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Inspirational Stories

Joshua

lymphoma

Winter Garden, FL

Just three days after Christmas, my world was turned upside down. I was admitted to the hospital because I was unable to keep any food down and felt terrible overall. Upon admission, I had a multitude of issues, just a few being extremely high uric acid levels, severe dehydration, pancreatitis, and nephrosis. They also discovered that I had lost 20 lbs.! Later in the hospital, I would lose 20 more. I remained in excruciating pain for three weeks while multiple branches of the hospital were trying to find out what was wrong with me. At one point, they had seemingly ruled out cancer as tests came back negative, and the characteristics of my case were not consistent with cancer. The funny thing is, though, a year earlier I thought I had lymphoma because my inguinal lymph nodes were swollen.

When I went to my pediatrician and received antibiotics, they got less swollen, ruling out cancer in my pediatrician’s mind. However, they would remain slightly swollen even when I went into the hospital. The doctors didn’t think anything about it at first because the nodes were not an abnormal size. But as options for testing were narrowed down ― from x-rays to blood samples to CAT scans ― they decided to take a tissue sample from the inguinal node that was the most swollen. When we got the test back weeks later, they discovered half of the node was healthy and the other half was cancerous. That is when they came into the room and gave us the news with straight faces. At that point, being admitted for almost a month without knowing the issue, my mother and I simply said, “What’s next?”  

I started chemo, and that is when the bright idea popped into my head to start sharing my story. I had a TikTok following before going into the hospital, about 120,000, but when I had first gone into the hospital, I had uploaded a few comedy videos about my situation, one even clocking in at 2.2 million views. People started to notice me. After getting diagnosed, I uploaded a satire comedy video that was a part of a popular trend at that time. That video is now at 18.5 million views. After that, I thought about making a YouTube channel to share my story in the hopes that others in a situation like mine would find it and have hope. I uploaded that video under my channel with zero subscribers, and that video, “Day in the Life of a Teen with Cancer,” now sits at 1 million views.

I added The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s link to my bio on TikTok and have raised hundreds of dollars! I was so pleased to have people message me and tell me that my videos helped them get through their treatment and their situation, or even having everyday people thanking me for giving them insight on something so serious in a lighthearted manner. Unfortunately, things got a little worse after uploading that video. I had sores in my mouth and throat so badly I couldn’t eat or speak, and I had to get all my meds and nutrition via IV fluids. Slowly but surely, I began to get better. I went from not being able to walk to being able to hobble, from having my throat bleed when I would try to drink water to be able to drink smoothies and meal replacement shakes.

Then on February 17, 2021, I was released from the hospital on TPN (Total Parenteral Fluids, an IV form of nutrition). I had to go to the hospital most days, but being able to see my siblings and family after so long was better than anyone thing I was not able to do. I had thought I was going to die but wanted to make people laugh and give others hope. Now all I have to do is finish my treatment and get scanned, then I’ll be out of the woods. Things have started to return to normal for me as a 15-year-old boy, like my hair growing back, hanging out with friends, getting my driving permit, doing sports. I hope to continue making videos and to become a pediatric oncologist when I get older. Thank you so much for reading! 

Cottle