Throughout 2011, I had been experiencing chills, fevers, cDloughing fits, congestion and upper back pain. I had also noticed a lump on the left side of my collar bone. However, was not until I saw a new primary physician in August 2013 that I finally had a biopsy. After the biopsy, my dad and I met with my doctor and she informed us that I had a form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
I was in complete shock and I was so scared. I didn’t know what lymphoma was but I knew it was something serious. I used my phone to search, “lymphoma.” I heard my doctor talking but I was not listening. When I saw that my “condition” was a form of cancer my stomach dropped. After I re-read the definition of lymphoma, I began to cry.
“After I re-read the definition of lymphoma, I began to cry.”
That following Friday my mom, my dad and I met with the surgeon who performed the biopsy. He provided the “official” pathology report and the haunting phrase, “Lauren my diagnosis is that you have Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL).” I felt like crying but I had no more tears. My doctor recommended that with my diagnosis of stage three DLBCL that I start a chemotherapy regimen right away.
That Tuesday, I was admitted to the hospital with a high fever and heavy coughing. Before I could begin my chemotherapy regimen, we had to alleviate my cough and fever. After complications inserting my pick line my medical team determined that it was best to insert a port into my chest to more easily administer my medications. Once again, complications came to the forefront as I developed a hematoma on the right side of my chest – the location of the port lines. I will say throughout all of this, my doctor and the medical team were fantastic, which was really comforting.
Ultimately, I could begin the EPOCH (etopisode, vincristine, doxorubicin, cyclophosphomide and prednisone) chemotherapy regimen. The treatment was very tough and I was miserable. After six rounds of treatment my healthcare team it was decided that I needed a stem-cell transplant. Leading up to the stem cell transplant, I received a “super” dose of chemo therapy – 21 bags. This was the worst hospital stay I could ever imagine. There was nothing I could do. I had to tough it out and I did. It was all worth it though and I am thrilled to say that I am in remission. This is what we were hoping for! The window for full unhindered remission is five years. So, with a new nutrition, and exercise regimen, my focus is to maintain a more positive outlook on life.
“My new happy word is PERSERVERE…just look at me and know that there is hope!”
Thinking back on this journey it seemed like everything happened so fast, but it felt like an eternity. Lying in a hospital bed with a diagnosis of cancer leaves you with time to think and I used that time to do some soul searching, which put the trivialities of life in perspective for me. I knew I wanted to give back and in fact I started while I was still in the hospital. There was a woman in her mid-fifties who had received a similar diagnosis as mine. She was under the impression that her diagnosis was a death sentence. I was still bald then, but I was optimistic and already on the road to recovery. My dad met with her family and asked if I could come say hello to this woman and share my experiences. When I walked into her room with a bounce in my step her jaw nearly hit the floor! How can she have what I have she asked? I wanted to exude hope for this woman and I believe I did just that. Since then, I have been sharing my challenges and story as often as possible with family, friends, and strangers and am a proud Ambassador for the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
My advice to anyone who is newly diagnosed with lymphoma is to not read the internet in an endless search about your disease will drive you crazy because there is just so much information and it is hard to know what is accurate. The more I researched, the more I found out that I was researching the wrong medications and the wrong regimens. That is why the Lymphoma Research Foundation is so helpful – because you can find all the information you need for your lymphoma diagnosis and you can be sure it is all up to date and accurate! I would also say to someone dealing with lymphoma that no matter how hard it gets that you should hang in there because you are worth it – to you and to those who love you. My new happy word is PERSEVERE…just look at me and know that there is hope!