Giuliana, Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor

June 28, 2019 – the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. I remember sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, thinking I was either going to walk out of there smiling, knowing that the enlarged lymph node that I had discovered on my neck was a false alarm; or I was going to walk out of there knowing that my world had just been completely turned upside down.

After my doctor confirmed my diagnosis, I met with my oncologist who scheduled me for a  positron emission tomography (PET) scan to determine if the lymphoma had spread. The appointment was a blur after I heard the oncologist say the words, “Stage 3”. My husband and I were told that the lymphoma was present in my neck, chest, spleen and groin. All of the sudden I felt as if everything was moving at the speed of light, but I was standing still.

The following week was a whirlwind of appointments – an echocardiogram, port placement, and a pulmonary function test (PFT) – all while trying to raise two kiddos. While I knew that staying strong for them was going to be a struggle, I also knew that they would be my biggest sources of strength and two of the main reasons why I knew that I had overcome this chapter of my story.

“Being a mom of two, I grew accustomed to the everyday bun head, that I never realized how attached I was to my hair, until there was none left.”

Giuliana with her son

Treatment started almost instantly, along with weekly blood tests and doctor visits. Just as quickly as my first chemo session was over, my hair started falling out. Just about everywhere I would look, I would find strands of my hair. On my clothes, pillows, sheets – it seemed that everywhere I walked, a little piece of my hair was left behind. However, it wasn’t until after my second infusion, that the strands turned into chunks. Even though I wasn’t ready to let go of my hair, I knew that the time had come. The thought of how I would look without hair was terrifying and disturbing. As women, we are so attached to our hair – it’s part of who we are, our identity. Being a mom of two, I grew accustomed to the everyday bun head, that I never realized how attached I was to my hair, until there was none left. As much of a shock as it was, I tried to remind myself that hair grows back, and that a couple of years from now, I’ll be looking like Rapunzel with healthy, strong, and luscious hair!

When one finds themselves in a traumatic situation, it is easy and normal to search for an explanation. Sometimes I find myself doing this too, and I have moments where I just want to shout out, “WHY ME GOD, WHY?” I have no idea why I was diagnosed with cancer, but something that my chiropractor once said and that I carry with me always is, “I bet you that in a room full of people that have been diagnosed with cancer, not one person is asking WHY NOT ME?”

“I have found joy in connecting with people who have also been impacted by cancer to remind them that – YOU ARE NOT ALONE.”

While I am still on my journey with lymphoma, I try to live life with as much normalcy as I am given. The anxiety that I have been battling for a few years has worsened, and the depression that I had never met became my new friend. From one minute to the next, my “day to day” life has changed drastically. But while I know that the next five months of my life will be difficult, I also know that I was chosen to ride this wave for a reason – to help others in similar situations cope with the the toll a cancer diagnosis takes on your life. I have found joy in connecting with people who have also been impacted by cancer to remind them that – YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You are beautiful, you are a fighter, you are strong -stronger than the cancer you are enduring. Although I question my strength at times, I know that in the end everything will be okay and that I was meant to go through this, to live, embrace and survive. I was meant to beat cancer.

 

Giuliana chronicles her journey and shares her favorite healthy snacks on her personal blog, gulspeko.wordpress.com.