Sharing my personal story for Global Lymphoma Awareness day and Blood Cancer Awareness month.
After a 2 week streak with very little sleep from a growing side pain, I woke up early one Saturday morning and figured I'd start tackling my weekend chores to take my mind off the discomfort, beginning with watering my plant wall. I brought out my 6 ft ladder, which I never do, but I was fatigued and figured it would be safer than my kitchen chair. So I climbed to the top, where I lazily perched while inspecting my plants. I decided I'd bring down a few plants, but as I turned around with a planter in each hand, I slipped and went crashing hip-first onto my hardwood floor.
I laid on my floor with what felt like a broken hip and a few broken toes while cursing every single plant on my living wall.
How I got here
I hadn't been feeling well for quite some time. I had been to over four different specialists, all of who ultimately dismissed my concerns and strange blood work with confusion and condescending suggestions. Feeling excessively dizzy when standing? Try moving slower. Stomach pain that interferes with your life? Eat a Fodmap diet. Co-workers commenting on your skin turning yellow? Eat fewer carrots. Terrible night sweats? Here's a flyer on menopause (I'm 37).
In June of this year, when I sent an email to my endocrinologist noting that my symptoms were getting worse by the day, she kindly replied by squeezing me in for a future appointment in August. Unfortunately, around the same time I sent that email, I also discovered a lump on my breast. I went through the standard procedure, and at the end of my ultrasound, the head radiologist at St. Lukes Peet Center suggested I watch the 2" mass for 6 months, unless, of course, "I had the personality that just needed know."
I lost my voice
Instead of demanding answers for my off labs and unusual symptoms, I accepted defeat and began to find myself silenced in fear that people would think I was a hypochondriac. Of course, my symptoms never changed, but my voice and advocacy did.
Realizing I was not crazy
24 hours after my fall, the pain worsened to the point where I knew I had to go to the ER. During the 7 hours I waited to be seen, I drove away 4 times, thinking I could tough it out, but I never could. At 1am I was finally called.
It was 3 in the morning when the Doctor came back into my room. I was entirely convinced by that point that I just wasted 9 hours of my time, and per my medical track record, she'd just shrug her shoulders and advise I see my general practitioner. But, this time, I was wrong.
The initial cat scan presented over 35 centimeters of mass from my breasts to my lower abdomen, the equivalent of about 5 baseballs.
"It's not good."
I was sleep-deprived, in a tremendous amount of pain, and my eyes were hazy from fighting back the tears as I tried to process what I had just been told; my body was filled with tumors, and my hemoglobin was almost non-existent. The room was dark, cold, and the only text I could think to send my family was "it's not good."
I spent the next 8 days in the oncology wing, where I was ultimately diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma that had metastasized to my breasts and adrenals.
I didn't need to stop eating carrots or read a pamphlet on menopause, and I sure as hell didn't need to wait 6 months to have a lump on my breast biopsied. I needed to self-advocate. While I had a circle of specialists, I never got a second or third opinion. I had over a dozen opportunities the past two years to catch my lymphoma at a much earlier stage, but I let the views of lousy medical professionals overshadow my pain. I have a very aggressive form of lymphoma, and had I not fallen off that ladder, it would have quickly traveled to my central nervous system and ultimately killed me.
The universe was intervening, and my plants were the channel of survival. In a matter of 1 week, I went from cursing my plants to being forever indebted to each and everyone of them.
Throughout the past few years, my plants have always been my healthful outlet to overcome everyday stressors. They have continued to bring me comfort throughout treatment and reiterate the importance of incorporating biophilic design in our homes, especially during a traumatic healing experience, such as cancer.
I am choosing to share my story to raise awareness and early detection of any disease. In the United States, healthcare is not free; it's a business. If you aren't receiving the care you desire, please find another provider and self-advocate until you get the answers you are seeking.
I want to especially thank WallyGro and our community for their continued support and encouragement throughout this journey.
For more information, please visit the Lymphoma Coalition