I was diagnosed with stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on Thursday, February 26, 2015. It was a surreal moment when I first heard the words from my oncologist – “you have cancer”. Especially because prior to our first meeting I did some research and tried to stage myself. I estimated myself to be around stage 2, maybe. Clearly I was way off. I looked to my parents who exchanged the same look of disbelief with me. Then quickly looked away before I saw the fear and sadness settle across their faces. There’s no way to prepare yourself to hear those words. It’s not something they teach you in school or think it's something you'll ever have to hear in your lifetime. My mind started to race as dozens of thoughts flashed in my mind. ‘How am I stage 4? I don’t feel like I’m that sick. This has to be a mistake’, ‘How did this happen? Where did this even come from?’, ‘Am I going to die?’, ‘Holy crap, I’m going to lose my hair!’, ‘Now what do I do?!’ Needless to say that is one date that I will never forget.
Over the next 6 months I went through a regiment of 12 ABVD chemotherapy treatments, 12 chemo day picnic lunches in my treatment center's waiting room (10 with my dad, 1 with my mom and 1 with my younger brother), hair loss, bouts of low energy, low white blood cell counts, PET scans, one blood clot scare and what felt like an infinite amount of doctor appointments. I think I would have had almost perfect attendance at work during my treatment if it weren’t for that pesky blood clot that kept me home for three days. There were plenty of days that I didn’t want to get out of bed, and a few that I actually didn’t. Was I tired and sometimes low on energy? Of course. But I wasn’t going to let this hold me back from living my life. I went to work every day, I hung out with my friends and went on my family’s summer vacation. I refused to give in to the cancer and let it change who I was. To me, if I took a step back from everything then I would have been giving in to the disease that was attempting to take my life. I would be allowing it to do the one thing I refused to let it do: change me, weaken me.
Flash forward to Thursday, September 24, 2015, about five weeks after my last chemotherapy treatment. My parents and I sat in the examining room with my doctor, waiting for him to give us the results from my last PET scan. Ironically enough, it was the exact same room we had first met with him when I was diagnosed months earlier. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for him to pull up the report from the imaging center. Was he going to tell me good news? Did the treatment work? Or would it be bad news and that I'd have to continue treatment with a stronger dose? When I saw the document appear on the screen I held my breath. While he reviewed the report I looked over his shoulder and was just about able to make out the words in the concluding paragraph, “…no hypermetabolic lesions present…” Did that mean what I thought it did? He turned around and said ‘Ok, you’re clear’. Just like that. It was official, I was in remission. I finally got the news that I had waited 6 long months to hear and it felt wonderful.