My story although sad, is triumphant. I was 23 years old when I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Stage 2 in February of 2013. Prior to my diagnosis, I was a bank teller and then a retail store manager. I had a bunch of "friends" and a boyfriend of 4 years! I was content but not happy.
I found myself in the Kaiser office after 2 weeks of seeing a strange growth in my neck. I told my boyfriend that I noticed it but he didn't see anything. I was complaining to the doctor about arm pain, uncontrollable itching and the lump when she jumped onto the medical table and straddled my neck. She informed me that I needed a biopsy and I felt every nurses eyes on me. They were hugging me as I walked out of the office. In shock, I walked from the doctors to my apartment that I shared with my boyfriend. It started raining and as I walked through the door, I told him that my lump wasn't so inconspicuous and that the doctor had been pretty forthcoming with the information. Cancer. He assured me of his support And that everything would be okay. Only one of those things were true.
After informing my family, I brushed up on my cancer topics and prepared myself for what was going to happen. I figured out early on that I wouldn't be closed-mouthed with my diagnosis. I would tell everyone, help anyone and come out victorious. I was not afraid ambit my only fear was of being alone. If I went through treatment, I didn't want to be alone and if I died, I really didn't want to be alone.
Biopsy day arrived and I was accompanied by my dad and twin sister. Somewhat estranged with my father, I was happy he could take me to my appointment and needed my sister for moral support. My results came back within a week and it was definitely a shock. Stage 2 blood cancer in the lymph nodes of my neck, chest and arms. 2 weeks later, I started treatment, with social workers and specialists telling me everything there was to know about the ABVD treatment I'd be receiving. Very harsh but affective, for 6 months, I underwent chemotherapy not far from my home and couldn't work or drive. I lost my hair, my car, my job and everything I held dear. I lost friends, my boyfriend pretty much kicked me out and I nearly lost my mind after I found out the chemo didn't work!
I then was sent to City of Hope in Duarte, Ca to do a clinical trial of Brentauximab. It had worked well overseas on older Caucasian males but it did not work for me. After 2 of the 3 treatments, my scans showed that my Lymphoma was very active. We finished the treatments but the response wasn't good enough. I was then placed in the hospital for a week long chemo treatment called ICE. It was a very intense chemo that required constant medical supervision. Again, it didn't work. I was getting restless and even more sick. I'd lost over 80 lbs and wasn't doing to well with the news of more chemo. Radiation wasn't an option.
My only hope was an autologous stem cell transplant. I'd use my own stem cells to harvest new clean blood that would hopefully stop any of my lymph nodes from growing. In September of 2014 on the 23rd day, after collecting my cells and friends and family coming in to donate blood, I was in the transplant unit of City of Hope. A month went by and I was finally home. Tired, drained, malnourished, in pain but hopefully cancer free. I went in for a scan and was relieved to find that there were no cancer cells found in my body.
September 23rd, 2016, I will officially be 2 years cancer free and I couldn't feel better. I just had my PET scan and everything came back crystal clear. I still have fatigue and soreness, depression and sadness but who? Working on my book gives me great pleasure. Dancing and giving people a reason to want to get active bring me true joy. The goal now is to get this book on shelves and to open my own business where people can be free to be themselves, inspire and perform in ways society tells them they can't. Of course there's more but I'm so ready for whatever is next. To God be the Glory.