On Tuesday August 15, Hannah called and we had a great chat. She was walking across Manhattan on her way to the library. Over the last 4 years, she developed a habit of calling while she was walking somewhere - we have had many great chats over the years while she was headed somewhere.
We hung up and she called back a short time later (12:17 central) to share that she really hadn't been feeling that well over the past week or two and that she was a bit short of breath after we'd talked (during her walk) and that she had a lump on her neck she'd just noticed. We talked about having her head to the Urgent Care clinic that was right there in the neighborhood she was walking through... They took a look, did a quick xray and suggested that she head to the hospital for more testing... right now. They'd seen the lumps and saw something in the xray that concerned them.
Well, you all know how tough and strong (stubborn?) Hannah is - she wouldn't take an Uber despite my efforts to get her to. I stayed on the phone with her while she walked the 15 blocks to the NYU Langone Medical Center on 1st and 33rd. She hung up when she got there, and called back a bit later. They had admitted her and were doing more testing.
The next 24 hours were a bit of a blur. At some point they started talking about Lymphomas and doing a biopsy, etc. and keeping her overnight, etc. for more testing, scans, etc. I don't really remember when I realized how serious this was... but I was on a plane the next morning. In the meantime, Hannah's boyfriend, Anders, had joined her at the hospital to keep her company and make sure she had everything she needed (BTW, Anders is a wonderful young man - and I am truly thankful to have him involved to help and support Hannah).
When I got there, the hospital was a madhouse - they were FULL and actually had Hannah set up in a hallway (which she did NOT tell me the night before, LOL). She and Anders had a little screened off area and were binge-watching Game of Thrones in the middle of absolute chaos.
They got her into a room and I was able to meet the nurses and the doctors and started to get a feel for what they were thinking. They weren't sure, but had a hunch that it was Hodgkins lymphoma - but warned us that we wouldn't know for sure for a week - it takes time to get the results back on a biopsy - up to a week (and it's 2017 - imagine how long and agonizing this process was in the past). They had some other potential diagnoses in mind, but this sounded like the right fit based on the way it presented, Hannah's age, etc.
I stuck around for a few days (thanks to everyone I work with at my new company, Workforce Insight, for making that possible). On Friday, we made plans to meet the Hematologist on Thursday (the 24th) to get the results of all the tests and the biopsy, get the full diagnosis and learn the treatment plan. Needless to say, it was a long week. I headed home Friday night to finish getting George ready to leave for college at CU-Boulder the following week.
Tuesday, George and I headed for Boulder and got him all moved in on Tuesday and Wednesday. I left him with his bike, his gear, and a winning attitude, looking forward to making new friends and absolutely crushing it at Boulder!
On Thursday, we had the big appointment with Hannah's doctor and it turned out that she has exactly what they thought it was. I guess that's the best possible news we could've had in our meeting... they know what it is and it's something they know how to treat (20,000 people/year fight this). The downside is that chemotherapy is not going to be so fun and based on the specifics of her illness, the course she needs is longer than many - it'll take 24 weeks. It's going to be a long road but she's going to be FINE! It looks like she'll be coming back to St. Charles for the treatments to be in a clean, quiet environment where she can focus on getting better. Infection is a risk once the chemo really kicks in (NYC/the subway is not known for its cleanliness!), and Hannah will be weak and feel "flu-like" from what I understand. She's dreading a 6 month "time out" from her life in New York, will miss her friends and Anders, and is in the middle of a job search - so it will be difficult for sure.
But, Hannah is a strong, determined, funny young woman with an incredible support group both in Chicago and in New York (and around the world). And, unfortunately, Hannah is no stranger to adversity. Sadly, she has had to overcome incredible tragedy in her personal life several times in the past few years with the loss of her mother, Carol, during her freshman year at NYU and the loss of a member of her friend group at college this spring. She also helped her best friend, Connor, through his fight with the SAME disease nearly four years ago. She is a tough young woman who is a natural leader and caretaker. She consistently puts others before herself, and will now need to focus that strength on her own fight and let others return the favor and help her through this.
I encourage everyone to post pics of Hannah over the years, share stories, and send messages of love and support. She will be fine in the end, but it's going to be a long road and she will need everyone pulling for her for a fast, complete recovery and to keep her spirits high throughout the process.