December of 2017 was a difficult time for me. It is the month that is usually filled with happiness, excitement and Christmas cheer. For me, it was the month I found out that I had Hodgkin lymphoma. It’s crazy when you think about it – we see all of these facts and figures about people who are diagnosed with cancer and we never, really, truly believe it could happen to us.
That was the month that my life forever changed. One morning, I woke up with a large bump on my neck. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. We all get lumps and bumps every now and then, so I figured why this one would be any different? Before I took anything seriously, I started to notice other side effects. My skin was itchy, I had a cough and I had consistent night sweats. At some point, I realized that this wasn’t right, so I took action.
This came with the news that I had cancer. Hearing stories from others and having that support around you is what gets me through it all. Before I started my chemotherapy, my boss was my rock. As a fellow cancer survivor, he made sure that I was as ready as I could be to tackle chemo. He reminded me that there are so many ways that we can fight this disease, things that there are to live for, and people who have been through the same thing and have come out shining on the other side.
I was not afraid of the chemo side effects. I was not afraid of the tiredness, sickness, and waiting. I knew that I could fight this. That’s the thing about cancer: it doesn’t care if you’re the nicest person in the world. Cancer just wants to take every ounce of energy you have. You cannot let cancer win. I admit, I spent my days resting at home, unable to do the things I normally would when I wasn’t sick. Those days were precious, important and enabled me to be strong enough to fight what was inside of me. So, don’t feel bad if you are unable to do the things that you once did, it takes time and patience.
I am back to my normal life, and I haven’t looked back since. My 6 monthly check-ups and CT scans are my only reminder. But, I am always safe in the knowledge that I am alive, strong and myself again.
To anyone going through this now, what I’d like to say is that you should never give up. Eat even if you feel like you can’t, keep trying to be as active as possible, speak to loved ones, and try to laugh even when it hurts. Remember that the people who are closest to you are the ones who will get you through this difficult time in your life. I know my boss did, he is the most inspirational person I know.
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has invested nearly $1.3 billion in research. All to help people like me be as strong as I am today. It’s time we all come together to help LLS find ways to combat cancer. So, what are you waiting for?