We’ve shared the Untire App here on Happy Magazine before – we love it. Developed to help beat cancer fatigue, we think it’s a really helpful tool for anyone going through cancer. Today, Jelle Damhuis joins us to tell his story with cancer and how the app has helped him.
In the summer of 2012, at the age of twenty, I boarded a plane with my girlfriend to make a trip through Vietnam. The rising back pain I felt was not allowed to spoil the fun. After all, a holiday is a moment to recover and relax. Unfortunately little came of that – after three weeks we were forced to return to the Netherlands (where we are from) early because of my severe back pain.
Both the doctor and I immediately thought of a herniated disc; a weak back was in the family. During the prescribed bed rest, however, the symptoms only got worse. After a visit to the hospital, I suffered a major blow: a tumour had developed on my spinal cord.
How was this possible?
At that moment, a lot of thoughts and emotions go through you. I felt a slight panic rising inside. How did this happen to me? Fortunately, a fighting spirit prevailed; after all, I was a ‘healthy’, young and fit guy, I could do this. Soon an operation followed and it turned out that the tumour was malignant. So cancer. That news came in hard like a punch to the gut. From back pain to cancer; where would this end? Or was this just the beginning?
After the operation, I faced 30 rounds of radiation treatment. At this uncertain time, I was fortunate to have support from my family and friends. I was tired, very tired. Activities that used to take no effort at all, now seemed an impossible task. Fortunately, 3 months later, I had a scan with positive results, no more cancer in my body. I found a renewed zest for life and, apart from the control scans, I was able to say goodbye to the hospital. After several months of treatment, I could start my recovery.
Ready for the future
After 5 years of good follow-up scan results, I had recovered with renewed confidence in my body. Although I always had complaints, I had come out of this fight quite well. I completed my studies, made a world trip, started my own company; I was ready for the future! But just when I thought I was sailing through calm waters, another storm was brewing.
In January 2018, after some vague symptoms, another hospital visit delivered life-altering news. I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. What? Here I am at 26 years and already two types of cancer, how is this possible?
No matter how disturbing the news, I was determined to overcome the cancer again. Half a year of chemotherapy awaited me, hopefully beating the lymphoma. It was an exhausting period of treatment, which, thanks to a positive attitude and a great deal of support, I managed to get through.
That summer, we took a holiday to recharge our bodies and minds despite an upcoming, nerve-racking test result that awaited. Would the cancer be defeated? Fortunately, my doctor immediately gave the redeeming answer: everything was gone! What an incredible joy and relief. Time to celebrate with champagne and a party the following weekend was planned.
After celebrating this great news, life would soon return to ‘normal’. No one warned me that this would be the beginning of the most difficult period. Where everyone lived their lives, mine stood still. I had to stop my business during the chemo. What to do next? As I sat at home, I was bothered not by figuring out what this next chapter had in store but the extreme fatigue that consumed me. At unexplained moments I was intensely tired. This had a lot of impact on my daily life. Meeting up with friends, or running errands for example, was just too much. It limited me a lot. I was unaware at the time but I was dealing with cancer-related fatigue (CRF) which affects 30 to 40% of cancer patients and survivors.
I only found out about CRF when I came across a local company here in the Netherlands called ‘Tired of Cancer’. Once I got home I found out that this company had developed the Untire app to specifically address Cancer-Related Fatigue.
Untire is an app that helps you understand what fatigue with cancer is, gives you exercises to reduce stress and gives you tips to improve your energy level and mood. I started using the app right away; this was exactly what I needed! The app is specially made for cancer patients and survivors who suffer from fatigue. Untire was developed by psychologists and researchers specialised in psycho-oncology with the ambition to help as many patients as possible. Untire is free to download and use for everyone. Info about the app can be found on the website www.untire.me.
The lessons I learned
Meanwhile my energy level has improved considerably and I am happy to write that I am now also part of the Tired of Cancer team. After not working for months, I am excited to be able to reintegrate back into the workplace. It gives me a good feeling to be able to contribute from my own experience to reducing cancer-related fatigue. Looking back, the periods of illness have cost me a lot but now I have found a way to gain from it. Through it all, I know how fragile life is, I live in the moment, I appreciate even more what I have and I do work that not only provides purpose but aligns with my passion. I wish this for everyone.
Thank you so much to Jelle for sharing his story with us today. For more on the Untire app, visit their website here.