My name is Yasmine. I grew up in Fullerton, CA. I am originally from Lebanon, but was born in West Africa. I came to the states when I was 4 years old. I didn’t know anyone nor did I speak any English. I felt so lonely. Eventually I learned to cope and became more comfortable. My Mom and Dad worked so hard to provide for my handicap brother, older sister, and I. They struggled with providing for us, but they managed to make it happen and gave us everything we needed.
We lived in apartments during my childhood. I compared myself and I felt embarrassed because all my friends lived in houses. My parents are old fashion and didn’t quite understand the way of living here in the states. They finally bought a house in La Habra when I was in high school. My Mom ran a day-care out of our home and my Dad was a taxi driver. I graduated from high school in 2003 and my sweet parents threw a huge graduation party for me. That night, suddenly my Dad suffered from a massive heart attack. From that night on he struggled with his health. A couple of years later he was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. He was given 2 years, but survived 13. Never once did he complain or show any fear. He’s my biggest role model. He worked so hard to provide for our family day in and day out. Since 2003, my Dad suffered 4 heart attacks and had chemo every day for 13 years. He was never once in remission. Unfortunately, my younger brother suffered from seizures and passed away October 23rd 2008 from a brain aneurism. That turned our whole family’s world upside down, especially my Mom. I could not imagine losing a child.
My husband and I met in 2007. We dated for two years and got married in 2010. My dream was for my dad to be around to walk me down the isle, and thankfully he was. That was the happiest day of my life. We had our first child in September 2012 Katherine Elizabeth, she is now almost 4 years old. My dad was there for her birth and he was overjoyed. She was his love of his life, everything revolved around her. I became pregnant again in 2014 with another girl. Kinzie Lillian was born February 26th 2015 a month early. While I was pregnant with her I had difficulty swallowing food, it would get stuck in my chest and as time passed it just got worse. I thought it was just heart burn. After I had her and recovered the c-section I recovered I went to the doctors to get checked out. They ended up finding something in my esophagus so they did a biopsy and within one week of my first appointment I got the results of what the pain was.
I will never forget this day, my dad and husband came with me. As I sat there with them, in total fear of what was to come I remained calm (as much as I could because there was already talk that it was a possible tumor) the door opened and with tears in the doctors eyes he took my hand and said “the biopsy came back positive for cancer.”
My whole life literally flashed before my eyes, I started to cry and my dad and husband got up and came to my side and told me everything would be okay. I looked into my dads eyes and he was holding back his tears. I couldn’t believe it, I was 29 never once in my life had any medical issues I had JUST had a baby.
So without hesitation we set up a game plan.
I started chemo and radiation one week later. I did 8rounds of chemo and 25 rounds of radiation. The plan was to shrink the tumor as much as possible because they were going to go in and remove my esophagus. I had the best doctors ever. I had a specialist from USC who is the best in the field working with me. The treatment was very harsh I physically was tired and so sick, I couldn’t take care of my kids full time. The hardest thing for me was to let go of them to go stay with my parents.
My surgery date was set for July 15, 2015. The tumor responded very well to the treatment which the doctors were very pleased with because I was stage 3 and this type of cancer is one of the fastest most deadliest cancers. At my pre op the surgeon said we’re set to go, there is a 4% chance of getting an infection, meaning the blood won’t circulate all the way up to your throat. I said ok well let’s hope for the best. I had my surgery 16 hours later surgery went well.
Four days later I fell into that 4% chance, I developed a major infection and my body went into septic shock I flat lined twice and developed ARDS- accuute respiratory distress syndrome and phenomena. I had to go into emergency surgery to remove and disconnect my esophagus. The doctors told my family, “We are going to lose her there’s nothing else we can do.” They put me in a coma and paralyzed me from the neck down for 3 weeks. I was intubated and machines were basically keeping me alive. During this time my dads condition got worse and worse.
As the weeks went by they slowly took me out of the coma, I woke up and was so lost and confused as to where I was or even what happened. I thought I had gone home and come back for something. My family explained to me what happened and I was in disbelief.
After almost two months I got released, I went home and that wasn’t the end. Because the surgery wasn’t successful I had to have a third surgery. For three months I lived with a hold in my neck so everything I ate or drank came out of my neck into a bag that was attached to my neck that I could drain at the end of it. I was also on a feeding tube that I had to hook up to for 17 hours a day.
I proceeded to live my life the best way I could. I planned my daughters 3rd birthday. I took my kids trick or treating, I dressed up for Halloween as an injured cop that got shot in the neck (creative huh lol)
November 4th was my third surgery date to fix everything.
Thank god, all went well. They had to cut part of my colon and attach it to my throat to make a new esophagus, they had to cut part of my collar bone to make it fit.
Now I’ve been cancer free for one year, I get scans every 3 months has for the next 5 years. My relapse rate is about 90%, so they watch me very closely.
I am thankful to be here today. I’m thankful for my family and friends for helping me through this all.
I recovered fairly quickly because I wanted to be back to “normal “
Sadly my dads condition got out of control and he passed away in January 15th 2016. It’s like he waited for me to get better and make it through this nightmare. He held on and was in so much pain, but never showed it. He suffered a heart attack and was in a coma for about a week, he was brain dead and there was no life. He took his last breathe two days after I visited him in the hospital and I sat down by his bed side and held his hand and told him thank you for all that he’d done. Thank you for giving me the courage and the bravery to fight this battle. I knew he couldn’t hold on any longer.
I believe God doesn’t give you anything that you cannot handle, I was given this life for a reason. It has made me into the person I am today. Brave, thankful, courageous, strong and absolutely grateful.
Thank you for letting me share my story.
I am Yasmine, I love and accept myself.