JohnOn an unknown date in March of 2019, I woke up in the middle of the night wearing a sweat-drenched shirt and in agony with severe hip, hamstring, and lower back pain which lasted about 90 minutes.

“I thought I had overdone it at work or had been working out too hard the previous day. Maybe I was getting older and developing sciatica.”

This took place on and off for several months. During that time, I noticed some general malaise and low-grade fevers throughout the day. I didn’t think that anything was seriously wrong with me, especially since I recently had an annual physical.

After these symptoms persisted for a few months, I booked another visit with my doctor. She sent me for an x-ray, an MRI, some blood work, and gave me a referral for a rheumatologist.

The rheumatologist suggested that I might have polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) but ordered a CT scan as well as further blood tests before making his diagnosis.

A short while after the CT scan was performed, I was asked to book an endobronchial ultrasound since there was swelling in my chest.

On November 27, 2019, I drove to Hamilton to get my test results, which I didn’t think would show signs of anything serious, and instead, I received a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“We were so sure that it was nothing serious that my wife waited in the car while I went into the appointment. So, I was by myself when the news was delivered.”

“I struggled to find my way to the exit where I met my wife. I burst into tears and could not finish the simple sentence ‘I have cancer.’ After a few attempts, I was able to mutter the word cancer.”

As an extremely fit and healthy 53-year-old who completed ultramarathons, triathlons, two bodybuilding shows, and could do 200 pull-ups in an hour, I was shocked. How could this happen to someone so fit with no health issues?

I don’t remember the drive home.

The very next day Sue was scheduled to have knee surgery. We relied on each other for support.

Thankfully, Lymphoma Canada was there to help patients like me navigate our cancer journey from diagnosis through to treatment and remission. They provide resources, such as Canadian specific information and ways to cope with lymphoma and COVID-19 related anxieties. I was able to find hope when reading survivor stories on their website, which helped me get through the tough days of treatment. Just knowing that others have done it, meant that I could do it too.

Today, I ask that you support Lymphoma Canada by making a donation toward lymphoma research and vital resources for newly diagnosed patients across Canada. 

Between my diagnosis and the start of my therapy, it was a race to complete all the required tests as quickly as possible. If it wasn’t the holiday season, I probably would have started treatment earlier.

On January 2, 2020, I received a complete diagnosis of stage 4, multicellular Hodgkin Lymphoma with ‘B-symptoms’.

On January 9, 2020, I had my first infusion of ABVD – a type of chemotherapy that I would receive for the next six months.

By February, after watching international news about the rise of COVID-19, I began wearing a mask and a shield at treatments which earned me many strange looks. Soon after, all staff were wearing masks and shields.

As if cancer and chemo weren’t tough enough, I journeyed to each treatment during a pandemic and my wife stayed home as visitors were prohibited.

We had a neighbour help with our grocery shopping and had everything else delivered. We didn’t have any guests over for the entire time I was in treatment. Not even my son and his fiancé. It was very difficult.

I was immunocompromised and was worried that I wouldn’t stand a chance against COVID-19, a fear that further burdened cancer patients like me in the last year.

Lymphoma Canada has been at the forefront of advocating for the prioritization of vaccine access for immunocompromised patients and their caregivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please consider a gift to help ensure that all Canadians have equal access to vital information during this uncertain time and that they will benefit from innovative research.

After each chemotherapy treatment, chemo fog, peripheral neuropathy, and anemia/residual fatigue made it difficult for me to work. During that time, I struggled to use my hands before noon each day and felt nauseous.

I viewed treatment as a physical challenge.

On June 11, 2020, I finished chemotherapy. I have completed some challenging things in life, or what I previously thought were challenging, but this was by far the hardest. I began to understand what it meant to be a “Cancer Warrior”.

Six months later I banged the gong at the Walker Family Cancer Center (WFCC) and exited as patient #2661; it was a great day!

The post-treatment PET scan had revealed “no evidence of disease”. I was ecstatic but shortly after became an emotional wreck. Everything I suppressed during treatment came pouring out. I cried more after knowing I was cancer free than at any time since I received my diagnosis.

Once my physical health returned, I began my journey of mental and emotional healing.

Except for some regular side effects, such as peripheral neuropathy, I feel good physically – most of the time. It seems I have shifted from being a ‘physical warrior’ to being an ’emotional warrior’.

When I was struggling after treatment, I read survivor stories on Lymphoma Canada’s website which provided me hope and inspiration.

I am exercising daily now but in moderation.

Besides showing love for my family and friends, all I want to do is support lymphoma-related causes, and most importantly, help anyone impacted by this disease. It feels so great to be giving back.

Please consider donating today. Your gift will help fund lymphoma research ‐ leading to more positive outcomes for patients ‐ and will provide vital resources for lymphoma patients across our country.

                                                                     Thank you for your support!