Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
In February of 2019, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). What started with a simple cough quickly turned into the most challenging year of my life. When you hear the words “you have cancer,” the world stops spinning. There is no way to prepare for the cold, dark fear that takes over when there are so many unknowns. At this point, I didn't even know what lymphoma was. I was so lucky to have UCLA fighting with me and the incredible support of my entire family by my side. I owe it to all of them for pulling me through.
A nurse at a UCLA walk-in clinic (aka an angel on earth) listened carefully to my symptoms and found a mass during an x-ray of my chest. She then directed me to get a CT scan which led to a biopsy which led to my diagnosis. I listened to the doctors and did everything that was suggested: CT scan, biopsy, prednisone, hormone shots, egg/fertility preservation, and port insertion surgery. And within 2 weeks, I was going in for my first of 12 chemo treatments. Each treatment left my body weaker than the last, but knowing that there was an end, knowing that the amazing UCLA doctors and nurses were confident that my mass would be gone through this treatment, I was confident I would get through this. I was scared but knew I had to remain tough for the loved ones supporting me.
I went into remission on June 11, 2019, and finished out my treatments on July 29. My sisters threw me a surprise “lemon” party because we referred to chemo as “making lemonade” and cancer as “lemons” to limit the use of those very traumatic words. My incredible fiance proposed on August 17! Things were turning around!
For months following the treatment, I dealt with some of the side effects of what the disease and treatment brought to my body: anxiety, stress, brain fog, fatigue. I had to build my body back up physically and mentally, and that could not happen with the flip of a switch. I still have good days and bad days, and I'm working through how to deal with this new and improved version of myself. I am amazed at the strength of my body and mind, and I know God put me through this challenge to bring me to something greater than I ever could have imagined. Right now, that happens to be a greater understanding of life, a greater appreciation for everything around me, more patience, and more love. And as of August 1, 2020, a perfect husband and a new last name! And now a new puppy, Archibald!
It is my goal to make it easier for each person who has to go through what I went through. I hope that one day cancer is more easily and swiftly treated and is looked upon like the common cold, or not spoken about at all. No one deserves to suffer through months and months of brutal treatment followed by incredibly degrading and sometimes lifelong side effects. Everyone deserves a chance for a better and easier path, and that is why I have joined the board of the UCLA Health Adolescent and Young Adult Program as well as leading The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Light The Night (LTN) walk as the Executive Challenge Chair for 2021.