“Friday, August 10th, 2018, was a day I’ll never forget. I was in San Antonio, Texas, for a conference, 1,100 miles away from home. I woke up that morning feeling perfectly fine. Just a little tired, but nothing out of the ordinary.
At 12:15 p.m., my first symptom hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt this heaviness in my chest that I couldn’t explain. I told my friends and they mentioned that it sounded like I was having an anxiety attack. I went back to the room for the rest of the night and rested. The heaviness came and went throughout the next two days and I figured I would try to rest in my hotel room as much as possible. On Sunday, we had an early flight to catch. Our flight was delayed, which means we had to run to catch our connecting flight. This is the exact moment I knew that something was wrong. I could not run. I WANTED to, but my body wouldn’t let me. I’ve always considered myself to be a relatively healthy person. I ate well and exercised often, so for me to not be able to run through the airport, I knew something was very, very wrong. We made it back to Michigan safely and I was ready to get back into my normal routine. My one and only symptom went away so I figured that my friends were right about it being an anxiety attack.
I went back to my normal routine on that Monday we got back. I went to the grocery store and came home and had to take a nap because I was so exhausted. My husband was a paramedic for several years so he was asking me a thousand questions about how I was feeling. He told me to get dressed, we were going to the ER. I begged him to not go. I didn’t want to take someone else’s spot in the ER if there was nothing wrong with me. We dropped our 3-year-old daughter off at my in-laws’ house and told them we would be back in a few hours. The doctors thought it may be a blood clot due to traveling so they took some tests.
My blood work came back perfectly fine so they decided to do a CT scan. My husband and I waited for hours. We were talking about where we should eat as soon as I got released from the hospital and what we were going to do for the rest of the week. The doctor walked in and I knew something was wrong just by looking at him. He said, ‘It’s not a blood clot. You have a 5-inch mass in between your heart and your lungs.’ I looked at my husband, not really understanding what the doctor just said. My husband burst into tears and that moment, our lives changed forever. We would never be the same.
The next few hours were a blur. I can’t tell you what happened immediately after that. I remember my husband calling our parents and giving them the devastating news. I remember my initial thought was, ‘I’m too young to die. I have a 3-year-old daughter that needs her mom. I’m only 32 years old. How can this happen?’ As I sat there, I remember praying so hard. I remember the fear I had moments before, vanished. It was time to fight. It was time to be strong and it was time to remain positive, no matter what the road ahead looked like. After more tests and a biopsy, two days later, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. Cancer. I was told many times, this is the ‘good’ cancer. The good cancer? Who knew there was even such a thing… the ‘good’ cancer had a survival rate of 92 percent. By the way, there is no such thing as ‘good’ cancer, in case anyone ever tells you that. We were sent home the day of my official diagnosis and a few weeks later we met with my Oncologist. I knew that chemotherapy would be my best option. My ONLY option. I was ready to have this cancer out of me and I was ready to be healthy again, no matter what my road looked like.
I was going to go through 6 months of ABVD, a particular type of chemo for my cancer. The weeks leading up to chemo were very stressful. We had to get childcare around. We had to figure out how my husband would be able to take care of me while I was sick. He’s a firefighter and works 24-hour shifts a few days per week. The amount of support we received was something I’ll never forget. We had people stepping in to set up a meal train for us, fundraisers to help with the cost of traveling to and from the cancer center, firefighters stepping in to donate their time for my husband so he could take time off–everything you could possibly think of, it was covered for us. As we drove to the cancer center to receive my first infusion, I remember being so scared. I had no idea what to expect. I had this ‘vision’ of what it might look like. When I sat down in the chair, I remember looking around, the room was filled with others receiving chemo. I remember wondering, ‘What is their story? What will their journey look like? How are they feeling?’ There were so many emotions.
I remember my nurse trying to make me feel as comfortable as possible. I remember tasting the chemo, I remember feeling it through my veins. I remember snuggling up with my blanket that my friends made. I remember drinking their delicious hot chocolate. I remember snacking on as much hard candy as I could possibly eat. Chemo didn’t hurt at all, it just felt weird. My treatment took 3 hours total and I remember feeling fantastic afterward. I didn’t ‘feel’ like I had cancer. What about all of these horror stories I heard prior to coming here?
Chemo was fine and more importantly, it was saving my life. Right before my second round of chemo, my hair started falling out. Ever since I was in my early twenties, I was always known for my ‘good hair.’ I knew the time had come that it was time to shave it like Britney did in ’07. Before starting chemo, I thought I would be traumatized by having to shave it. When it was time, I decided to use my social media platform as a chance to help others and show them that it’ll be okay. On Sunday, September 30th of 2018, I decided to hit that ‘Go Live’ button on Facebook and have my husband shave my head in front of more than 2 thousand people. As I go back and look at that video now, I see so much pain in my husband’s eyes. So much pain that I didn’t see before.
As I went through chemo, each infusion was a little different. I wasn’t as sick as I thought I would be. The days after chemo, I would sleep for about 20 hours, which was the BEST sleep of my life. I had very little nausea, but the metallic taste I had was unbearable. People told me to make sure that I didn’t eat my favorite foods during chemo and boy were they right! As chemo went on, I remember looking more and more sick. I remember stepping out of the shower, looking back in the mirror and not knowing who the person staring back at me was. Completely bald, no lashes, very pale, puffy from the steroids along with a bulge sticking out of my chest from my Port. Who was this person? I knew I had to accept how I looked during this time, there was nothing that I could change, other than my attitude.
During chemo, I remained very positive. I kept reminding myself that although I was sick, it could be much worse. My husband had a very difficult time through this process. His faith was tested, he felt helpless and he had a lot of anger with me being sick. Our marriage went through some rocky times while I was sick. I was very positive, while he was angry and struggled with depression. I often think the caregivers have a more difficult time than cancer patients. Thankfully, he was able to get help during this time, which helped our marriage tremendously. We were both working on healing and getting better for each other and for our beautiful 3-year-old daughter who just thought, ‘Mom gets shots every other week.’
On February 13th, 2019, I finished out my last chemo EVER! I finished out my 3 hours of infusion, ready to scream from the rooftops that it was my last day of chemotherapy. I wanted to hug all of the nurses and doctors that helped me and say, ‘Peace Out!’ As the nurse de-accessed my port for the very last time, I remember looking around at a dozen other patients. I wanted to burst into tears. My heart hurt for them. Some of those patients around me didn’t have an end date for their chemo. Some of them were undergoing chemo to stay alive. Some patients were alone. Some looked broken. The girl next to me was beginning her very first chemo and looked so scared. Leaving that Infusion Center was very bittersweet.
Survivor’s guilt is something I still deal with to this day and I know I’ll continue to deal with it for a very long time. My heart aches for those that don’t have ‘the good cancer.’ My heart aches for those who have lost their loved ones to cancer.
On April 9th, 2019, I received news that I was in remission and there was no evidence of disease.
As the months went on, I attempted to go on with my life. I went through some dark times after cancer and I felt so lost. I just fought for my life for 6 months, now what? How am I supposed to go on with life and pretend like cancer never existed? I talked to my oncologist and found out this is VERY, VERY common. Although it’s common, we, as cancer survivors, need more resources. We need more resources on how to get through life AFTER cancer.
I feel like I’m meant for SO much more in life. I feel like I have a bigger purpose than I once knew a year ago. Although I haven’t quite found what my purpose is, I’m working on it.
I now use my voice through social media, specifically, Youtube, to share my story with the world in hopes of showing survivors that there IS hope through this difficult season of life. You are NOT alone. You are brave. You are loved. You are worthy of greatness and PLEASE know that it’s okay, to not be okay. There is a big, big world out there for us.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Robin Thorne from Michigan. You can follow their journey on Instagram and YouTube. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more touching stories like this:
‘It was a glorious, sunny day at the pool. I scratched and felt the lumps.’: Mom with terminal breast cancer afraid to miss the ‘little moments’ with daughter: ‘Light-up shoes, ice skates, bra straps’
SHARE this story on Facebook or Twitter to support those battling cancer.