Here is "Karla's Story"- a tender "coming of age" tale about being diagnosed with Hodgkin's as a teen, and the struggle to "go public" with her history of cancer. You will read it and nod your head, saying "Me too Karla!"
It was the spring of 1973. I was in college, following a few years in the Service and I didn't quite feel like partying with a sore throat and fever. After a couple of weeks of not feeling better, I was sent to the local hospital for "some" test. The first morning in the hospital, I was awakened by a medical technician. When I opened my eyes, I saw this beautiful young girl asking to draw my blood. I thought to myself, "If the food in this joint is half as good as she looks, I think I'll hang around here for a while!"
I was diagnosed with "Hodgkin's Disease," stage 2B. They immediately started me on cobalt radiation, every day for two weeks, as an in-patient. I was sent home for another two weeks before I would get the second round of radiation. While at home, a node grew under my left arm, and it was surgically removed right away. Realizing the radiation wasn't working, I was started on a once month "experimental" chemotherapy protocol, for a total of six months. It worked! I have been cancer free for over forty-four years!
This cancer, although gone, has come with some extra "baggage." For twenty-seven years, I was as "normal" as one could be. I played a lot of tennis, ran, ate and drank, and had a full life. In 2000, I was told that I had a bad aortic valve. After passing out on the tennis court, I had open heart surgery and was given a mechanical valve, which meant I would be on Coumadin for the rest of my life. I went back to my old routine of playing tennis and eating and drinking at my pleasure.
In 2011, I was playing (you guessed it) tennis when I started to feel weak and light-headed and had to (reluctantly) stop my game. I told my cardiologist what had happened and he ordered a cardiac catheterization. I thought that maybe it was my mitral valve that was now the problem since that had also been radiated. I ended up being in the hospital for a month. That was the closest I had ever come to "checking out." There were so many complications, all due to the scarring from cobalt radiation. I needed a miracle.
I was lucky- I got my miracle, and from a miracle doctor, Dr. Omar Lattouf. I ended up having triple bypass surgery. Dr. Lattouf not only saved my life, but he included me in his book, "Heartfelt Stories: The Life of a Heart Surgeon." My "fifteen minutes of fame!"
I have slowed down a bit in recent years, but I will be 70 in December- so I"m allowed! And, by the way, that medical technician that drew my blood way back in 1973? Her name is Rose, and she has been my wife for over forty years. Rose is my angel. She has made me the richest man in the world. Just think...if I never had cancer, I would never have met my beautiful wife, Rose. God is good!
I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma twenty-six years ago and was treated with radiation therapy. I am now fifty-two years old. I had a recurrence of the disease twenty years ago, which required ABVD chemotherapy. In the years that followed, I have gone on to live my life as a wife, mother, sister, friend, and co-worker. I became a nurse and worked in hospitals and healthcare companies for about twenty-four years.
In 1982, I was a twenty-one year old newly married graduate student, taking a full load of classes and working full time. Feeling tired was par for the course- my "new normal." During an annual physical exam, my doctor felt a lump in my neck and told me that if I found another one, or if this one didn't disappear in a few weeks, I should come back. The swelling did NOT go away. I returned to my physician, and this time he recommended a biopsy to determine why the lymph node was swollen. He said that it was probably nothing, just my body fighting an infection or possibly "cat scratch fever." He never mentioned the "C" word. My biopsy was on March 30th. Two days later, on April Fools' Day, I was told that I had Hodgkin's Disease. NOT funny.
I read a post yesterday on another cancer support site that reminded me of why we started "Hodgkin's International." It was written by a gentleman who was a Hodgkin's survivor. He had been hearing about the long-term effects of treatment, had learned of the plight of some of his fellow survivors, and was beginning to have some difficulties himself. He was scared. He wanted to know if there was any "good news" out there.