Carmen - Hodgkin lymphoma story

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

Carmen Monge-Montero, I am 34 years old. I was born in Costa Rica, but now I am Dutch as well.

What’s your diagnosis?

I had Hodgkin lymphoma

How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

I found out when I was 24 years old. I discovered some persistent lymph nodes in my neck, then I discovered I had two more behind my chest. The third one was the lucky one!

What the journey through cancer taught you?

Many things! But now I cannot only think about slowing down and appreciate more time and space.

What helped you the most during the treatment process?

I think I was so busy planning my wedding and travels that actually I didn’t think a lot about how bad I was feeling. So I think it was planning and having many things in my mind. Also, spending time with my family was fun.

What has changed in your life since your cancer diagnosis?

Well, I had persistent side effects, such as chemobrain, hemorrhoids and chronic fatigue. I can say 10 years later that I am better.

If you were to meet yourself the day you heard a diagnosis, what would you say to your younger self?

Do not dare to look for cancer statistics and Hollywood movies, that is super pessimistic (maybe the movie 50/50 is a little bit better). Also, every cancer journey is different, but connecting with other patients is very important and nice.

What would you like to accomplish within EU-CAYAS-NET?

I want to represent the migrant community. Normally cancer survivors do not live abroad after the diagnosis and stay in their home countries, but I want to show that actually we can do it. There is extra anxiety about getting cancer again and maybe health insurance overseas is an issue… But I think it is worth it if you are going to achieve your dreams.

Try to describe yourself in 3 sentences

  1. Food and travel are my passions.
  2. I love to connect with people from around the world.
  3. I am a highly creative person and I love planning.

What are your achievements to date (formal or informal, education or hobby)?

  1. I have my own YouTube Channel to support cancer survivors. My main achievement here is that I have uploaded more than 70 videos, and interviewed people from every country in Latin America. I am only missing El Salvador! (Interested? Come and check out Carmen’s channel here:
  2. I started my own consultancy 3 years ago, it has been difficult but very rewarding.
  3. I completed a half marathon 3 years ago, now I am going for a full one.
  4. The relationship I have with my family.

Carmen - Hodgkin lymphoma survivor

What do you do in your free time?

I paint, read, bake and repeat. 

What do you need/want to have a crash course in?

I would love to know more about social skills, and a course of any type of cuisine is always welcomed.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

We will never be as young as we are now.

What is your favorite motto in life?

Is a piece of a song of La Sonora Matancera : 

“Must live in the moment

What does the past matter to us?

Today we have time and maybe tomorrow

The occasion does not return”

What makes you instantly light up?

New adventures and a good meal with people I love.

What is on your bucket list?

First marathon and live in Asia for at least 6 months.

What do you do to relax?

I love nature, so hiking or picnics. I also like to disconnect with a book.

What are some of your personal rules?

Never waste a kiss, a hug or a smile of the people I love.

What defines you as a person?

My positivism and maybe my way to see my life in a different way.

What keeps you going every day?

My family and believing in magic.

What personal goal would you like to achieve next?

I would love to publish my first book.

What in your life do you feel most grateful for?

About my experience, all the learnings, getting out from my home country to immerse myself in other cultures.

Carmen-Hodgkin lymphoma survivor

What makes your life feel purposeful?

The fact that there are still a lot of people that don’t want to talk about important topics. 

How do you cope when things get hard?

I don’t… well I didn’t hehe. Now I try to look for help. Therapy has been very useful and I have a very good support network.

What lesson was hardest for you to learn?

That I have to talk to myself as I would talk to a friend.

Which app do you use the most on your phone?

Probably WhatsApp or Facebook. Lately, RunKeeper.

Are there any websites that you visit daily?

Youtube and Instagram.

What is one book you would definitely recommend to read? Or a movie to watch? Or a song to listen to?

I would recommend books like “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel or “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett. I like mystery movies, so “Knives Out” is good. For the songs, I like “Desde la Raíz” by Natalia Lafourcade, “Malpaís” by Malpaís or “Mundo Paralelo” by Monsieur Periné.

What’s the last thing you watched on TV/internet/Netflix and why did you choose to watch it?

I watched Indian MatchMaking just because I like to learn about other cultures and it’s a little bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I also watched the interview series with Pope Francis, just because the topics were relevant, but the answers were not very good.

And this is what you absolutely have to know about me too.

I speak very fast! Especially when I am nervous, so there is a big possibility I make out words, or I reply in Spanish. I am super clueless and for me it is easy to think about other stuff while I am doing others.