non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL)
In November 2021, I experienced my first panic attack while at work. I went to the urgent care clinic, and they tested me and said I was good and might be experiencing anxiety. At that time, being a teacher in my school was hard and overwhelming, and I started taking anxiety medication. Later on in the school year, I continued to experience COVID-like symptoms but was always negative. I did eventually get COVID, but I was still healthy on paper. While all of this was going on, I was also encountering fatigue that I couldn't explain and blamed it on my job. In addition, I started having night sweats, blaming it on my cotton sheets.
In late July 2022, I started to have facial and throat swelling. I always had a puffy face and eyes when waking up. Believing that it was allergies, I continued taking my medicine. At one point, the swelling was very noticeable, and I went to the urgent care clinic. They believed it was an allergic reaction and prescribed me steroids and a different allergy medicine. It only worked for a week! It got so bad that I couldn't swallow my breakfast, but I still went to work. It was a new teaching position, and I didn't want to call out, but a co-worker and principal told me to go to the doctor. My doctor saw me right away and didn't like what she saw. She ordered a stat CT scan of my throat. Two hours later she called me, "Alesia, a mass was found in your chest. I need you to go to the ER.
I was diagnosed on August 25, 2022, with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). It was a surprise to me to be hearing my diagnosis and seeing everything unfold quickly as the oncology team hustled to create my treatment plan. My doctor said this cancer can come while you’re minding your business, and I literally was just minding my own business. Yet, it all now makes sense from my pain in November 2021 to the other symptoms I had.
At the age of 31, around the corner from 32, I’ve received a ticket to embark on this journey ― a journey of training, grace, affliction, and a new level of learning to love myself. It officially became real when my nurse hung my first chemo bag out of six rounds that I’ll be doing. During the start of my survivorship journey, I was emotional but in good spirits. What made me the most emotional was the amount of support that poured in from my family, friends, and co-workers. Knowing that I had a strong support circle in my corner has brought me to a place of strength and gratefulness.
I know that I already have the victory because my Lord and Savior has gone before me. In my weakness, He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9), and I'm constantly reminded of His goodness, not only by Him but by friends and family.