One summer morning, I noticed a large lump just above my clavicle. I was somewhat worried but because I am an exceptionally healthy 22 year-old, I reckoned I was only being paranoid. When I visited my doctor, she didn’t think much of it either, telling me it didn’t “feel” like Cancer, it instead felt like a reactive lymph node from a cough I was having.
After weeks with no change and feeling uneasy, I made another visit and she continued to brush it off. I was quite fatigued most of the time but I had many changes happening in my life; I had just returned from an incredible month-long trip in Southeast Asia, moved to a beautiful condo in Downtown Toronto, and started a Post-Graduate program in the city. I experienced night sweats a few times but didn’t think much of it, as I had no other symptoms.
I met with a new doctor, where I insisted an ultrasound be done. The results disclosed that among other things, Lymphoma was a possibility and I was sent for a Chest X-ray to investigate further. The Chest X-ray revealed an alarming 12-centimeter mass in my chest. More tests were ordered, all labeled URGENT; MRI’s, CT Scans, and several biopsies. The diagnosis process can be quite lengthily, taking several weeks or months.
I hardly slept for the weeks leading up to my diagnosis…I was so nervous, anxious, and of course scared, not knowing what was going to happen and feeling just so out of control. Finally the pathology reports came back and I was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma, a subtype of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. At the time, this was by far the worst-case scenario in my mind, and I worried about what my future would hold.
This experience proves just how important it is to be your own advocate of your health and to trust your gut when something doesn’t feel right to you. Everyone, including me, said there was no way this could be true…I was so healthy and I took such good care of myself! As much as I wanted to believe everything was fine, it just wasn’t, and deep down I knew it. If I had shrugged it off as several doctors did, I would be in much worse condition now.
Likewise, it’s important to get reliable information from your doctor and have the proper tests done. See multiple doctors if that’s what it means. I strayed away from unreliable information throughout it all and didn’t try to diagnose myself; I only focused on the right information that was being given to me through legitimate sources like Lymphoma Canada and through my appointments, to avoid additional, unnecessary stress.
One of the only positive things that came out of my experience in being diagnosed was my support network. Support is so important! I turned to the people I trust the most to get me through the tough times, and I continue to turn to them. For me, it’s my family first and then my closest friends. They ensure I never go to an appointment alone, that I rarely spend a day or night alone, and that I am always staying happy and positive.
I am so thankful for the relationships that have flourished and to have these people by my side throughout the entire process. It provides me with the strength needed to overcome this and it truly makes ALL the difference. Its heartening knowing my team is behind me and will be right there cheering me on at the finish line.