I had been in Stillwater staying with my parents over the holidays for about 5 weeks. The first couple weeks were fast and furious with preparing for Christmas, going to Missouri for Christmas, and then New Years and Dad’s 50th birthday. Then, I ran out of things to do with my free time and let’s be honest, my days were filled with studying for my Board Exam which I am scheduled to take in July and planning my wedding (I am not engaged…yet) on Pinterest.
I had started back to school for a two-week seminar at Langston and decided to stay home a couple more weeks before returning to OKC for my last clinical rotation. One night before bed I was feeling the muscles in my neck which seemed to be tight from sleeping in an uncomfortable position when I felt a lump on the front of my neck and to the left a little of my throat. I realized it was abnormal but just thought I would monitor it to see if it grew at all the next couple of days.
On Martin Luther King Day, I was out of school and decided it had been a week and the lump was still there so I should probably see a doctor. I went to the doctor and he took a full history and did a ear, nose, and throat exam but could find nothing wrong with me. However, he knew that the lump was abnormal so ordered for me to have an ultrasound the following morning.
Tuesday morning, January 17, I went in for an ultrasound. I thought this was going to be no big deal. I figured I would go in, they would tell me what was wrong, and I would head on to school for the day. Boy was I wrong! The radiologist read the ultrasound and said that he was going to call my doctor. From there I had a chest x-ray, reviewed that with my doctor, and then had a needle biopsy of the lymph node in my neck. The radiologist and my family doctor both told me that day that they thought I may have lymphoma but the biopsy would confirm my diagnosis in 24-48 hours. There were a lot of tears shed that day. The unknown is very scary and all we knew to do was get on our knees and pray.
Wednesday morning I went to school and then that evening some of my family came in from Missouri to be there while we endured this excruciating wait period. Thursday morning I had to give a presentation at school and came home after that to wait for some news. That afternoon I received a call from my doctor saying that the pathologists differed in opinion and so they were going to need to send it on to some specialists and we should know a final answer by Friday afternoon.
Friday afternoon came and the doctor called for us to come in and get the news. My whole family went with me and that day we learned that our wait period was going to be even longer. My doctor felt awful but explained to us that there wasn’t enough tissue to know 100% what the diagnosis was. He explained that the pathologist suspected that it was Hodgkins Lymphoma but just needed more of the lymph node to be sure. From there I was referred to Dr. Armor at Mercy Hospital in OKC. In a matter of a few hours, I had a lymph node biopsy scheduled for Monday morning, a PET scan on Tuesday afternoon, and an appointment with Dr. Armor, the oncologist, on Wednesday afternoon.
Last week went by very quickly with all the appointments back-to-back. By the time Wednesday afternoon got here we were exhausted and very anxious to know what was going on with me. Dr. Armor came in and nonchalantly started talking about the PET scan and the biopsy. My dad finally had to interrupt him and ask what the diagnosis was since we could hardly handle anymore anticipation. He then told us that I had Hodgkins Lymphoma. We began looking at the PET scan and it showed that several of the lymph nodes in my neck, under arms, and chest are affected. The good news is that since it is above my diaphragm it is only Stage II. Also, Hodgkins is very curable. Dr. Armor went on to say that I will need 6 months of chemotherapy and we will try to avoid radiation if at all possible. I will have chemotherapy every other Wednesday for 2-3 hours. That day in his office he also did a bone marrow biopsy to see if the cancer is in my bone marrow and blood tests.
The last couple of things that needed to be done before the whole treatment process begins was a Pulmonary Function Test to make sure my lungs are healthy for chemotherapy and a shot to “put my ovaries to sleep.” Dr. Armor stated that 50% of people receiving chemotherapy become infertile. However, he also told us that my odds are good since I am young and healthy. This shot that he suggested is to improve my chances of staying fertile by making my ovaries dormant for the time being. (Please pray this works because I really want children someday!)
The next step in the process is getting a port placed tomorrow morning. This will be placed in my chest so that they can administer chemotherapy through this each time. I will also have a couple more lab tests done as well. The following day is my first day of chemotherapy. While I am not sure what to expect yet, I have heard lots of positive stories. There is a good chance I may not get sick or tired at all.
I have been so richly blessed through all of this so far. First of all I have an amazing God who gave me a sense of peace about all of this the minute I asked for it. I have felt his presence more than I ever have before. He deserves all the glory and I trust that this is all part of his perfect plan. Secondly, I have the most amazing family and boyfriend. They have not left my side for one second and for that I am so grateful. They have been my rock when I needed anything at all and I love each of them dearly. Lastly, I have such an amazing group of friends and extended family. The text messages, flowers, cards, phone calls, scriptures, etc. have been overwhelming and I am so thankful. God definitley shows his love through the people he puts into your life.
Although I am nervous about the journey ahead, I have no doubt that God will be with me every step of the way. My cousin has been sending me scriptures that I try to repeat in my head when I get scared and the one that has stuck out to me the most is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” I have faith that God is using me each and every day.