stage IV-B Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
It was in my sophomore year at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs right around March 2021 when I first discovered the lump in my neck. I was simply doing homework at my desk, and my hand unconsciously brushed against my neck. I stopped and started to feel the unusual lump in my neck.
Soon after that, the tests started.
My primary care physician first thought it might be mono, but the blood tests came back inconclusive. This led to them doing scans, meeting with an ENT, and doing a fine needle biopsy. All of these came back with nothing gained knowledge-wise. The lump continued to grow, and with it, so, too, did my dread. Closing in on May 2021, I was paired with my oncologist Dr. Clarke at the Rocky Mountain Children's Hospital. She recommended doing a large mass biopsy based on my PET scans which showed unusual cell activity.
Due to the size and location of one of the lesions, it was recommended that I have only local anesthesia. This would mean that while they did surgery on my neck, I would be awake. That was a harrowing experience for me, a crucible moment where I came face to face with great fear and emerged on the other side as a stronger and more firm-willed individual.
As I waited for the results, I was preparing to take the stage in my first Main Stage performance at UCCS in Euripides' Medea. I would be playing the once-hero-turned-villain, Jason.
As the universe often likes to do, it was the opening night of Medea when I got the call from Dr. Clarke with the results. I was sitting at the same desk. It was two hours before I was due to be at the theatre to prep for the show, and my phone rang. Dr. Clarke told me the news. My biopsy results showed that I had stage IV-B Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). It originated in my neck but had spread to my lungs.
Due to the slower nature of my cancer, I was greenlit to still perform for the whole duration of the show. It was an indescribable feeling to perform as Jason while knowing in the back of my mind that I would soon have to fight an evil that was on a similar, if not greater level, than that which the mythological man himself faced.
I finished the show and started my summer with chemotherapy. To my advantage, the drugs worked excellently at attacking the cancer. Each subsequent PET scan showed that my comrades-in-chemotherapy-drug-form and I were whooping cancer's butt.
My first chemo session was the second week of May. By the third week of October 2021, I was in remission. Fifteen weeks. That was the duration of my war, both a blessing and a pitfall as I would soon learn after my remission. Though I had beaten the evil inside me, I still had a long way to go on my journey of processing the conflict I had just won.
With the aid of my loved ones and therapy, I have been making strides in owning my cancer and rising above it.
I am honored to join in the valiant mission that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has set out to complete. With the advent of a whole lot more comrades, I rest assured knowing that we will defeat cancer. At every crossroads, in every state, for every person, we will win.