find ways to take care of your body and treat yourself, as long as your doctor approves! Getting really into skincare has allowed me to feel like I’m taking control of a part of my body, especially when the rest of my body feels out of control. Massages, manicures — whatever floats your boat, you truly deserve it.

CBD massage lotion for muscle aches, Biotene mouth wash for mouth sores, bath pillows (!!!!!), bath salts, food delivery gift cards (lots of people have generously sent us food but depending on how I’m feeling/what I’m craving it’s gone to waste) have been instrumental for my husband and I.

Going through cancer during COVID made this pretty difficult, but try to find things in between rounds of chemo to look forward to and be excited about. Chemo can be extremely isolating, especially during this time, so find things that make you happy in between rounds. For caretakers, please make sure to also take care of yourself. Cancer is a family disease and has impacted my husband almost as much as it has impacted me. It’s helped me immensely to take things one day at a time.

My treatment plan has been intense and aggressive, and it’s easy to spiral when I think too much about it. It’s much more manageable to make it one round at a time, one day at a time… Last, I think a positive mindset has been my saving grace during this time. You are a WARRIOR going through cancer and your body FIGHTING. Give yourself credit. Cancer is extremely difficult and is a battle none of us want to fight. But as much as this is physical, your mental health matters just as much. Whether it be through support groups, therapy, friends and family, etc. don’t forget to take care of yourself emotionally.