a life-changing diagnosis
At 33, the last thing Dayna expected to hear from her doctor was “cancer.” But after several months of stomach problems and a battery of tests, she learned she had stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Her initial reaction? I'm scared, I'm mad, I'm angry. Why me? Why now? I'm healthy, I'm young.
It’s not uncommon to miss pancreatic cancer symptoms or have them attributed to another disease, leaving it unnoticed until it is in an advanced stage. Dayna met with several doctors and learned that the cancer had spread to her blood stream, so surgery and radiation were not options. In May 2010, she began chemotherapy. “I'm going to fight this,” said Dayna. “I've got the courage and I'm taking this cancer on with everything I've got. I expect miracles.”
She was given a vague timeline of “several months” but she didn’t care to hear more details or statistics. “If you don’t know the rules it’s easier to break them and make up your own,” Dayna said.
the power of connection
While Dayna was struggling with all the emotions and questions that come from hearing her diagnosis, her brother-in-law and his wife set up a personal website for her on CaringBridge. The website included a journal so the family could easily let everyone know what was happening and a guestbook where friends and loved ones could leave messages of support and encouragement.
After a few days, Dayna began adding her own CaringBridge journal entries. In an early entry she shared:
"I had never heard of CaringBridge before. It is a wonderful way for me to share with everyone what is going on and to read the guestbook which is full of optimism, love and support. I wish I could talk to every one of you in person. I would tell you how I cherish each message, I would tell each and every one of you how much I love you. I would tell you of how you have impacted my life and how your support will be with me as I wake up and take charge of each day. The support is incredible. Thank you!"
Dayna recognized that even if she could take the time to talk to each person who was providing pancreatic cancer support for her, she wouldn’t want to say the same thing over and over that many times. Journaling on CaringBridge became a therapeutic outlet for her.
“I have been able to share my experiences with cancer with everyone,” said Dayna. “This is a wonderful way to keep everyone interested in the loop. It has also given me a creative outlet.”
making sense of complex medical information
The website became a place for her to describe complicated medical information in a way that made sense to her, a place to share her ups and downs, and a place for her friends and family to go so they could understand what she was going through. By visiting her CaringBridge site, they could know instantly what Dayna was experiencing, how she was feeling, and if it was appropriate to visit, call or simply send a note of encouragement and pancreatic cancer support.
In Dayna’s journal entries, friends and family read about her opportunities to cash in “fun coupons.” The most recent fun coupon? Tying the knot with Tom, her boyfriend of five years and source of inspiration, in June 2011.
Throughout the past year, Dayna has learned to find joy in the little things in life. Sometimes she will include a short list of things that have made her happy in her CaringBridge journal entries, like eating birthday cake, getting her hair colored (because she has hair to color) and spending time cuddling on the couch with her pot bellied pig, Oscar Piggy.