Facing the initial diagnosis

I discovered a lump on my neck in April. It was not too big, and it corresponded with the beginning of a sore throat, so I figured a cold was just irritating my lymph nodes. I had it checked out by Temple University Student Health, I wanted to make sure that I was not getting strep throat. They looked me over, and sent me on my way with a brown baggie full of Sudafed and acetaminophen.

Needless to say, after that prognosis I was not particularly worried. After a few weeks the lump had not gone away. In fact, it was growing in size. I became more curious and began researching it on the Internet. (As a side note, every doctor and nurse I have ever met has told me never to do your own research. The things that you can and will find on diseases are sometimes gruesome and disheartining.) I still wasn't under the impression it was anything serious, but if any of my friends asked me about it I would list what WebMD told me it could possibly be, always jokingly ending with lymphoma. They would usually say to me, "Relax, you don't have cancer." They did not have to tell me that though, I never thought I did.

My cardiologist, Marie Gleason, M.D., and my parents, seemed a little uneasier about my lump than I was. At a routine check up she told me to get an ultrasound of my neck. On May 14, I had an ultrasound at Abington Memorial Hospital and the radiologist there let me know he thought it was Hodgkins lymphoma. There was a lot running through my mind, but mostly I was bummed. All I could say to him was, "Wait, so you're telling me that I have cancer?"

My mother was crying, and all she said as she grasped my hand was, "Don't worry, you'll go on your trip." I was planning on driving cross country with a friend that summer and quickly realized that would have to be held off. When my mother and I arrived home, a five-minute drive from Abington, my father was already on the phone with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Before I knew it, we were on our way there.

The only person I had told up to that point about what the ultrasound uncovered was my friend Mark. I do not know if he just could not believe it or he just did not want to work my shift that afternoon, but he was not convinced when I told him it was cancer. I was in shock and disbelief myself, but I had always trusted my doctors when they told me something, including this.

I was never really frightened when I found out, just bummed. What did I have to be afraid of? I had seen my fair share of medical challenges in my day, and I had made it through all of them. What was one more thing? I am an optimistic person. I knew that the next few months were going to be rough but I would make it through.