"Just breathe. Do not become weak. Do not wallow in grief or sadness."
Lindsay is 24 years old, living in Las Vegas, NV. She was diagnosed with Stage 1, Hodgkin's Lymphoma on April 7, 2014. It gives me great pleasure to tell you that Lindsay is presently cancer free and has regular oncology visits to monitor her progress.
To Lindsay: You give life and "The mountains are calling and I must go." a full meaning Lindsay! It is so obvious from your journey that you take the bull by the horn and show how much you appreciate the gift of life through your constantly active lifestyle.
Interview Date: 10/17/15
How were you diagnosed?
I found a small lump above my left clavicle. After 6 months of testing, we finally confirmed it was cancer.
What were your initial thoughts and reaction when you were diagnosed?
I was very healthy and active before my diagnosis, so I immediately thought "Where did I go wrong?"
Is there a family history of cancer?
After being diagnosed, how have you changed your perspective on life?
I live life in the moment and cherish every day that I get to spend with my family and friends way more than I ever did before. I travel once or twice a month to explore new hiking spots and to meet fellow Hodgkin's fighters and survivors.
What gives you strength and motivation?
Other cancer fighters and survivors give me strength and motivation every day. I was very lucky that my cancer did not progress into another stage during the 6 months of testing that several doctors put me through. Knowing that remission is far from permanent also motivates me. This fact used to scare me every day, but instead of living in fear I finally chose to live life to the max every single day because tomorrow is not promised to anyone.
Who is your support system and how have they supported you?
I am blessed to say that my support system was endless - family, friends, co-workers, and my "lymphomies", lymphomies is a term that the other Hodgkin's Lymphoma fighters and survivors have coined on Instagram and Facebook. My lymphomies started as complete strangers, profiles I found on social media, and they ended up being the most supportive out of everyone in my life because they knew exactly what I was going through. My coworkers and boss were also amazing; they let me work from home if I needed to and my entire office (nearly 50 people) came to surprise me outside the Cancer Center to celebrate my last day of chemo. Lastly my family surrounded me with love the entire time. They made sure I had someone to take me to treatment, they scheduled their lives around my appointments, they hiked with me every weekend so I wouldn't be alone, we added one mile to each weekend to represent how many rounds of chemo I finished; for example when I finished my 6th round, we hiked 6 miles! It kept my mind and body busy and away from cancerous thoughts, literally.
What is your treatment process and what is your perspective on it?
When I was diagnosed, they told me I would do 2 months of chemotherapy (ABVD chemo) and 3 weeks of radiation. They ended up giving me 4 months of chemo and no radiation. I was disappointed at the end of the first 2 months because I thought the chemo was over, but after discussing my "next steps", 2 more months of chemo instead of radiation, I felt strongly that my doctors made the correct choice. They didn't want me, a 23 year old, to go through radiation and increase my chance of other cancers later on in life. Now, I only see my oncologist once every other month and get blood work done and I have a scan every 3 months to ensure I am still clear. 14 months post chemo, I am still cancer free.
What words do you have for ones afraid to get checked?
When in doubt, push for tests and biopsies. That is the only way to confirm that you do NOT have cancer, but it is also the only way to confirm that you do and to start treatment quickly to increase your chances of survival.
What advice or message can you provide to those who have been diagnosed?
When I was diagnosed, my anxiety skyrocketed. I barely slept at all and I had constant panic attacks until one of my lymphomies, who was a few months ahead of me in chemo, called me and said "Just breathe." The next day, my big sister bought me a bracelet with that same phrase on it without even knowing the lymphomie had said that to me. That became my motto. Just breathe, because everything happens for a reason and the outcome will be whatever is meant to be for you. All I can do is breathe in each moment and put my trust in the universe, or God. If you or a loved one is ever diagnosed, don't succumb to the disease. Do not become a "couch potato." Do not become weak. Do not wallow in grief or sadness. Live your life as normal as possible, but listen to your doctors. Throughout chemo, I continued to maintain my healthy lifestyle and I also continued to hike every weekend. I was scared at first because I thought I'd be immediately weak or tired after each round of chemo, but to my surprise I felt great. I hiked with friends and family and they physically, mentally, and emotionally did not let me wither away throughout treatment.