February 15th, 2019
| Survivor: Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Two years ago, I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Lymphoma is a blood cancer and spreads throughout the whole lymphatic system. I completed 3 PET scans, 2 surgeries, 1 mammogram, numerous CT & EKG scans, weekly visits to the hospital for PICC line flushes and dress changes, and 12 A.B.V.D. chemotherapy sessions every 2 weeks for 8 months. Not to mention a sh*t ton of blood work and nasty prescription medication.
When I reached my last chemo session I couldn't be happier and more excited to get back to my "normal" life. After waiting 1 month for the CT scan that confirmed I was in the clear, I went out looking for work. I was determined to "live each day to its fullest." I began setting goals for myself, without allowing the side effects from cancer to limit me. I started to run, hike and swim. Getting back into fitness right away was important to me.
I booked a flight to Thailand because I had always wanted to go there since I was 15 years old. I went by myself and ended up meeting some pretty cool people from all around the world. I was constantly chasing one "high" in life after the other, and this didn’t seem like such a terrible thing. But I failed to allow myself to do one important thing.
I failed to allow myself to heal. I didn't allow my body any time to recover from the hell of chemotherapy and cancer. I ignored my emotional health. I bottled up all my fears from cancer, hoping that they would stay in. I didn't talk about it with anyone. I was scared and felt insecure and judged if I were to talk about it. I feared that people would find me ungrateful for complaining about life after cancer, and I felt guilty for even having those thoughts when I was lucky enough to have survived. After cancer is a time when we need our people the most. There is very little support from medical teams that are targeted for cancer survivors. As medicine continues to advance, we are seeing more and more cancer fighters surviving (which is great!!) but nobody knows how to help them cope with the anxiety, guilt, fear, and stress they deal with while processing everything that they just went through.
I've been cancer free for two years, and I have neglected my body for two years. During these past 3 weeks, I have been reminded of what it's like to go through hell again. I developed a functional neurological disorder. I have seizures every day. They are non-epileptic seizures, so typical epileptic prescription pills won't help my case. "One" seizure lasts anywhere from 10-20 seconds, and I can have anywhere from 3-20 at a time. That 'episode' can average up to 3x a day.
After cancer, I developed a few other illnesses I didn't have before. I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). I have cysts on both my ovaries. I also have Fibrocystic breast disease, which has given me cysts in both breasts and armpits, making it extremely hard to tell if a strange lump is breast cancer or a fibrocystic cyst. I've been diagnosed with a form of PTSD...that one makes sense. Going through cancer feels pretty much like going to war, but with your own body.
These seizures have been a wakeup call for me. My body is screaming for help and healing, and I am going to focus on healing it emotionally, spiritually, and physically. I am going to breathe and meditate through my anxiety. I am going to work on not holding my feelings inside. I am going work on becoming more vulnerable, and I am going to share my story to heal myself and to help heal others. These are my goals. My next 'high" in life is to heal myself and hopefully help others in the process.
Photos courtesy of the author.
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