Nothing Ruins the College Experience Quite Like Cancer
With all of my friends planning their futures after college graduation, I spent my days in and out of doctor appointments attempting to find a diagnosis for a mysterious lump on my clavicle. After a few scans and a biopsy, at 22 years old, I finally received my diagnosis of Nodular Sclerosing Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in November 2014.
Even though I received the news from a doctor who was nearly in tears giving me the diagnosis, I was so clueless what the next few years would entail. I remember walking out of the appointment texting my friend to ask what the treatment for Lymphoma consisted of, thinking I would simply take some medication and move on.
After six months of ABVD chemotherapy, I was finally told I was in remission. After the remission celebration, I noticed my life getting back on track, from obtaining my Bachelor’s degree to being a maid of honor in my best friend’s wedding. However, the remission celebration was short-lived.
The next year, during my yearly check-up, another scan confirmed my lymphoma had returned and unfortunately the next line of treatment, a stem cell transplant, was rare in my home town (the hospital only performed 1-3 each year compared to out of state hospitals performing around 100 per year). My oncologist mentioned that if she had access, she would suggest a new drug, usually used in lymphoma patients after a failed autologous stem cell transplant, Brentuximab. She told me the only way to obtain the drug at this stage would be through finding a clinical trial.
My medical team had kind of given up on my case, and I was forced to find another provider who could better treat my recurrence. I felt my days were filled with nothing to look forward to and most of the day was spent worrying about cancer, worrying about my cancer spreading, and worrying about the best treatment option.
If I could give one piece of advice to any cancer patient, it would be to worry about their cancer diagnosis only half of the day. Worry about your treatment options, research every little thing about your specific cancer, complain to family members, and feel sorry for yourself for only half of the day. In fact, make it a goal to talk about the word ‘cancer’ for half the day. Then, for the rest of the day do something enjoyable. I swear to you this is the only way to stay sane, especially when you feel like no one understands your pain and isolation around you. Everyone says there is life after cancer, but don’t get so caught up that you forget there is life during cancer.
After extensive research, done mostly by my relentless mom, an opening in a clinical trial was found at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha, NE. The clinical trial was for Brentuximab, the drug my doctor had mentioned, and Nivolumab along with a stem cell transplant.
After four treatments, on January 30, 2017, my new tumors diminished! I advise anyone who faces a cancer diagnosis to first, breathe, and then do your own research. Be your own advocate for your cancer care. Doctors treat cancer based on statistics and data. Cancer is a time where it is okay to be selfish.
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