It’s my first September after being deemed in remission from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. September is lymphoma awareness month. This month brings about a large mixed bag of feelings for myself.
Cancer is traumatic, point-blank. Cancer does a lot of damage to the body. So does the treatment (for me — chemotherapy and radiation). Chemotherapy mentality is effectively “fight poison with poison”. Chemotherapy gets rid of the cancerous cells, but it also ravages the healthy cells. Whenever I was going through chemotherapy, my immune system (the “warriors” to fight off germs in your body) dropped to 5–10% of its maximum cell count at its lowest. This would be like a group of10 fighters suddenly dropping to 1 fighter. Do you see how bad this is? This is why even “simple” problems like the common cold or even a scrape could have easily hospitalized me and/or killed me while I was going through treatment.
I, like many cancer survivors, try not to think about the treatment process of what I went through to get rid of cancer. It’s a dark and miserable time in your life. You are happy to be alive, but the process was horrible and traumatic.
September being lymphoma awareness month stirred up these feelings that I thought I had buried in my past.
Sometimes cancer presents atypically (meaning symptoms you normally associated with cancer like night sweats and dramatic weight drop/gain) which means you have to rely on your own instincts to know when something in your body is wrong. My own presentation of cancer had two primary symptoms: extreme shortness of breath (I could only walk a short way before being seriously out of breath) and a chronic cough (which didn’t make sense because nothing in my personal or medical history would explain it).
My cancer doctor told me plainly that if I waited 2–4 weeks for treatment, I would have likely died. No one in their mid-20s wants to learn they have cancer or think about cancer happening to them. No one wants to think in their mid-20s they could have died from something like cancer. This is why it’s so important to listen to those during their respective awareness months.
We are telling our stories to try to help out other people. We are telling our stories to try to help people reach out to the appropriate medical experts to get help for themselves.
On social media on the platforms I am on, I am regularly discussing my own blood cancer past (despite my own discomfort) to help educate the general public. Before my cancer diagnosis, I never in a million years thought I would get cancer in my twenties. But the past happened and now I can only hope that telling my story helps others in some shape or form.