“ let yourself feel your feelings, it is okay and it doesn't matter what anyone says to you. Let them out because holding them in will turn out to be worse.
Laura Bleich is a mAss Kicker promoting a proactive life after a tumor/cancer diagnosis in Northern California. She is currently working for Alaska Airlines and has extensive experience doing marketing/promotion for Northern California/Arizona sports teams. She is very active in the Lymphoma community. She worked for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society as a campaign assistant for the 2015 Light the Night Walk in San Francisco. We were honored to have her with us on the 2015 mAss Kickers Foundation “Thrivership Mission” to Brussels, Belgium.
mK: Thanks for doing this interview Laura… First question… What/ when was your diagnosis? What were your symptoms?
LB: I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on June 6th, 2014 at the age of 24. I had Stanford V chemo and 20 radiation treatments. This is my only diagnosis but due to radiation treatment I have an increased risk of getting Breast Cancer later in my life.
I randomly discovered a lump on my chest that was above my breast but below my collar bone. I ended up going to the ER, they ran a bunch of tests, finally did a biopsy and were shocked to find a 22cm tumor in my chest that was wrapping around my throat, pushing my heart to the right side and taking up my lung capacity to breathe on one side so I was functioning with one lung and I had no idea because I didn’t feel anything.
mK: Never heard of “Stanford V(Five)”. Had to look that up! Did you know that lymphoma is a “liquid tumor”, therefore the phrase, “Tumors Suck” applies to lymphoma. Why are you involved with cancer advocacy? What organizations are you involved with?
LB: I got involved with advocacy because I wanted people to know that cancer can happen to anyone at any time at any age, as well as to make people more informed about cancer and how it affects people. I am involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Greater Bay Area Chapter, the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life & Hero of Hope programs as well as Healthy Young Attitude in Mountain View, The Lymphoma Research Foundation, Stupid Cancer, Stanford’s Adolescent and Young Adult Community, and Stanford’s Peer 2 Peer Mentor program.
mK: You are very active! Who is your hero or heroes?
LB: My heroes are my fellow survivors!
mK: What motivates you?
LB: The fact that I am in my mid-20s and I still have a lot I want to do and accomplish in my life
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
LB: Honestly the first time happened for me very recently and June will be my 2 year anniversary of my diagnosis. I didn’t expect it to take this long. I think part of it is because you never truly go back to how you were or how things were prior to your diagnosis. You just find a new version of yourself with some characteristics of the old you still there.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
LB: My pets make me laugh. It makes me angry when I hear that someone has passed way from cancer. The San Jose Sharks “choking” in the playoffs every year makes me cry.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
LB: Fly to Las Vegas by myself to see Justin Timberlake in concert and got upgraded to floor seats and touched his backup singers hand.
mK: What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
LB: The toughest challenge I faced as a survivor was feeling alone through this journey and not feeling like I fit in with people my age anymore. I overcame it by turning to social media, especially instagram & connecting with survivors especially my fellow lymphomies on there
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
LB: Reality Television
mK: Hee hee… If you were a character in an existing TV show, who would you be and why?
LB: This is a difficult question since the majority of the shows I watch are reality TV, I really do not know… Ha!
mK: OK… What do you like to do in your spare time?
LB: Watch sports. I am a HUGE sports fan! I could watch sports all day long!
mK: What are you up to now?
LB: Working at Alaska Airlines at SFO airport and planning my next travel adventure!
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
LB: I can’t have any of the food on my plate touch each other so when I go to a buffet I have like 5 plates not because I want a lot of food but because I only have 2-3 items on each plate
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
LB: My advice for people who get daunting diagnoses is let yourself feel your feelings, it is okay and it doesn’t matter what anyone says to you. Let them out because holding them in will turn out to be worse. To the loved ones… when you offer help, follow through with what you say you are going to do.
Laura Bleich: “Food segregator”, traveler, sports fan, reality TV junkie, Justin Timberlake groupie, proactive young adult lymphoma advocate, and sweet girl. Thanks for what you do. Keep up the great work!