“ Accept every day as it comes…ups and downs…There is a tomorrow…KEEP LIVING!!!
Vivien Ariola bka “Vi” is another AWESOME mAss Kicker from San Diego, CA! We met her a year ago when she gave a toast at the 2015 Celebration of Life to honor the friends of survivors. She is very involved with many local San Diego cancer patient advocacy organizations. In 2008 she was a Co-chair for the National City, CA Relay For Life and for the past 7 years has been on the planning committee for the Downtown San Diego Relay for Life. She is also a Customer Service Representative for AMARC Enterprises. We are honored to chat with Vi about her personal journey with cancer and how/why she is fighting back and living life to the fullest!
mK: Thanks for doing this Vi! How did you find out about your diagnosis?
VA: Well, I found about my diagnosis of Stage 2 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma as a result of confirming symptoms and signs I was having. I had first visited my primary care doctor who thought it may be a throat infection. I was sent home with antibiotics. They did not work. At that point I did ask my doctor to see a specialist.
mK: What were your symptoms?
VA: The beginning of my journey with cancer started at 28 when I was diagnosed with cervical dysplasia. My gynecologist had told me that it was a precursor to cervical cancer. She told me to lose the weight… and so I did. I continued my goal to active. I had been working out as a daily routine… a new way of life. After a strenuous workout that I really pushed through despite feeling under the weather, I was in the shower at the gym and blacked out. I woke up to find myself on the shower floor. Scared and confused, I went to the doctor. I was diagnosed with shingles. The doctor had told me that it was very strange for me to get shingles at 29. At that time, my cousin, Kim, who is a nurse, believes that my immunity was breaking down. I got over the shingles …but I did not feel the same. I was often fatigued…my energy was not what it used to be.
After a walk that I was doing in honor of my friend’s daughter, Ashley…for leukemia… I got up in the morning and was washing up to get ready for a normal day when I found a bump on my neck. I did not feel good about it so I went to the doctor. He said it was a throat infection and he gave me an anti -biotic. It did not work. The bump was still there…in fact it grew. I had said to my doctor, “If it were a pimple I would have popped it already. I do not believe I am growing an Adam’s apple or anything new downstairs.” That is when I requested to be seen by a specialist. My doctor knew I did not complain very much so I was off to see a head and neck specialist for a biopsy. After a biopsy I was diagnosed with cancer. This was now November of 1999.
mK: How are you doing now? What are you up to?
VA: For 15 years, after chemo, I am cancer-free! I have been active living life to the fullest. I do not sweat the small stuff…try not to. I try to live as healthy and active as possible and try to do 5 to 6 5ks a year, I am singing and dancing and volunteering my time to causes like the American Cancer Society with Relay for Life, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Morris Animal Foundation for K9 for Cancer, etc.
mK: You are very active in the cancer community! What motivates you?
VA: I am motivated to know that my life is not over since having cancer. It is my second chance. It is my time to do, to share and live life to the fullest.
mK: Very cool. What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
VA:. My nephew and my pups make me laugh. A really good comedy does too. I cry when I hear about someone close to me passing on, but I realize that they have been called home and are in a better place. I get angry at ignorant people. People who are misinformed and closed minded…especially those that discriminate against pitbulls. I have to pray for them that they will eventually be educated and open.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
VA: Right after I found out I was cancer-free I signed up with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training and walked 13.1 miles in the Rock N Roll Marathon. ☺
mK: What is the toughest challenge a survivor faces?
VA: I believe that keeping positive is a challenge. It is your mindset. Surround yourself with positive people and experiences.
mK: What is your guilty pleasure?
VA: Guilty pleasures…hmmm….so many…I would perhaps say one of them is….walking around my house naked. LOL
mK: HAHAHA! Here’s a weird question for ya… If time travel were possible, what one event would you like to go back and change?
VA: That is hard to say… Would it be my life event or something tremendous in the world within my control? In the case of my life, I wish I could go back in time and spend more time with my sister…she has passed on to heaven. Sometimes I feel that if I had been there more and had influenced her more, maybe she would still be here. Course, we will never know as God has his plan for all of us.
mK: What are is next on your agenda?
VA: Next… let’s see…get up tomorrow and keep going. Keep doing what I am doing and more to help with regards the fight against cancer and helping animals find a home. Oh and do my laundry this weekend ☺
mK: Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
VA: Give yourself time to cry… get up and keep moving… stay positive… keep living your best life because you are not gone yet. Be with your loved ones and fulfill your life as you still have a purpose in the world… Your room in heaven is not yet ready for you…Until then keep LIVING!
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
VA: I am allergic to cats and dogs, but I have built an immune resistance to dog dander… so I have my two pitbulls. I am also allergic to aspirin and wine. ☺ That was anything… LOL
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
VA: Accept every day as it comes…ups and downs…There is a tomorrow…KEEP LIVING!!!
Vivien Ariola: pet dander allergy mutant, naked house walker, pitbull aficionado, motivated cancer advocate, and friend. Keep up the great work “Vi”! Check out the National City, Relay For Life.