With treatment and support from family and UCH, and her own determination, Diana Davis is cancer-free.
Cancer survivors are tough. Whether they started their cancer journey that way or grew into it varies from person to person. One thing is certain, the support of friends and family is critically important to helping an individual diagnosed with cancer complete treatment. Diana Davis, 29, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in May 2012. She and her husband, Estan, had just moved to Aberdeen Proving Ground from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. Diana, a New York City native, is in the U.S. Army Reserve and Estan is active duty; both have been deployed to Iraq—twice.
Diana’s cancer journey started with an emergency visit to Harford Memorial Hospital followed by a two-week stay at the University of Maryland Medical Center. She had one dose of chemotherapy and two doses of radiation downtown and, subsequently, finished the rest of her 18-week chemotherapy under the care of Sankari Sivasailam, MD, at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center’s (UCMC) Infusion Center. When describing her experience with the Infusion Center, Diana says, “It is a very welcoming place, just 20 minutes from my home versus an hour to Towson or Baltimore. At my first chemotherapy session, I realized that cancer nurses give lots of hugs. You get free hugs every time you come in—having been through the whole course, I guess you deserve a hug!”
She also took part in some of the Cancer LifeNet services offered at Upper Chesapeake Health (UCH), including counseling, classes, support groups, massage therapy and even fun and crazy wig shopping. Cancer LifeNet navigators and supportive care services are provided for free to all individuals in Harford and Cecil counties who have a cancer diagnosis.
While undergoing chemo, Diana developed a personal plan to “kick cancer’s butt,” and signed up and began training for the Army’s Ten Miler race. Less than a year after diagnosis and just over two months after being declared in remission, she completed the race.
“I went from not being able to walk a few steps in my own house or being able to stand in the shower for more than a minute before taking a seat, to finishing a 10-mile race,” she says proudly. “I always knew I would beat lymphoma, but this truly shows how strong, determined and hardheaded I am.” Shortly after, Diana decided to push herself even further. To celebrate her remission, she started training with a team to prepare for the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, D.C. “After my diagnosis, the word lymphoma actually meant something to me,” she says. “By joining the team, I felt I could get some training and motivation as well as raise money for blood cancer research. Little did I know this experience would enrich my life so much.”
On Oct. 26, 2012, Diana completed the 13.1-mile race in 2½ hours. She says that it was truly a role reversal for both herand Estan. “I am usually the spectator and he is the super athlete.”
Support from Friends and Family
Diana credits Estan, whom she calls her best friend, and her circle of family and friends, old and new, for getting her through her cancer journey. Despite being tired quite a bit and just not feeling well, Diana got joy from seeing them often and having their support. Having her dad hold her hand during treatment was especially comforting. And trying to reassure both her parents during the ordeal meant learning a bit of Chinese for words like cancer, white blood cells, chemotherapy and the like.
One of Diana’s favorite memories during her journey was of Estan’s co-workers visiting her during recovery at home and presenting her with a custom T-shirt that reads “Fight Like a Girl” (one of her favorite phrases) on one side and “Task Force: Dianasaurrus” (an old nickname) on the other. Diana says, “We always talk about the Army taking care of its own people and soldiers’ families, but I have truly seen it firsthand here.”
The Future Is Bright
Not even 30, Diana has a full, promising life ahead of her. Her experience with cancer has made her grateful for many things, including, to name a few, “the scientists and doctors who discover cures for diseases, the nurses and other health professionals who administer medications, the generous people who donate to help discover new cures,” and, perhaps most important, “the friends and families of patients who stick by them through good times and bad.” Physicians and other providers making up Diana’s health care team at UCH will soon be housed under one roof on the UCMC campus in Bel Air in the Patricia D. and M. Scot Kaufman Cancer Center. Opening in October 2013, the multidisciplinary center, which is also affiliated with the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, will provide a one-stop, integrated approach to cancer care. Patients will be able to access medical, radiation and surgical oncologists at the same time, resulting in a timely, individualized treatment plan. “I’m very excited about the Cancer Center opening in Bel Air,” Diana says. “I would have loved to have been closer to home for my initial treatment. Estan was fighting traffic every morning to visit me downtown and the parking fees really add up. It’s an incredible partnership to have [with the University of Maryland].”
Thankful to Be a Survivor
Diana is a survivor in every sense of the word. She’s strong and dedicated and, with determination and the help of others, she tackled her cancer diagnosis head-on. “Sometimes I find it surprising that I am not an angrier person because of lymphoma,” she says. Those with a cancer diagnosis have “the perfect reason to be angry with the world and with their own bodies. But most survivors I have met are gracious and thankful—thankful to be alive.”