We use the phrase “mixed emotions” to describe how we feel in a wide variety of situations…leaving our pals at one job to go to another that is a better fit professionally, the cancellation of an event we were looking forward to because of a COVID outbreak that could have endangered many, or even our favorite ice cream being sold out and trying a new flavor instead!
During Shequoia Dublin’s bout with cancer as a 28-year old, she experienced a range of emotions that is difficult to fathom in such a condensed period of time. She graciously shared them with us, happy now to be able to help other young adult cancer patients feel seen and understood as they experience a similar mix of emotions.
HUMBLED. When doctors told Shequoia that she had Stage IV Hodgkins Lymphoma, as she was entering the third trimester of her pregnancy with her third child, and that chemotherapy must begin immediately to save the lives of both her and her baby, she felt completely humbled. She realized that despite her best efforts to pursue health, the presence of some life-threatening conditions – like cancer – was still completely out of her control. The humbling moments continued as Shequoia learned to ask for help – something she didn’t often do before cancer!
AFRAID. She first felt afraid when the baby stopped moving. Then the testing began: leading up to her diagnosis, Shequoia underwent six blood transfusions, multiple ultrasounds, and bone biopsies in her hips – all without being able to use anesthesia to its fullest extent due to her pregnancy. The unknowns she faced during this period, heightened by the potential impacts on her baby, caused a great deal of fear. Once cancer treatment began, the fear she felt intensified when her baby’s heart rate would become elevated, and whenever she had to head into another painful procedure, knowing that her peace and two lives were at risk.
ALONE. Shequoia went from a life where she was constantly surrounded by family – her own children, her mother and grandmother, and her siblings, nieces and nephews loved to accept her invitations for sleepovers and pizza nights – to being by herself in the hospital for a month as she embarked on treatment. As Shequoia became well-versed on all things cancer, her family of course couldn’t quite understand what she was going through. They offered endless prayers and assistance, but feelings of being alone persisted in the early days of Shequoia’s new reality.
CONNECTION. When Ulman’s Patient Navigator Megan Solinger introduced herself during an early infusion, Shequoia gained a new companion. They connected when Megan shared details about her family’s experience with cancer, exemplified real concern for Shequoia’s family at home, and shared photos of her dog, Frankie (IYKYK!). Characteristically – Shequoia invited Megan back to nearly every treatment session she had, and she so appreciated the company and connection. Megan’s presence extended beyond the walls of the University of Maryland Medical Center, too, with the two frequently texting and Megan inviting Shequoia to Ulman events where she could connect with fellow survivors.
STRESSED. Cancer was financially toxic for Shequoia and her family. She wasn’t able to continue working at her office job, subsequently lost her car and her home, and was forced to move in with her mother. Thankfully, through programs Megan made her aware of both inside and outside of the Ulman Foundation, Shequoia was able to access financial grants, provide a wonderful Christmas for her children, and get help acquiring furniture, household supplies, and even part of a down payment when it was time to regain her independence.
EMBARRASSED. Living with cancer and its effects caused no shortage of opportunities for embarrassment. Being a mother of two, with another baby on the way, and having to move home again caused Shequoia to feel great embarrassment, despite the fact that its cause was totally out of her control. She felt embarrassed about her appearance too – as someone who values beauty in the world and loves to decorate, feeling like she looked like “a naked mole rat” didn’t quite align with her style!
JOYFUL. Even though baby Ayden arrived five weeks early as a 4 and a half pound preemie, and cancer still loomed large, Shequoia was overcome with joy at his birth. It was perhaps the moment where her mixed emotions were strongest! He passed the car seat test and could go home in four days (yay!), but they couldn’t breastfeed together (boo!). Shequoia stopped chemo for a period to care for him (bummer!), but he is healthy (all the happy emojis!).
GRATEFUL. Despite all of the hardships she has endured as a result of cancer, Shequoia is able to wholeheartedly express her immense gratitude. She is thankful for the presence, support, prayer, and love from her family members. She is grateful for the access to counseling, financial support, information, and community provided by Megan and the Ulman Foundation. She is thankful for her new career as a school bus driver, her newfound independence, and her amazing troop of (now) five children! And she fully appreciates that without all of these things, and the relative sense of calm and peace that they allowed her to have, her body may have been impacted very differently – likely more negatively – by cancer and the effects of its treatment.
VULNERABLE. Shequoia showed great vulnerability by sharing her experiences with our community, and we know that many other AYA patients will benefit from her willingness to do so! Thank you, Shequoia, for your vulnerability and generosity in helping others feel seen and understood. Cancer changes lives… and so do YOU!
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