Julia AprileToday, I found out that I have Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

That is how my journal entry reads on January 22, of this year.

At the time of my diagnosis, I was 19 years old and attending university as an engineering student. I was part way through my second year when I went to see a doctor at the University Wellness Centre about some persisting symptoms.

I had a few small bumps on my neck and my skin was itchy all over.

Prior to this doctor’s appointment, I was told that these symptoms could be related to a virus, but they hadn’t disappeared over several weeks. Concerned, the doctor at the Wellness Centre sent me for a neck ultrasound, a chest x-ray, and some blood work.

I had the worst fear of needles so the bloodwork took me a few weeks to complete. The mere thought of it would send me into a state of panic and I would have to leave the clinic. Eventually, I was able to distract myself long enough for the blood to be withdrawn and I hoped not to have to return anytime soon.

However, the results didn’t show anything conclusive, so a biopsy was conducted where a small sample was taken from my neck.

On January 22, I took the bus home from school to see my family. That was supposed to be the day that my parents told me, “everything is fine.”

When I arrived home, I grabbed a bite to eat and asked about the biopsy results.

My parent’s silence said it all. Something was wrong. They sat me down on the couch and shared the news. It’s Hodgkin Lymphoma.

I was in shock and I couldn’t stop shaking. We immediately went to see a hematologist and I remember the doctor saying so many different and unfamiliar phrases. I had too much on my mind and wasn’t taking anything in.

All I wanted was to go back a few hours. To be sitting in morning lecture with my friends.

The next day, my mom and I went back to my university to share the news with my closest friends and to determine what my options were for school. I couldn’t imagine missing school for the rest of the year and not getting to see my friends every day.

Finding the right words to share the diagnosis with my friends was very challenging. Some were quiet, some had questions, and some didn’t know what to do with themselves. But everyone was very supportive.

That night, my mom, my closest friends, and I went to dinner. We raised our glasses and toasted to ‘Team Julia.’ The whole experience was surreal.

So many Canadians have similar stories about the shock they experienced with their lymphoma diagnoses. We need support available to us. Today, I ask that you join Lymphoma Canada with a donation to support the need for research and vital resources for newly diagnosed patients across Canada.

This year, your gift is more important than ever.

Since the day I shared my story, I have felt physically stronger. It’s hard to explain but it made life feel a little more normal.

After my diagnosis, I made the difficult decision to leave school and isolate myself at home in preparation for my immediate start to treatment. This was well before the beginning of the pandemic. But I knew that I had the support of my friends and family and a highly successful treatment plan. Not everyone is so lucky.

Thankfully, Lymphoma Canada is there to help patients navigate their cancer journey from diagnosis through to treatment and remission. They provide resources, such as Canadian specific information, including webinars, national conferences, support groups, and education materials describing disease, treatments, and side-effects. Not only that, but they also provide ways to cope with lymphoma, including peer support programs.

Lymphoma Canada is there for you every step of the way.

In February, I began ABVD chemotherapy and despite the challenging side effects and the disappointment of having to leave my friends and education behind, I have maintained a positive outlook, and even started my own blog.

The blog, titled, Life as Me; my cancer battle, was an important part of my journey. It was cathartic to create and hopefully, will motivate others who are in similar situations, battling lymphoma. Through it, I chronicle difficult decisions I faced about fertility, the loss of my hair, and the effects of chemotherapy.

Cancer has challenged my perspective on life but definitely hasn’t changed it. Maybe I was meant to share my story and help others conquer this disease.

I want you to know that you are not alone, and that support is available to you. Lymphoma Canada is there for you.

On July 31, I finished my final treatment of chemotherapy. And by September 15, I was well enough to be able to participate in Lymphoma Canada’s Laps Around Lymphoma virtual fitness challenge. The way I see it, it is important to raise funds for lymphoma research and patient resources, so that support is available to Canadians when it matters most.

That is why I held my own fundraiser called Paint 4 Lymphoma where donors received one of my handmade paintings in exchange for their contribution to Lymphoma Canada.

This holiday season, I urge you to provide support for the over 100,000 Canadians living with lymphoma.

Please consider donating today. Your gift will help fund lymphoma research ‐ leading to more positive outcomes for patients ‐ and will provide much-needed support for lymphoma patients like me.

                                                                            Thank you for your support!