The sickly chemical scent of the hospital stirred her stomach in nausea. Her doctor’s voice rang out over the phone put on speaker. It echoed in the silent room, all ears focused on the spoken words. She took a minute to exhale before shaking her head in relief. The most recent test results came back negative. There were no more signs of cancer.
Battling lymphoma since this time last year, junior Danielle Steele received positron emission tomography, or PET scan, results declaring her negative for cancer on March 3. Her original progression to radiotherapy left her hopeful. It was an easier treatment, despite the burnt neck and sore throat. However, the news of reaching the first stage of recovery triumphed over the hardships.
“We didn’t really know for sure if I was okay or if the treatment worked,” Steele said. “But it did work. We just have to wait for my other doctor to say the same. I think everything is fine. We were really happy about everything because it was really hard to get here.”
Weeklong preparations and recuperations from chemotherapy sessions were demanding on her body, threatening her resolve to endure the treatment. Chemotherapy was an excruciating, but necessary, obstacle for healing. Even after the resolution of radiotherapy and movement into recovery, her chemotherapy experience continues to haunt Steele.
“Chemo was very traumatizing,” Steele said. “Every time I go to a hospital, I start getting nauseous. Even for blood tests, I get really sick in my stomach because it’s hard. I’m traumatized by the hospital, the people that work there, and the needles.”
While hospitals are a remembrance of pain, the salon offers an unclear line of health and sickness. Her losing her hair meant that the treatment was going as planned, yet Steele struggled to cope when it began.
“I thought I didn’t lose any hair but I actually did,” Steele said. “When I dyed my hair again, the girl that did my hair was like, ‘Oh, your hair fell out a little bit.’ I asked her to take a picture of it and show me. My hair fell out a lot in the back but it’s growing back now. I thought it was going to grow really slowly, but it’s a lot of new baby hairs.”
Steele has been focused on strengthening her health following treatment. No longer limited by exhaustion, she is rebuilding her physical strength after chemotherapy weakened her. Concentrated on establishing a healthy lifestyle, Steele is taking initiative to improve her physical and mental health.
“I feel way better,” Steele said. “I wake up every day earlier than I did before and started working out. I have a lot more energy. I started eating way better than I did before, and I always make homemade things. I used to journal a lot, and I have a gratitude notebook. I write in it every day, and that helped me a lot.”
Optimistic on no recurrence of the lymphoma, testing will ensure the positivity of her health, and if facing any recurrences with cancer, treatment will be minor. Although currently stuck in Costa Rica due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, Steele is excited to return to the U.S., as she can enjoy a sense of normalcy again.
“I can start my life like normal again,” Steele said. “I want to get past this, see my big sister, and go to the beach so badly. I’m going to get through it and be happy. I have turned my life around, and I’m starting to look at things more positively.”