Ivonne- The Story of Hodgkin Lymphoma

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma at the age of 19 on February 13th 2012. Yep, one day before valentines day and Andrew and I's one year anniversary. I blocked so much of this day out. I can't remember a lot about what happen, what words were said. 

Lets back track a little. I started dating Andrew February 14, 2011. We did so much, went to theme parks all of the time, hung out with friends doing karaoke and playing that wii dance game, Dance Dance Revolution, anybody remember that game?! We were so young and careless! He proposed to me on December 6, 2011. We had no rush in getting married, we had all the time in the world!! 

December of 2011 was busy for me. I was about to start college after taking the fall semester off. I was working in the hospitality industry and was working crazy shifts and one day at work I was really not feeling well. My chest felt tight, I felt like I couldn't really breath, I needed to see a doctor right away. I was freaking out! I drove myself to the ER and the Doc said, "You are having panic attacks". I thought, ok that makes sense, just got engaged, about to start school, working a bunch, I got a lot going on. Then he said "but you know from your CT scans there is something abnormal that we saw. it is completely unrelated but please follow up with your physician as soon as you can." And sent me on my way. I have had a lot of health issues in my past. I didn't think this was important so I didn't call my physician (which was my pediatrician still haha). 

Christmas 2011 came and went. I started school in January and kept living my life as normal. Then, I received a call from my doctor, she said "Hey, were you supposed to call me?" *insert my eye roll here* "The ER physician sent me your CT scans, we need to get you checked out as soon as possible. "She recommended me to a Pediatric Oncologist and I saw them both that same week. Fast forward a little, 3 biopsy's and a couple doctors appointments later. 

I went in for my results, February 13th 2012.... I went in by myself, I just went in to get some test results, no big deal. They called me back to the room and they said "you sure you're okay being here by yourself?" I thought, uhh yea, I am GROWN! & can this hurry up, I gotta get to work (haha). I should have called my mom and dad immediately!! Both the Oncologist and the Nurse Practitioner came into the room to give me the news. Here is where my memory fails me. I remember their faces and I remember the doctor telling me that my test results came back as malignant tumors and I would have to start chemo and radiation immediately. That's it, I don't know what else he said. My only question was "Am I going to be bald???" The nurse said "it is a very real possibility" I thought "YOU ARE SO COLD!!" (I ended up loving her!) 

**Side note, both these doctors and the nurse practitioner came to our wedding 

I grabbed my phone, the first call I made was to my boss. I didn't like him very much, I left him a voicemail and in tears I said, "I can't come in to work today, I have cancer." Yep, those are the exact words I used. I can't even imagine his face when he heard that. 

I then called Andrew, he immediately could tell there was something very wrong. I just asked him if he could please come to the doctor and leave work. My mom was next, she was having lunch with my aunt and my grandmother. She had been waiting for my call to let her know my results. "I have cancer". And I asked her to call my dad. It felt like I was alone for hours and also no time at all. I don't know how much time went by.. But they all showed up, what seemed to be all at the same time. My dad has a semi truck (one of those big 18 wheeler) where did he  leave that thing in busy downtown Orlando and get up to the office so quickly, I still have no idea. 

I had to hear the news all over again. I was just looking at their faces. My poor parents, they have had enough heartbreaks in their lives and Andrew that had never ever had to go to the doctors for anything other than a check up and baseball injuries. They were so sad. That is when my memory is very good to me. I started cracking jokes, like for real. I told them, "it's okay! I will save so much money on shampoo and conditioner." I couldn't bare that I was the one causing them pain. I also kept thinking, well if its anyone, thankfully its me. Not my parents, my sister, my family. I can handle this. 

Soon after, I went into surgery to remove a couple of the tumors and to have my port placed. (What Is a chemo port? A chemo port is a small, implantable reservoir with a thin silicone tube that attaches to a vein. The main advantage of this vein-access device is that chemotherapy medications can be delivered directly into the port rather than a vein, eliminating the need for needle sticks.) 

I started my chemo therapy soon after that. I had to be in there a full 8 hours. 2 hours of IV fluids, 2 hours of chemo infusion, 2 hours of IV fluids and 2 hours of monitoring for symptoms. I never went alone to those. There was always someone with me. My family would take turns! 

My hair started falling out quickly once I started the first round of chemo. I cut it super short once I felt like it was falling. Then when I felt it coming out in chunks a couple days later I shaved my head. It was terrifying and beautiful at the same time to let go of it! Both Andrew and my dad shaved their heads the same day as me. 

Chemo did a number on my body, I was so weak. I couldn't get out of bed. My taste buds were gone. I threw up so much. One really funny memory I have is, asking my mom for my favorite food arroz con gandules (yellow rice with pigeon peas). I didn't have much of an appetite but when I did, that's usually what I wanted to eat! I sat to eat it, with ketchup of course, I ate about half. I got up, went to the bathroom, puked my brains out, sat back down and finished eating my food and had more! 

I tried to live my life as normal as I possibly could, Andrew would take me to ride his jet-ski. We went on a trip to St. Louis for him to play softball with a work team, he would take me to dinners. But I always had some kind of side effect that I would have to be in the hospital for days from. I pinched my back (from the jet-ski) and at the same time I had cold sores all over my mouth. That quick doctor visit became 7 days in the hospital. 

It was hard and as much as I tried to be happy cheery and myself I became very angry. I didn't tell anyone but my attitude definitely reflected it. Some days I would think, why am I going through this? Why does everyone else get to have a normal life? Why me?! 

It was a blessing that I was treated by a pediatric oncologist. I got to see kids, tiny kids, go through cancer. & they were happy kids. I mean I know they had bad days and I know it sucked for them and their parents. But they came to the doctors to play with their friends (the nurses) and to hang with their pal (the doctor). Yes, they were connected to an IV bag or the chemo just like me but watching them and the support of my family kept me going. 

I also went through a month of radiation, which had the possibility of frying my ovaries and not have babies. (thankfully I have the 2 cutest kids now!) All in all it was hard, it felt long but I did it. I might have not seen the light at the end of the tunnel everyday or most days, but I knew it was coming. 

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