August 1, 2023

Hi! I’m Lauren. I was a 20-year-old college student from New York, and the January that would have been my spring semester of junior year I learned two things: I had Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and it is important to always follow your intuition no matter how many people are doubting you.

On January 7th, 2023, I was out for lunch with my mom when I got the call. I had Lymphoma. 45 minutes later, I was getting a CT scan to get a better picture of my lymph nodes. Over the following two weeks, I was in and out of the city getting a PET scan, a bone marrow biopsy, surgery to remove the lymph node on my hip, and meeting with different fertility specialists and oncologists to determine where and what my course of treatment would be. All these changes were going on around me, and all I could think about was how excited I was just a few days prior while packing for college, and now I had to unpack my bags.

Two years prior

January 7th was not the start of my fight with cancer. My story begins about two years prior, during my senior year of high school. I don’t remember exactly when, but in 2020, I noticed a pain in my tailbone. At first, it was a low-grade pain and I only felt it on one side. The pain eventually spread to my whole tailbone and down my legs. I finally went to my physician when the pain got really bad, and she sent me to a sports medicine doctor. There, she told me to do some stretches at home, and she ordered me to have an MRI. I did the stretches for a few weeks, and the MRI came back clear, but I still had the pain. At this point, the pandemic began, so I just dealt with it and took Advil when the pain was too much.

For the following two years, I went to different chiropractors and saw my physician a few times for the pain, both of them believing it was sciatica. Once again, they gave me stretches to do, but the pain still didn’t go away. At this point, I was about to leave for college and didn’t want to deal with any more doctors or appointments. I chose to just accept the fact that no one could figure out what was wrong and live my life with the pain.

“Turns out my intuition was correct, and something was wrong.”

Flash forward

Flash forward two years to May of 2022, a few weeks after my sophomore year of college. I had a strong feeling that something was wrong with my body. I explained it to my friends and family as feeling lightheaded, and something felt off in my head. It is a really hard feeling to describe, but I had this intuition that there was a problem. After a few weeks of this feeling, I went to my physician and explained what was going on. At that point, she thought it was anemia, and she prescribed iron supplements.

The same summer, I also visited the dermatologist because my legs and arms were extremely itchy. I would literally itch all day and night, leaving myself scratched up every morning. My dermatologist believed it was just an allergy or irritation to something around me, and like my physician, she simply prescribed me a cream. The rest of the summer, I took the iron supplements and used the cream, and while the lightheadedness and itchiness left, I still had a strong feeling that something was wrong. Little did I know that iron deficiencies and itchiness are both symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Still, no one will listen

At the end of that summer, I went back to school hoping that I was wrong and everything was okay like the doctors seemed to believe. It wasn’t until the constant pain in my tailbone got so bad that I called my mom and told her I wanted tests done to really find out what was wrong. After consulting with my primary physician, I scheduled an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. When I met with him in September, a few weeks later, he instantly prescribed me six weeks of physical therapy without really listening to my concerns or sending me for an MRI like I wanted. At this point, I didn’t have time for physical therapy and was annoyed with every doctor not listening to me when I said something was wrong. I decided to finish the fall semester and that I would deal with the feeling when I got home for winter break. Little did I know, the pain in my tailbone was caused by cancer found in my bone marrow and by my lymph nodes pressing against the bottom of my spine.

I never expected it to be cancer. Ever.

A week after I got home in December, I noticed a bump on my left hip when I was getting dressed for work one morning. It wasn’t causing me any pain, and I had a physical scheduled for the week after Christmas, so I just ignored it and didn’t worry for the time being. After showing my doctor the bump, she said it was a lymph node, and had me complete blood work, scheduled an ultrasound, and convinced my orthopedist to finally sign off on an MRI. A few days later, I went for the ultrasound, and let me tell you, the technician did not have a good poker face. Seeing his expression, I knew that my intuition was correct and something was wrong. However, I never expected it to be cancer. Ever.

To be continued…

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