My name is Cynthia Keyllian. I am the founder and president of Beads for Battle, Inc, as well as a recent Cancer survivor.
At the peak of my 20’s my life miraculously changed. I transferred to an incredible university to continue my bachelor’s degree. Suddenly, my world started to collapse. After continuously feeling weak and fatigued, my physician informed me that I had become Anemic.
A week after the blood work, I began to experience very uncomfortable and excruciating pain that forced me to limit walking, avoid activity, and at some point, crawl to get from one room to another. After being in denial for quite some time, the pain and dizziness got much worse and at that point I took control of the problem. After collapsing one afternoon, I was admitted into the emergency room and scanned for any complications. A few hours after testing, the emergency physician sat down at eye level with me and said specifically, with a giggle, “ You’re fine, I don’t see why you’re over exaggerating. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you, in fact, I should just quit right now if I’m wrong.” After numerous questions he then continued by saying, “You have a couple enlarged lymph nodes here and there which can be caused from a cold, but you’re fine, ”. Unfortunately, the pain got worse to the point where talking became panting and so, we strangely ended up in an oncologist’s office.
While waiting for him to enter the room, I slid from my chair and onto the floor while I cried for help from the inconceivable pain I felt. The doctor came in with shock and automatically ran a blood test while ensuring me that we will get to the bottom of this problem. The next morning he gave us a call and told me to admit myself into the emergency. I spend six days in the hospital room, doing one biopsy, one bone marrow biopsy, numerous blood tests, an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, PET scan, both with and without contrast, a cardiac scan, two respiratory examinations, and much more. After the procedures, the oncologist came into the room where he asked to speak to me and my family alone. He sat down on a stool near my bed, put his hand on his forehead and said, your tests came back positive for stage 3A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the treatment is 6 months of chemotherapy. Soon after, while trying to hold back the tears, my parents began to ask hundreds of questions when I suddenly fled the room.
I couldn’t believe this was happening to me, I begged the doctor to be as honest as possible when I asked him if I was going to make it. He comforted me by saying, “ I know you are strong Cynthia, you will be okay” We prepared the necessary paperwork and scheduled my appointment for chemotherapy. Soon after, my family rushed in and I ran to the restroom where I hid for a couple minutes to gather my thoughts and gain strength for my family because my entire life was about to change in an instant.
My family was extremely supportive from day one. They made my cancer and chemo sound like a daily routine and much like a piece of cake, the same attitude I now instill in others. I was diagnosed on April 5, 2013 and started chemotherapy just five days after, on April 10, 2013.
My first chemo was strange, my nurse had given me a private room to get my chemo in because she saw the large number of visitors I had, and I happened to be the youngest patient in the office. I automatically convinced myself that I had to make this room feel like home; after all it’s where I would be in and out for the next six months. Every chemotherapy started with a blood test to check whether my immune system was ready to be shot down again (chemo joke) Normally, when giving chemotherapy to patients, a portacath is inserted surgically to make chemo easier and less painful.
However, my doctor walked into the room with my nurse and asked me,“ You’re young and I don’t want you to go under the knife again, when you finish chemo I want you to be free and not worry about removing a portacath, can you handle this chemo intravenously (through the vein with an IV) 12 times?” At the time, surgery was the last thing on my mind and I agreed to his offer. Unfortunately, getting chemotherapy intravenously is one of the most painful and nauseating feelings in the world. I felt the chemo go through my body, and burn my veins slowly as it went through my main arteries,12 times for four hours per session. Until this day, I’m left with scars from my burnt veins. If that’s not enough, I had to go home and curl into a fetal position, unable to talk or eat, I was powerless to move, I had become pale white, extremely weak, bloated, and unbelievably nauseous. I also had skin redness and heat flashes from the treatment.
However, as awful as this treatment may sound, it saved my life. Every time I would go in for chemotherapy, I would count down and hope that it was curing my illness, and guess what… it did! I would have scans in between my treatments and the results would always blow me away. The positive attitudes from my family and friends allowed me to get through my chemo fairly quickly. Slowly but surely 12 treatments went down to 0. With a blink of an eye, I finished chemotherapy on September 11, 2013.
The Start of Something New:
After getting into the routine of chemotherapy, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t wrap my head around why this happened to me. I was at my lowest for a short period of time, but for the sake of my health, I knew that I needed to pick myself up. Surprisingly, the emotional journey was much worse than the physical pain I endured. I became really affected when I kept hearing my doctor get phone calls about newly diagnosed children and young adults day after day. I began to ask questions around the office and spoke with many new patients, only to realize that I wasn’t alone in this battle.
There were many people who had also lost hope and were suddenly living in fear and uncertainty day after day. I needed to get over whatever I was dealing with and step up to become an example for everyone else. I began to realize that the chemotherapy limited me from enjoying many different activities but there was one thing I knew was easy, quite fun, and reminded me much of my childhood, making beaded bracelets. I suddenly thought; if I can make this happen, why not send bracelets to patients for free? I felt as though it would be a great way to show them support and give them the encouragement and positivity they were looking for. I wanted to prove to them that their lives are worth the fight and that they are not alone, to convince them to never give up and to keep their armors up high.
With the incredible help and dedication of my friends and family, we created our first set of bracelets, our Facebook page, and found our first patient very quickly. Surprisingly, she also had Hodgkin’s lymphoma and was able to comfort me on my journey ahead. I too was able to help her by sending her a bracelet, which she was so thankful for. She told me that this bracelet was a symbol of victory for her entire battle, and that she was very blessed that there is someone in the world who truly cares about her happiness and health. With this positive outcome, I decided to continue, a few patients slowly became a handful, then a couple hundred, and now thousands of bracelets have been shipped worldwide to patients, survivors, and families who have lost a loved one to the disease.
My team and I have also participated in many events where I was able to address the importance of the organization and the impact it has on thousands of lives. I slowly began to understand that whatever I was going through was very insignificant compared to the hundreds and thousands of patients, including children who have suddenly been hit with such a terrible condition. At a time when I should have only focused on myself, I put everyone else’s needs and care before my own.
My concern was more towards the health and needs of other patients then myself. I’m very proud to say, that during the days of chemotherapy, where I would be in a crumbled and insufferable condition, my friends and I continued to make the bracelets and send them out to patients. During the days where I spent asleep, due to all the pain I endured, my team would put their needs aside, and worked countless hours to make sure that patients would gain a little extra hope and positivity every single day.
Cancer changed my life for the better.
As odd as this might sound, cancer made me a better individual. It changed my life around completely and I’m so grateful for the incredible rewards and adventures it has blessed me with. You see, in a way, cancer patients are lucky; we have the opportunity to look at life with a different perspective. We treasure the little things, the simple day-to-day activities, and learn to test our boundaries. We are risky, courageous, daring, and always look for the next challenge. We learn to love those around us, and push ourselves to accomplish the extremes.
Our boundaries are never stagnant; we continue to create bigger and better plans for our futures. We live each day like it’s our last, because we have gotten so used to thinking that way. We become so addicted and dependent on the ones we love, that they no longer are considered friends, spouses, or family, but each have filled a place in our hearts that make up who we ultimately become. They are the reason we are warriors, fighters, heroes and role models.
I would like to dedicate this page, to all the unbelievably brave fighters, survivors, and angels who have put up their armors with their team of soldiers and marched into battle. The battle is something we will never forget, in fact, the battle is what continues, because without that battle, the journey would not have made the hero we become today. Take a minute to acknowledge the fighter within you and embrace your strength. Each and every single one of you is special and has left a mark in the world. A mark that will be idolized and appreciated by those around you. I for one, am greatly impacted by every single cancer patient I have met, and continue to meet. They are the ones who have given me the strength to become the warrior I am today.
Lastly, I would like to thank the Beads for Battle team. My friends and family have made the lifetime commitment to Beads for Battle and with their promise to spread hope and happiness to patients around the world. Without them, Beads for Battle would not have existed and it is because of their faith that I have made it through the war. It is their push and dedication that has brought this organization to its peak. I am and will be forever grateful for their love, support, and passion to Beads for Battle, for the immeasurable change it brings to patients worldwide.