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Random night sweats, fatigue, cloudiness.
Last summer these symptoms were a common occurrence for me with no explanation. And for a while, I thought they were happening for no apparent reason. People have weird symptoms all the time; I did not think much of it, I wasn’t worried. Everything changed on my ride back up to college. On the way up, I felt a strange “twinge” right above my ollarbone. When I went to examine the feeling, I felt an odd, hard, out of place lump. Now I was beginning to worry.
Upon arriving at school I decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to check out the health center. At these early visits, like many that would follow, I heard the same response many times, “Hmm, interesting, people get swollen lymph nodes all the time, I’m sure it’s nothing.” And for the next couple weeks I sort of believed them. Things changed when on our first school break, my parents and pediatrician decided it would be a good idea to look further into the issue. Cancer was in the back of everyone’s mind, but no one wanted to say it. My doctor suggested getting a needle biopsy taken just to be safe.
I remember getting the call while I was in the library. My doctor
casually telling me “so we noticed some abnormal cell growth in the biopsy”. he rest of the day was a blur. Finding out that it was Hodgkin’s
lymphoma was almost a godsend. I had been doing a little research and I was well aware that Hodgkin’s had one of the highest survival rates of all cancers (at around 90% cure rate).
But by no means did it mean that what would come
next would be easy.
In early October I was diagnosed with stage 2b (the b because I had symptoms) Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Treatment for Hodgkin’s almost always involves 8-12 treatments, broken up in two-week doses, of a drug called ABVD. In many cases, radiation follows treatment. The drug seems like a harmless abbreviation, but each letter represents a different drug with its own set of fun side effects. The first three are what they call, “pushes”, administered by hand through an IV. The last one (Dicarbozene), a painfully slow hour to two hour IV drip. All in all, each treatment was a grueling 5-8 hour day between traffic and wait time.
For my first couple of treatments, I followed a pretty similar cycle. I
would leave Binghamton on Thursday night, get my treatment on a Friday, feel like complete crap the next three days (nausea, fatigue, cloudiness, etc.) and then slowly get better. The best way to describe it was getting the flu, every other week.
And for my first 5 treatments (two and a half months), I had no problem coming home every other week getting my treatment, and then returning to school the following Monday night. My professors were great at making special accommodations, which let me stay in school during my treatments. Sure I had issues in between such as colds that wouldn’t go away, bruises that wouldn’t heal, my veins becoming rock hard, days that I couldn’t get out of bed and the day I thought playing soccer would be a good idea, until I passed out. But all in all it wasn’t too bad. My sixth treatment hit me like a train.
I got sick for the first time during this treatment (more annoying than usual when your attached to an IV), and in the following two weeks I never really felt any better like I was used too. The nausea started lingering for two weeks, food started tasting different, almost all my hair (which hadn’t really fallen out yet) was now completely gone, and I started getting this foggy feeling (called chemo brain) that made it feel like I was in a dream most of the time.
The worst part was that it was finals week and there was no way I could just stay home. Luckily for me, I was able to finish my finals and bear the
worst of my treatments at home, during break. Lets just say winter break
was spent on my couch, in a drugged up fog feeling pretty crummy. My last treatment was January 10th. I had already gotten a “clean” scan on my 4th treatment, which meant the last four were there to play it safe.
All I really remember about my last treatment was that it took much longer than usual and that the chemo-nurses sang to me and brought me a cupcake when I was done. I was pretty nice until I looked at the cupcake and then ran, (by ran I mean dragged my IV machine) to the bathroom to get sick for the last time.
Fast forward to the present: I’m about 5-weeks out of my last
treatment and back in school. I had another clean scan, which is a great sign!
I’m scheduled for checkups every 3 months and my life has slowly been getting back to normal. I’ve been playing basketball, going to the gym, and even went skiing (something I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this year). The Chemo Brain I had mentioned before lingered for about a month and has only started to get better in recent weeks. I’m still really tired, and going out is usually a little too much for me. But I’m confident that it will all get better soon and I know that my odds of relapse are very small.
Looking back, the whole thing seems like one big blur. Honestly I never
questioned why it was me who got sick, sure Hodgkin’s only effects about 1 in 100,000 between the ages of 16-19, but someone’s got to be that one
person. And I was extremely lucky that it was Hodgkin’s and not something more life threatening.
For me this experience has opened my eyes to the world of cancer, as before, cancer was just there. Now I know the extent of how serious the issue is. I tell people that the worst part of my treatments wasn’t how I felt, but when I would sit in the waiting room just before treatments, with people who were sad, quiet, and helpless. People, who were not as fortunate as me, people who did not have a 90-95% chance of survival.
For more information on preventative care, staying healthy, support
& more, please visit: http://www.cancer.org/
To join Relay for Life, visit: http://www.relayforlife.org/
My name is Kristina and I'm the founder of Love Struck. Read about how Love Struck came to be, see how I make it happen or just read a random thought I just might have! Anything can happen at our blog & I wouldn't have it any other way! It's time to get Love Struck, and what better way to start than right here!