Howard Lake, MN
In October 2018, I was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkin lymphoma, oh and I was 5 months pregnant at the time. I had been having recurring bronchitis and sinus infections for several months and I self-diagnosed myself with chronic bronchitis or sinusitis. I went into urgent care in October with severe flu symptoms and a persistent cough that would not go away. I tested negative for influenza and the doctors couldn't find any other type of infection to explain my symptoms. They thought maybe I had pneumonia and asked if I wanted to do an X-ray, given I was pregnant. I said yes after weighing the benefits and risks.
After my X-ray, my doctor came back in the room with her nurse this time and asked if my husband was with me (he wasn't), I knew that wasn't a good sign. My doctor told me she was so glad they did an X-ray, they had found a 12 cm mass in my chest, on my left lung. I felt the air go out of me, I have never wished for a case of pneumonia so bad, as I did that day. I ended up transferring to the University of MN for care, as my primary clinic/hospital was not equipped to handle pregnant cancer patients. I completed 6 months of chemotherapy and in May 2019, was declared in complete remission.
In February 2019, I delivered my son (who endured chemotherapy with me) at 36 weeks, but was a healthy 6 pounds 14oz (imagine if he was full-term, he would have been a 10-pound turkey). It was a long journey for me and not one I ever anticipated being on (but who also thinks they will get cancer one day?). I had a great support system and I have to say my husband, Ron, was amazing throughout it all, I would not know how I would have handled it without him. He helped me to stay strong emotionally, mentally, physically; he would remind me to count our blessings and focus on the positive. Even though chemotherapy is a beast, my husband noted that at least we had the option for treatment and we had a good prognosis, not everyone who is touched by cancer has the same outcome.
In addition to my husband, we couldn't have made it through treatment without the support of my parents who helped watch our children during treatment and after and helped us with day to day activities. My mother-in-law who drove my husband and me to our chemo appointments and who stayed with our son while I was in the ICU after I delivered him. For my children's aunts and uncles and grandparents that took care of them while my husband stayed with me for two, week long hospitalizations. For my husband's family members filling in for him on the farm so he could be at appointments with me. Finally, the emotional support provided by siblings, friends and extended family.
I have to say my journey has really taught me to step back and appreciate what I have. It truly is the little things that matter and one should truly put effort and energy into the things that they cherish most. For me, that is my family, my daughter, Ella, my son RJ, my husband Ron and finally, my wake up call to not take things for granted and really see the beauty in life. Cancer is crappy, there is no way around it, but with humor (sometimes dark) and a good support system, one can push through and fight it.