It all started in December 2015, just a couple weeks after Scotty and I got engaged. We were in Portland for Christmas and I vividly remember sitting on the floor, having a glass of wine and playing connect four with our nephew (he was 8 and was kicking my ass....that should have been the first indicator that something was wrong, ha!). While we were playing connect four, I remember having this odd pain in my chest and shoulder area. It wasn't a severe pain, I had just never felt it before and it seemed to come out of nowhere, so I just shrugged it off and tried to ignore it. Periodically over the coming months, I started noticing strange aches in my arms fairly often along with that same pain that I had in my chest and shoulder during my connect four tournament, anytime I would drink. In addition to that, I had been battling some pretty severe fatigue. I did have insomnia, was extremely stressed at work and was planning our wedding so I tried to blame it on all of that until one night in September 2016 when Scotty and I went to dinner, had a few drinks and I was up all night in severe pain. When I did finally fall asleep that night, I woke up drenched in night sweats and still in pain. The next morning I did what any rational person would do and hit up google for answers. Okay, okay, I know that google always tells you that you have cancer and will probably die, but what I found was a little bit interesting.....lymphoma kept coming up as a cause of pain in the neck, chest and shoulder from drinking. I immediately started crying, went into the bathroom and started feeling around for swollen lymph nodes, and sure enough, I found a big fat one right above my left collar bone (same side where I had the pain). During this time, I had also been seeing a functional medicine doctor about my fatigue and other strange symptoms (chills at night, random low fevers, chest pain, heart palpitations, frequent upset stomach, etc.). She had just run some blood work which ironically came back the same day that I found my swollen lymph node; it showed that I had an extremely elevated c-reactive protein level of 11.0 (normal is less than 0.25). I panicked, called my doctor, got an MRI and an ultrasound and waited. Not long after, I got the results of the ultrasound which showed "an abnormal appearing lymph node measuring 2.1 cm with several hypo-echoic regions. Fine needle aspiration recommended". WOOF! I cried, and cried, and cried, and could not breathe, and cried some more. I was now a little more than 2 months away from my wedding and was certain I had cancer. To make a long story short, I got my fine needle biopsy, waited a little over a week and then I got a call that the biopsy did not show cancer. I have never been so happy in my life!!! I still didn't feel great, but we went ahead with the wedding and had an amazing day! Come to find out a little over 6 months later that fine needle biopsies are not completely reliable and what I received was a false negative.
In the months following the wedding, I continued to feel worse. I saw a rheumatologist, an ENT, a dentist to see if I possibly had a tooth infection, another primary care physician and a cardiologist. No one knew what was going on. I was labeled the "mystery patient" and was told that I might have anxiety. The ENT tried to give me steroids, the Primary care doctor tried to give me antibiotics, the rheumatologist tried to tell me that I probably had fibromyalgia....it goes on and on. Basically, no one took me seriously but my symptoms were getting worse and I had now developed a strange dry cough and persistent low grade fever that would not go away (my lymph node was still swollen). It constantly felt like I had something heavy sitting in my chest that was causing pressure and pain. The only doctor who took me seriously was my functional medicine doctor who decided to order more blood work. My new blood work showed that my c-reactive protein had climbed again...this time to 15.6, she thought I should see an oncologist. The same week that my blood work came back, I had made an appointment with another primary care physician who also agreed that I should see an oncologist. She referred me to her friend, Dr. Leslie Klein at Ironwood Cancer Center (I freaking adore this doctor). She immediately ordered a stat CT scan and found what I knew all along but did not want to believe. In addition to the lymph node in my collar bone, I had a large lymph node in my chest just behind my lung which measured 5 cm. In the coming weeks, I had a PET scan in which my lymph nodes lit up like a Christmas tree, then I had a few biopsies and received confirmation that I have stage II Hodgkin's Lymphoma. All I could think was "well, this really sucks but at least I finally have answers. I just hope I don't die". My doctor keeps trying to tell me that I will make a full recovery and will finally feel good again, but I still can't help but be completely terrified. Hopefully this blog will give all of the people that I love some insight into what I am going through and some hope and comfort that I will be okay. The fight of my life (aka. chemo) starts September 5 and I don't even feel the slightest bit ready for it, but I guess I just don't have a choice.