My Name is Adam Guida, and I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in September of 2012. It all started in August when I discovered a lump on the left side of my neck. I thought it was a pulled muscle, so I went online and “googled” how to treat a “lump above the left clavicle” and there it was… Cancer. I couldn’t believe it at first, but something told me – I need to get this checked out. I made an appointment with my family doctor, and I could tell during the examination that he looked a bit worried. The next day, I went in for an ultrasound and some blood work – and tried to keep a level head until I got my results. About a few days later I got a call from my Doctor to come back to the office – at that point, I knew something was wrong.
Saw my doctor and he gave me the news – it could be Cancer or it could be tuberculosis. At that point, there was nothing left for him to do so he referred me to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist where she performed a fine needle biopsy, but wanted me in for surgery to remove an actual piece of the lymph node. The surgery and needle biopsy were no big deal – it was just the fact that I had to wait until I got the results, and I remember how stressed I was – not because of what it “might be” but because of the waiting game. I hated feeling helpless, just waiting around until I got the news. A week later, I was called back in and remember the feeling of a pit in my stomach – I knew I wasn’t going to get good news. Sitting in her chair – she looked and me and said “its cancer” – specifically Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – nodular sclerosis. I remember going numb, and not feeling a single thing as she removed the stitches from the biopsy. My family had come along, and I heard them crying behind me – for me, I was pretty angry and just couldn’t believe that I had to deal with this – but I had to stay strong. The ENT threw the “silver lining” statement to me – “no one chooses to have cancer, but if they do – this is the one to get because you can be cured”. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs – yet, here I am 25 years old and I have Cancer – curable or not, I have a cancer.
The ENT referred me to the Stronach Cancer Centre to meet my Oncologist, but before that I went for a CT scan to determine staging. No more than 2 weeks later I met my Oncologist – Dr. Yasmin Rahim. She was amazing, I had kept it together since receiving by diagnosis – but when I saw her – I lost it and just started crying. This is the woman that’s basically going to save my life. Again she reaffirmed that this is a curable cancer, and that I was going to be alright. She confirmed the cancer had spread to my underarms and there was also a 7 cm mass in my chest. I didn’t display any symptoms so I was classified as Stage 2A. We put together a game plan, including future family planning as well. I underwent various tests to ensure I was fit for chemotherapy. Met with her one last time, and she confirmed I’ll need 12 Chemotherapy treatments of ABVD administered bi-weekly (6 cycles). I began treatment in October.
My first treatment was pretty tough, especially for my mom who had to watch her son go through chemo. I remember receiving the “red” injection and having this weird sensation in my chest and vomiting – aside from that the rest of the treatment was fine. When I got home I was pretty tired, and went to bed. The next day, I was perfectly fine and thought to myself that treatment was going to be a breeze – until the day after where I felt nauseous, exhausted and everything tasted like metal. These symptoms lasted for one week, followed by a week where I felt better – then on to the next treatment. As each treatment went on, the symptoms got progressively worse – I lost my hair, my face bloated like a balloon, nothing tasted right, constipation, nausea, and my veins had hardened up making it very difficult for my nurses to hook up an IV Line.
By the end of November, I had a PICC inserted in my arm – and it was probably the best thing that happened to me / rather than being poked 10 times each chemo treatment. Every other week I had to get it flushed and cleaned – it became routine. Along the way, I had various CT scans and all showed improvement and that the treatment was working.
Emotionally, it seemed that every Friday I was pretty depressed – I am not sure why. I guess in my mind, here I am having to go through this – while other people my age are living life and not having to worry about Cancer.
I finished my last treatment in March of 2013, and went for a PET scan and Gallium Scan which confirmed that there was no active cancer – but, I did have a residual mass in my chest. My doctor suggested I see a Radiation Oncologist to determine if I should receive Radiation Treatment. I met Dr. Woodrow Wells, and he was great. He balanced the pros and cons and ultimately suggested I receive radiation. The main purpose of the radiation was to ensure that there were no cancer cells inside the mass. I received tattoo markers, and began 1 of 20 treatments in April. Radiation Therapy was a breeze – aside from losing hair on my chest, I felt no side effects.
And that was it – all done. No more treatment. I was told that as long as the cancer doesn’t return in 5 years, I am cured – I just have to worry about all the secondary issues as a result of the treatment I received. But, those shouldn’t show up until years from now. I went for another CT scan, and the mass was shrinking – I was now in remission. Just need to make sure the cancer doesn’t return – easier said than done.
I returned to work in July, and then I tried to start living my life again. I felt like I had gone to war, came back – and was trying to put my life back together. It was not easy. I remember constantly checking the left side of my neck to ensure there weren’t any lumps – and if I did feel something, I would be back to see my doctor – who ran some tests and confirmed everything was okay… This was a regular occurrence. I constantly went for my routine tests, and CT scans and all confirmed that the mass was still shrinking and that I am doing okay. Always feeling a bit sick, waiting for my results.
I think at the beginning of 2015, I really started to move on – and didn’t check my neck as much. Until, June of 2015 – 1 month before I’m getting married. I felt two lumps in my neck – on the left side. I was so upset. I mean, how could this be? 1 month before I get married and I have to deal with this now? I met my oncologist, and she examined them and didn’t feel that they were cause for concern. I went for a chest x-ray and ultrasound and again, everything showed up okay. But, it didn’t make sense – why would these lymph nodes be swollen if it didn’t have a reason. The stress of dealing with planning for a wedding on top of this, is a bad combination. I looked online and “googled” relapse – and I couldn’t’ take it anymore. I called my doctor back, and apologized – but I didn’t feel relieved after meeting her – something still didn’t feel right. She reassured me, that if she had felt that it was anything to be concerned about – regardless of me getting married – she would be all over it. She reassured me, by telling me to go get married, go on my honey-moon, and when I get back to go for a CT scan “just to be sure”.
When I got back I went for my CT and go my results a few days later.
Everything was fine – lymph nodes showed up on the left side of my neck, but they didn’t look abnormal. My nurses confirmed I was good, and to just life my life. In the back of my mind, I’m asking myself – I still have these swollen lymph nodes, but – if they say I’m good, then it’s time to move on. As days go on, again – it’s getting a bit easier.
The toughest part of battling cancer (in my opinion), is not the treatment – it’s after. It’s in the waiting for results – it’s the feeling of helplessness. My days wasted, were not receiving treatment – because there I was doing something and fighting, it was feeling sick waiting for results and wondering what it could be. It’s trying to live your life, afraid of touching your neck worried about if there might be a lump or not. It’s about putting trust in someone else, and telling yourself that they know better, and they are looking out for you. Hodgkin’s Lymphoma might be a curable cancer – but the residual side effect, is the fear of the “what ifs”.
I want to help others going through Hodgkin’s, and I want to give hope to those who are losing it. I want to show people that there’s life after cancer. I’d like to help in any way that I can.
Adam Guida, Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor, Ontario, Canada