Sometimes, Lymphoma shows no face. That’s the lesson I got from my HL ride since 2018.
In 2018, I had just turned 30 and I was working harder than ever, travelling and living my best life. July 2018, I was travelling and noticed just a painless soft lump; I thought was just a cyst that I would check out once I was back home. The Universe pranked me, before that, I had some bad shrimp and had to rush to the ER. I stayed for 11hrs there and the doctor noticed the lump too. She asked me the checklist symptoms and guess what? None. I felt/had none of the regular symptoms, except the lump.
And by the time I got the CT results in the end, I got the surface diagnosis: It could be lymphoma – stage II, one mass was so close to my heart and lungs that it was a surprise that I hadn’t had shortness of breath. My whole world crumbled…I was lucky enough to meet my haematologist who gave me all the steps I had to go through. Went through chemo (ABVD) and had minimal effects – so minimal, that people would never say I was sick at all – Actually, many people thought I was lying about my cancer – no weight loss, no hair loss, no skin breaks, no mouth sores (thanks tons of popsicles during chemo!).
My HL was so ‘faceless’, that I keep on working as usual – except for the 4 days after chemo sessions, that I felt weak. From the outside, no one could ever tell that something was wrong with me, but from the inside..well, I had short term memory loss, blurred sight and a great deal of shortness of breath. Besides, my boyfriend back then left me, saying it was “too hard for him to handle”.
After 12 sessions, I finally went into remission. I celebrated it and started to go back to a regular lifestyle. Back to the classroom, travelling etc. I stayed in remission for almost a year – a matter of days to complete my 1st year in remission, to be more precise. At the beginning of March this year, during my self check-out, I felt another tiny lump on the same spot as the previous one. Self-checks are essential!!! Bam! HL was back. I had been so lucky so far…but I got in the 20% group of relapses. I have to be honest with you: at first, I did not want to treat myself, I did not want to go through all that all over again. Especially during a Covid-19 pandemic madness, as it is in Brazil. I had a great support system from my doctors and family and friends, that I decided to go through it. I had to take more chemo, a different one this time (GDP). Once again, no external signals…hair is still here and everything else is still the same. When I believed it was all gone, I got the news that chemo was not enough – I need am autologous BMO (bone marrow transplant). The BMO process, as well as other chemo-types, may leave us infertile.
I have always planned my life to have children after 30 and in a matter of 14 days, I had to make major decisions regarding my future and family. I chose to freeze my eggs, despite the very expensive treatment and the hormonal rollercoaster – I can talk more about it in another moment. I am still going to take a shot to protect my ovaries, though. Either way, I am still fighting my HL, but I am confident that I will beat it and I will rise stronger and better than ever.
If it takes a while longer, I can always count on sarcasm to help me deal with it. Thank you for listening to my story.