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Inspirational Stories


stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)

My symptoms became pretty intense in December 2017. I was 21 at the time and living a healthy and active lifestyle, but my symptoms were starting to interfere with my quality of life. I was experiencing a cough, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and pretty intense back pain, along with several swollen lymph nodes primarily on the left side of my collarbone.

In January 2018, my parents and I were pretty concerned about the increasing severity of the symptoms and decided to seek some answers. The first physician I saw was not very optimistic given my symptoms and ordered a needle biopsy on one of the swollen lymph nodes the same day. Then we waited four days for the results which felt like an eternity because I already had a sinking feeling that what I had been experiencing symptom-wise wasn't good.

Ultimately, I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). It's hard to describe how devastating it is to receive a cancer diagnosis unless you've been there. I was facing my worst-case scenario, and life as I knew it was about to change pretty drastically. After countless appointments with oncologists, hematology specialists, scans, tests, and getting a chemo port put in, I landed with an outstanding doctor and a wonderful team of nurses. They were so accommodating and empathetic; they went the extra mile to ensure I understood the treatment plan and what I was up against.

In March 2018, I began treatment which consisted of 12 rounds of ABVD chemotherapy every other week and possible radiation. After the first few treatments, I noticed improvements in my symptoms even though I was starting to experience some side effects from the chemo. About halfway through the treatments, my doctor ordered another PET scan to check my progress. I received really encouraging results from that scan and just needed to stay the course and trust the process of finishing out the last half of treatments which proved to be a pretty daunting task.

I tried to stay active and continued working to keep my mind off things the best I could. Toward the second half of my treatments, I started to get more and more nauseous, fatigued, and worn out. The farther along in treatments I got, the longer it took me to rebound and have much of an appetite. I completed my last round of chemo at the end of August and was scheduled for another PET scan to find out if I was cancer-free in October 2018. I finally received the news two days before my 22nd birthday that I was cancer-free!

Even before my cancer journey had ended, I knew I wanted to take back the narrative and use my diagnosis in a positive way. I knew I wanted to get involved and make an impact in some capacity; I just didn't know what that would look like at the time. Not long after, I was connected with a candidate from what is now The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Visionaries of the Year campaign and was asked to share my story at the grand finale. I then went on to be a Visionaries of the Year leadership team member for three years and even got involved this past summer with the First Connection program! I can't say enough about all the amazing survivors, patients, caregivers, candidates, and team members I've had the opportunity to cross paths with over the years.

Looking back, I was pretty fortunate that the first treatment was effective, and given the circumstances, things went relatively smoothly. I was lucky to not have to walk through my cancer journey alone; I had incredible support from family, friends, and coworkers who were there for me when I needed them most. I tried to glean as many positive elements and lessons out of my journey as I could because "you grow through what you go through." My journey eternally shifted my perspective and how I navigate life. Last November I celebrated being cancer-free for six years. I'm grateful for my health every day, and it's a constant reminder that there is so much to be grateful for!

My hope is that by sharing my experience with blood cancer, someone out there facing a similar circumstance will see that there is hope after a diagnosis. They are not alone as they navigate what can be an extremely challenging and isolating season of life. But instead, there is a whole community like LLS that's there to support them as they navigate their own path.

stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)