On May 19, 2015, I was told the three words I never in my life dreamt I would hear.
“You have cancer,” my doctor said after three weeks of blood work and scans. I thought I would go to the doctor that day for yet another test to figure out why my body was acting so strange. I was wrong. This time I got answers.
In one of my earlier posts, I shared many details about my diagnosis and the process that went along with it. In this article, I’d like to share with you what the actual day of my diagnosis was like.
I had been going to this doctor at least once a week for a few weeks. We’d been doing tests, and I had follow-up appointments with her after each test. The previous week, we scheduled a follow-up appointment for Tuesday, May 19. I remember specifically asking the little girl I was nannying to “wish me luck!” as I left the house to go to my appointment.
During this appointment, before I met with my doctor, she ordered an ultrasound of my abdomen. When the ultrasound was over, I waited in the exam room, knowing nothing of what was about to happen.
I was alone. I have no family in Los Angeles, and I remember my doctor asking the previous week if I had family here. Maybe they should come, she said. In retrospect, she totally knew the entire time!
My doctor came in and sat down, giving me a pitiful look. She asked again where my family was. I could tell that she felt sorry I was sitting there by myself, with no one to support me with the news she was about to share.
“You have Hodgkin’s disease.”
“I have what?”
“Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” she said.
Now, the word lymphoma I knew. I think she tried to play it down to make it sound less “cancery.”
She then told me that I could cure it with chemo pills. That’s pretty much all I got out of our appointment. I had cancer and it could be fixed with chemo pills, meaning I could probably still play on my recreational kickball league.
I left her office and waited in the waiting room for her to give me copies of the pathology reports that diagnosed me. I couldn’t stop crying, all by myself. I felt so sorry for myself in that moment.
After leaving the waiting room, I found a spot on the curb in the parking lot to sit and call my brothers. We spoke, we cried, and we tried to figure out my next steps. I asked my brothers to tell my mom for me. That was something I couldn’t bear to do.
Elie, my brother, reminded me that my second cousin and his sister had Hodgkin’s lymphoma, too. My cousin Steve was my next phone call. He made me feel so much better, and knowing that he survived and is now thriving really transcended my emotions of fear and brought hope.
I took my car to the Toyota dealership to get its oil changed and took an Uber home. Random, I know. I’m really not sure why I thought that was a priority after the news I had just received. I was a live-in nanny and was supposed to work when I got home, but the mother for whom I worked allowed me to take the evening off.
I spent the rest of my day researching raw foods, figuring out how to balance my pH, and stalking down one of the best oncologists in Florida. With my boss’s help, we wrote an email to an oncologist and sent it to his private email address. The oncologist responded within minutes and assured me that he would see me that Friday, May 22. The next thing I knew, my brother had booked me a flight to Florida on the following day’s red-eye flight.
What I have failed to mention until now is that my friends and I had plans to go bowling that evening at a swanky alley just 10 minutes from where I live. I decided to follow through with these plans because I wasn’t sure when I would get to spend time with my L.A. friends again. I’ll never forget sitting in the alley’s parking lot talking to my mom after my brothers told her about the diagnosis. That’s a whole other article in itself. That night, I decided to video blog my experience with cancer, which has essentially led me to write this column for Lymphoma News Today.
Although this day was one of the hardest for me, it also was a day of answers. It was the day that I began my journey of healing and sharing my story with the world about how to overcome adversity with positivity.
Now, two years later, it is my tradition to go to that same bowling alley on the night of my diagnosis to face whatever emotions come.
If my “Diagnosis Day” is a reminder of anything, I hope it encourages you to be hyper-aware of the changes and signs that your body creates. Know your body. Feel your back, your neck, your chest, your groin. Stare at yourself naked and keep a log in your mind of all the moles and beauty marks. Pay attention to those headaches. Listen to that persistent cough. Call your doctor. Call another doctor if yours won’t hear you. Don’t be scared to hear bad news, as the bad news is the next step to your healing.
Always remember: Everything is gonna be ooookay.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.