When I think back to the day I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, it's unbelievable to think that my first reaction wasn't to cry. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I expected to hear those words.
Five days earlier I had surgery to remove a swollen lymph node from my neck, and at that point my biggest worry was that I wouldn't wake up from the anesthesia. The surgery went fine - it's a fairly simple procedure - but before I could relax, my surgeon told me he was concerned that I could have lymphoma because the lymph node had increased in size since he last saw me.
I immediately couldn't breathe. This can't be happening to me, I thought. He told me not to worry because a biopsy had to be performed to know for sure. But his words didn't help. In the days that followed, I was a wreck and my emotions were all over the place.
At the urging of my parents and my (now) fiancé, Ross, I tried to not think about it and went on with my day-to-day life. But I felt a sense of impending doom, and I was so scared at the thought that my life could change forever. I called Ross almost every night crying and upset, and he told me that whatever happened we would deal with it together.
I will never forget the short walk from my office to my doctor's office to hear the results. As I walked I prayed and told myself that I was a good person and didn't deserve this. Yet, who really does? I tried to visualize myself receiving good news and, funny enough, I even tried to increase my "good karma" by taking a pamphlet from the lady on the corner who I usually just walk by.
But I couldn't stop the truth. After my doctor told me the news, he asked, "Now who's here for support?" That's when the tears started. "My parents are in North Carolina and my boyfriend is in Pittsburgh!" I have really close friends in New York City that have been there for me throughout this journey, but at that moment, the only people I wanted to see were my parents and Ross. When I called to relay the bad news, I broke down again. "I have cancer," is not something I ever imagined having to tell someone - and I'm sure it was just as difficult to hear.
That night, my best friend Dani came over and, along with our friend Christa, we ate tons of chocolate and watched romantic comedies. I was still in shock and disbelief, so I was thankful for the act of normalcy. Ross called to check in several times, always really positive and supportive. My mom was able to fly to New York the next day, and she came with me to meet with my doctor and discuss the next steps. And so the battle began.
The funny thing about the human spirit is that even when we have great struggles and setbacks, we can adapt and move forward. And when put to the test, it's an amazing feeling to realize how strong you really can be.