Nejat is a 28-year student majoring in public health who attended our Digital Sherpa Workshop in Philadelphia, PA. After she shared her inspiring story with us, I asked if I could interview her to share her story of empowerment with you.
Kara: Why did you decide to study public health?
Nejat: I really decided to apply for public health because I wanted to do nursing but felt that I couldn’t get in. I never thought I would end up loving public health so much. It really helped me understand so much of my health. It really taught me how to advocate for myself. I am planning to apply for nursing school soon.
Kara: How and when were you first diagnosed?
Nejat: I was sick in January of 2017, the doctor told me that I shouldn’t have came to the emergency room for stomach pain. He didn’t give me a CT scan, he tried to prescribe something for pain but I left after being upset. I had emergency surgery in March 2017 after I got sick in the morning and couldn’t stop throwing up. They told me I had a half cyst and half mass. Which measured about 17cm in my stomach The mass had immature germ cells which was considered cancerous. I started chemo July due to being put on surveillance so when it started regrowing chemo therapy was the second step. I did 12 weeks straight of chemo. B.E.P was the regimen.
Kara: What does being an empowered patient mean to you?
Nejat: It means to go to the doctors office and know exactly what is wrong with you. To understand the options of treatments available. To request a second opinion and feel like you have a choice. To take control of your health and healing.
Kara: How did you know that you needed to advocate for yourself?
Nejat: I never liked not knowing what was wrong with me. I would research and read forums day and night. When doctors tried to plan according to what they felt best I always tried to understand it so I could figure out if it was best for them or me. Most doctors would tell me things off of research. During chemo most of what I experience was different than what they seen in research. I felt like if I never opened my mouth and spoke often. Those 12 weeks would have really been worse. Each new word I went back and googled the definition. Each symptoms I looked up. I dictated what I wanted and I can say it worked great in the end. I am on the road to recovery
Kara: How do you navigate advocating for yourself?
Nejat: I ask for options. I google everything, I look at forums. I join and ask questions.
Kara: Do you think that it is important to find a doctor that you feel comfortable?
Nejat: Yes! I had a doctor tell me she had to do surgery which didn’t align with what my other doctor told me. I told her no and went to a different doctor which gave me options. I felt that she didn’t hear my voice. She didn’t give me options. Yes I’m sick but let me feel I still have a little control of my decisions.
Kara: How has managing your condition affected your daily life as a college student?
Nejat: It starts with your mind set. I have been positive through out my journey. I am determined to not let my hardships be the reason I fail. I have my bad and good days but I try to keep pushing. I am still in school and a few months away from graduation. Though I’m still recovery I’m pushing. I do acupuncture to help my neuropathy and vitamin C to heal rebuild my body.
Kara: What are your tips to help someone become an empowered patient?
Nejat: Start with thinking positive you can make your journey less stressful with thinking positive always look for second opinions if you can. Trust how you feel and never look at cancer as if it’s the end keep fighting.