Alberta Cancer Foundation

Katrina Orfanel’s cancer journey

Katrina O

The day before her wedding, Katrina Orfanel received the devastating diagnosis of stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The days, weeks, and years that followed were marked by beautiful moments she will hold close to her heart forever. These moments became possible, thanks to the generous donors like you who made the world-class care she received at the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton a reality. Today, Katrina shares her story in her own words…

I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just weeks before my 36 birthday, and the day before my wedding. I received the news on a Friday evening, was told who I would be seeing at the Cross Cancer Institute and that I would be going as an outpatient. We knew I was very sick and it was likely cancer, but it was still hard to get that confirmation. 

The wedding was planned for the next day, so we continued with the plan. It was a very memorable and happy day amongst everything going on. We were never able to have the dream wedding we always wanted, but I am here and happy to be alive.

I wasn’t able to eat at my wedding, and over the next week and a half it became harder to even keep fluids down. I ended up being taken to the Cross Cancer Institute by ambulance and it became my home for almost 5 months. 

The staff and doctors there were amazing. I was treated so well by all the doctors, nurses, volunteers, cleaning staff, everyone. I underwent 6 rounds of chemotherapy. We had hoped I would only have to do 1 round in the hospital, then be able to continue as an outpatient, but I was so sick… The doctors decided it would be in my best interest to do all chemo as an inpatient. I was admitted on May 5, and was discharged on September 25, 2014.

The staff at the Cross Cancer Institute were so helpful and supportive when I got down, and helped me celebrate the wins. 

The volunteers brought me a cupcake for my birthday. I was able to work with a watercolour artist who volunteered there. I keep some of the paintings we worked on together in my home still.

Cancer permanently changed my life. I deal with chronic pain that I will have for the rest of my life due to the cancer and the treatment. 

Through my experiences I learned to be more positive and remain hopeful. 

Chemo caused infertility for me, and the cancer I had likely lead to the miscarriage I had, according to my oncologist. Today I am fully in remission, and have been for several years. My husband and I are in the process of adopting an 8 year old boy, and we are both very happy. 

Without the support of the doctors, nurses, volunteers and all staff of the Cross Cancer Institute I would not be here. The people who were there changed my life, by helping me not only to survive, but to find that there are positives in every situation, depending on how you choose to deal with what you’ve been given.

Inspired by Katrina’s story? You can share your cancer journey too. You never know whose life you could change simply by talking about your own, contact us today.