diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL)
My concerns began to rise when I noticed some spotting/bleeding between cycles that would last for 10 minutes or less. Additionally, I also started to experience slight abdominal cramps first thing in the morning. I’ve always been a deep sleeper and rarely woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, so nothing seemed out of the ordinary. That escalated to me waking up multiple times in the middle of the night to try to use the restroom, sometimes without cramps and other times with extreme abdominal cramps. As the symptoms persisted, I scheduled an appointment with my general practitioner, but the next available office appointment was weeks away, so it was scheduled about a month after I first noticed the symptoms.
The appointment day came, and I described my symptoms to the doctor. She did a general exam, and by her assessment, not accounting for the unexplained symptoms, I was healthy. She referred me to an OB/GYN who was also booked out for a month. I was not able to meet with my OB until early November. That day finally arrived, and I explained everything again to the OB. He began the exam, and after a few minutes, he noticed a mass. He, a colleague, and a nurse attempted to do a biopsy on the mass right there in the office.
My sample was sent to the pathology lab, and my OB ordered an ultrasound to try to get a better look at the mass. The results of the ultrasound came back before the pathology results, and the mass was about 7 cm. long (like a large lemon, the OB told me). After a few more days, the pathology results were in, and great news, the mass is benign, not cancerous. You might be scratching your head at this point, but just hold on. My OB assured me that the mass was most likely a fibroid that could be surgically removed. He referred me to the OB surgical department; that appointment was scheduled for early December.
A few days before my surgery, the surgeon called to discuss the plan, and as she was speaking, I had to apologetically interrupt her to ask, “Are we still talking about the fibroid removal surgery?” That’s when she broke the news; after further analysis, the in-office biopsy did not successfully obtain a sample of the mass itself, and this surgery would be to obtain the correct sample. I completed that second biopsy with no complications, and I waited 12 days for the pathology results. Finally, on December 20, four months after getting engaged to my now husband, I received a call from my surgeon. The pathology results were in. My sample was examined in San Diego and sent to Los Angeles for confirmation. I was officially diagnosed with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).
In the next few weeks, I completed a MUGA scan and a PET scan, met with a fertility specialist, and received my treatment plan from my oncologist. I began the first of my six rounds of R-CHOP chemotherapy in mid-January. As treatment progressed, I experienced many of the typical side effects from chemo ― fatigue, hair loss, nausea, appetite/taste changes, change in nail color, dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, and “chemo brain.”
Soon after starting treatment, I began looking for lymphoma-specific resources, and Google led me to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). I immediately read everything related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and was happily surprised to find a dedicated section on my sub-type of lymphoma. I also applied for and was awarded the Susan Lang Pay-It-Forward Patient Travel Assistance stipend. When I finished treatment in May, I couldn’t have been happier. I felt like I could finally “get back to my life” as it was before diagnosis. Most of all, I was eager to continue planning my wedding. When the results from my first post-treatment PET scan populated in my healthcare app, I eagerly opened them, going against my typical instincts and behavior during treatment. I was disappointed to see activity still showing on the scan. I’d gotten my hopes up, so I was doubly disappointed when I read those results. From that point forward, I focused my mind and efforts on my wedding and regaining my physical strength since the effects of treatment caused me to lose a considerable amount of muscle mass.
A few months passed, and I had another PET scan scheduled. This time it showed no evidence of disease; it was the perfect wedding gift going into my wedding weekend. I was able to share the news with family and friends at the reception, many of whom had traveled miles to be there and experience their surprise and joy in person. Now on the recovery side of cancer care and remission, I am passionate about advocating for and spreading blood cancer awareness. I’m also excited to participate in my first Light The Night (LTN) fundraiser with LLS. I hope by sharing my story, other folks experiencing the same things will feel hopeful and less alone.