stage IIB Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
Two weeks after my high school graduation, I received a diagnosis of stage IIB Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). I had been coughing and breathless for weeks, and it had just been getting worse by the day. It was dismissed initially as a cold despite my insistence that it felt like something more. However, I was thankfully able to get a proper diagnosis when things got much worse. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) was my go-to source for answers to much of my initial questions and confusion. All the information was explained so clearly and covered so thoroughly that I found myself revisiting the same pages multiple times for months.
I have participated in some LLS programs like supporting my friends’ fundraisers for Light The Night (LTN), but I have not participated in things like peer-to-peer programs. I think my primary mantra throughout treatment was simply “carpe diem.” I knew that my day looked different from my peers, but I had to seize it regardless. I also watched the TV show Friends every night in the hospital starting at 7:00 p.m. It was uplifting for both me and my nurses and reminded me that life just doesn’t need to be taken that seriously sometimes.
I do think that my background was a factor when I received my treatment. This is primarily because my mom worked at Kaiser Permanente, and my dad worked at City of Hope, so I had fairly decent insurance coverage and multiple options. I feel like I was mostly heard when I needed medical care. However, of course, there were still many, many moments (even during treatment) when my concerns were dismissed and seen as either paranoid or hyperbolic. If I could share anything with other people my age who receive a blood cancer diagnosis, it would be to let yourself laugh a little. While cancer is, of course, nothing to be taken too lightly, it doesn’t benefit us to stress too much about it. On a more practical side, learning your own medications/chemotherapies/pre-meds will come in handy. I have had many times where I had to remind nurses to give me the proper medications, and if I didn’t already have my chemo cycle memorized, it could’ve messed things up significantly.
My most reflective lesson from diagnosis to today is that life will throw at us what it will, and we have minimal control over that. What we do have control over is how we react to it and what we make of both the good and bad moments in our lives. Even on my darkest days, I found a reason to smile and enjoy life, and I think that saved my heart just as much as the chemo saved my blood.