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A Success Story - Chinasa Ozonsi

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Chinasa Ozonsi 

Chinasa graduated the College of Alameda in Alameda, California, majoring in Nursing.  Chinasa's battle with cancer and her experiences with her caring doctors and nurses has inspired her to become a Nurse Practitioner.   She has survived Hodgkin's Disease.  In her own words:

“  'Overcoming Obstacles'

Imagine, being confined to a room for 24 hours a day on the 15th floor of a major hospital.  The room has two gigantic windows, out of which you can only see tree-tops and the reflection of another excessively tall building.  You have no sense of privacy, doctors and residents constantly asking enumerable amounts of dull repetitive questions such as, 'Have you eaten today?' or 'Are you in pain?'  While nurses prey and pick at you with needles, thermometers and things of that nature.  This is just a tiny glimpse of how I spent 2 and a half years of my life. 

When I was 13 years old, I was diagnosed Hodgkin’s Disease which is a cancer of one’s lymphatic system.  I was attending summer school preparing for the transition from middle school to high school when I can home one day and my brother handed me one of my mother’s medical dictionaries with Hodgkin’s underlined.  With a grim face he asked me to read out loud the definition for him.  I remember it word for word:  'Hodgkin’s disease – a cancer that starts in your Lymph nodes, which are tissues that make and store white blood cells called lymphocytes.  They are connected throughout the body by lymph vessels.  Carries a colorless, watery fluid called lymphatic fluid that contains lymphocytes, this fluid eventually empties into the blood vessels of the upper chest.'  With an underlining defiance in my tone I asked him what his point is and his response: 'Chin, you have cancer.'

 It was in that very moment that my life utterly and completely changed. Cancer?  I thought.  Cancer?  He must be crazy or this has to be a joke.  Cancer doesn't happen to people like me, cancer is some foreign disease that you hear about on TV or read about in a health magazine.  The following days were a blur of doctor visits and tears.  I had fleetingly gone from being a carefree outspoken pre-teen to a statistic, a patient and a cancer victim; yet I would come to see that I was also so much more than that.  I was a fighter, a survivor, and an inspiration to others. 

Before I started my treatment, I was forewarned of all side effects and what would happen if I didn’t receive treatment, and together with my family I came to a decision that I would go ahead and get treated for Stage Two Hodgkin’s Disease.  I went into this ordeal slightly arrogant, believing that it wouldn’t be as bad as they say it would or maybe I’ll be that 10% who doesn't experience any serious side effects - boy was I wrong.  It was the most physically, psychologically, spiritually, and emotionally exhausting months of my life.  I went weeks without eating because I couldn’t keep anything down.  I was in constant pain, too weak to do anything; and to make it worse, I was terribly depressed and angry.  I was angry at God for not alleviating my pain and felt it unfair that I was so young and felt myself dying.  I was also scared not only of death, but scared for my mother and father.  How would they survive with the loss of their only daughter?  How would my little brother, who was my 'mini me,' deal with the loss of his best friend?  I was overwhelmed with feelings of anger and uncertainty.  My fear of death and beating this illness were and still are the two most difficult obstacles I’d ever have to overcome.  My family and friends tried to help me stay strong and positive.  Only God knows how many times I heard the words 'It's going to be alright' when the truth of the matter was I didn’t feel that way at all.  My health and faith were slowly yet surely deteriorating, and I was incapable of saving myself.  Then like the sun coming out after a storm, I started to get better.  My health seemed to be miraculously improving. 

After months of chemo and radiation, my cancer disappeared, my hair started to grow back, I went back to school and fell back into my normal routine.  This state of bliss lasted a good six months when I got the most horrific news:  it came back in under a year and had spread.  Mere words would not suffice to describe how I felt.  I felt betrayed by my doctors, God and myself.  I was told I would need a bone marrow transplant, and essentially, my doctors wanted to kill every single cell in my body then infuse me with new ones and help them re-grow.  The success rate was pretty low, and there was a chance that if I survived, I wouldn’t be able to bear children.  Now, because I felt my health care provider had failed me before and would probably fail again, I took it upon myself to seek a second and third and even fourth opinion.  I even researched alternative medicines such as natural herbs and even acupuncture.  I was determined more than ever to beat this sickness for good.  During my second round of chemotherapy, I was put into isolation because my immune system was suppressed.  I wasn’t allowed to see my family or friends for a good seven months; in that time I did a lot of reading, writing, thinking and soul searching. 

I had a long well-thought out conversation with myself, and concluded that this might truly be it for me - I may really be dying and said that if this is how I’m going to die I may as well rectify all my past relationships with people and leave this world in peace with those that I know.  So I called everyone I could think of -  friend or foe - and told them regardless of whether it was good or bad, I appreciate the role that they had played in my life and I wished them the best.  Doing this and reading about other people's near-death experiences helped me become even more positive and I felt better emotionally even though I wasn’t feeling so good physically.  Then it happened; it felt like a dream yet the events are as clear as yesterday.  I was lying in bed and I could see myself and my family and friends all gathered in this house that was supposed to be mine yet it didn’t look like it.  And everyone I knew kept talking about me as if I wasn't there.  I tried everything I could do to get their attention yet not one person notice me. I became frustrated and started yelling, 'Look at me, look at me!' - yet it was to no avail.  Then I remembered this bible verse and started repeating it. 

I said it in my head at first then out loud:  'I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD for the LORD hath chastened me but He hath not given me unto death.' – Psalms 118: 17-18.  I hopped out of bed saying this and felt this presence in the room.

I rang my nurse because I believed I was maybe hallucinating because of my fever, but when she came in, my fever had gone away.  My health started improving; I weaned off my pain medication and started walking again.  In those same days, my white blood cell count doubled and I stated eating solid foods again.  Call it a miracle, coincidence or just a cancer patient’s drug induced delusion - but through faith, acceptance and perseverance I overcame my fear of death and my cancer went into remission.  I have been now cancer free for about three years and am taking steps to keep myself healthy. 

Though I felt cursed at the time, I know I’ve been blessed to endure a hardship that made me a more humble and caring person.  I met some of the most caring doctors and nurses that have ever existed, and through which I have been inspired to become a Nurse Practitioner and specialize in labor and delivery. I also learned two very important lessons one being that no one, man woman or child, are immune to the trials and tribulations of life and that everybody, though it may not seem like it, are living different versions of the same struggle.   And through collective faith and understanding, we can endure and prevail.

I have volunteered at the Brotherhood of the Cross, Star Outreach Program, and served in St. Anthony's soup kitchen.  I have also helped at Kaiser Hospital and Laguna Honda Rehabilitation Center.

I am so thankful for the scholarship.  The weekly emails are awesome inspiration.  They have helped put my own struggles into perspective.  I now realize that I am not the only one who has struggled with my illness.  I also know that others have succeeded.  Thank you Cancer Survivors' Fund, for everything!”

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