In Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As Hodgkin’s lymphoma progresses, it compromises your body’s ability to fight infection.”
Hodgkin’s lymphoma was named after the doctor that first documented it, Thomas Hodgkin. It is a blood cancer. Meaning, that it is related to other types of cancer such as multiple myeloma and leukemia. The more common form of lymphoma is non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The presence of Reed-Sternberg cells is what distinguishes Hodgkin’s from the more common form.
In January 2001, I was five months pregnant with my second child. One evening, I casually stretched and rubbed my neck. I felt a large lump on my neck. Being pregnant, I freaked out and went to the emergency room. The doctor sent me to a doctor, who sent me to another doctor. Each time, the doctor’s title became more impressive sounding, e.g. otolaryngologist. I had a needle biopsy, a MRI, and a surgical biopsy.
On April 10, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I was 25 years old. We weren’t able to find out exactly how bad it was because I was pregnant and the tests would have been harmful to the baby. The whole idea of delaying cancer treatment until after I gave birth concerned my OB-GYN. The moment my pregnancy was considered full term the my OB-GYN induced me. May 18th, I gave birth to a perfectly health daughter.
Two weeks later I started the tests for staging the cancer—a CT scan with compare & contrast dye and a PET scan. The CT was easy. A simple slide through a doughnut-like tube, inject a little dye, then more sliding. The PET involved an injection of radioactive isotope. The doctor walked in with it in a metal box, took one look at our infant in my husband’s arms, turned right around and said, “That baby can’t be here. I’ll come back when you’re gone.” I wasn’t allowed within four feet of either child for hours after. Sadly, the isotope did not make me glow in the dark.
One week later, I was diagnosed with stage 2A Nodular sclerosis Hodgkin’s. My doctor decided that the best course of action was six rounds (12 treatments) of chemotherapy. I was given the standard regimen of ABVD—Adriamycin,Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Dacarbazine. We decided that I wouldn’t do radiation due to the mixing of potential side effects and my young age. Little things such as scarring my heart and I knew I would need it for a while longer.
I started chemo June 28, 2001. I had my treatments on Thursdays. That allowed me to crash on the weekends when my husband was around to take care of everything. I had some of the usual side effects—nausea, fatigue, hair loss. My doctor’s were fantastic about managing my nausea. When the insurance would only cover one pill a month, my doctor gave me samples. For fatigue, I rested as much as I could the weekend after chemo.
In regards to the hair loss, it didn’t bother me that much. I refused to feel shame that cancer took my hair. I was more worried that my baldness would scare my oldest as she was only five years old at the time. So I decided to make it fun. I let her and some other kids in the family finger paint on my bald head. Pro tip—warm the paints in some water first.
I finished chemo November 29, 2001. I had routine check-ups & scans and was declared cancer-free.
Links I Like:
A nice overview by the American Cancer Society:
The paper Dr Thomas Hodgkin wrote in which the disease is first mentioned. Although, it wouldn’t be named Hodgkin’s or lymphoma for many years more:
An overview of the chemotherapy regimen: