Meet Duodenal and Lynch Syndrome Grad, Paige Mustain
Name: Paige Mustain
Age at Enrollment: 27
Major: Duodenal Cancer & Lynch syndrome
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? Vomiting after eating, severe stomach pain, anemia, fainting, and fatigue.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? I began fainting more frequently and wasn’t able to keep food down.
Courses completed: Whipple procedure and 6 months of chemo.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? I think my hardest moment was telling my family and friends. I just made sure to always find something positive to focus on and bring that to their attention. For instance, I have been in graduate school for several years across the country and now in the UK so I saw this as an opportunity to go back home and be able to spend time with loved ones while catching up on some much needed sleep!
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? I’m still adjusting to the side effects from my surgery and chemo to be honest but just talking about what you’re feeling and sharing your experience with other patients can be incredibly valuable. I met an amazing person, whom I now consider a dear friend, during chemo and we happen to share the same oncologist. We made sure to schedule our chemo every other week on the same days so we could hang out. I don’t think we had a single chemo session go by without laughing.
How did you find joy during this experience? I find joy through the friendships I’ve developed with the nurses and other patients. When I feel scared or sad I focus on these meaningful connections I’ve made with people that make life worth living. It’s an absolutely amazing opportunity to get to know people and their rich histories then become a part of that through this shared experience.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? I learned that I’m much more resilient than I’ve ever imagined. I’m amazed by the human body’s ability to handle things as traumatic as a Whipple procedure and chemotherapy. I’ve also learned how powerful my mind is. When I found out that I had a rare cancer I felt as if my future was taken from me. What I actually discovered is that while my life is changed forever, I gained perspective on what truly matters which allows me to live an even more fulfilled life than I would have before.
What are some resources to help ease the financial burden placed on cancer patients? I think people are aware of how costly cancer is but what they don’t realize, especially for young adults with cancer, is the financial impact beyond medical care such as college, living expenses, and IVF for young women. I’ve found a few resources available while searching for funding to finish my PhD. If you have a loved one going through cancer and needing extra financial assistance for non-cancer related expenses it would be really helpful to offer to edit their funding applications. With that being said, I’m very happy to help fellow cancer students and grads needing editing advice for their applications.