How did it start?
Hello, I am Flavia. I’m 27 years old. I’m a resident of Peru. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma stage 4 in March 2021. My symptoms began in January; I had a high fever every day for three months, I had to take numerous pills to soothe the fever. I noticed that I had lumps on my neck and that they were visibly big but did not cause any pain. I had pain in my lumbar area when I had a high fever.
When I first visited a hematologist, he tested me for various diseases. On the second appointment, the doctor declared I had Pancytopenia, i.e. a deficit of the three cellular components of the blood, and suggested hospitalization. He also said that I would have to do a transfusion and a biopsy of my cervical node in addition to the bone marrow aspiration and the bone marrow biopsy.
I was diagnosed with Lymphoma, and my treatment was then commenced. Before this, my doctor visited me and mentally prepared me. It was no surprise to me, but it was still tough to accept. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, I had to stay on my own. At that point, I realized that I didn’t have time to ask myself questions, “Why me?” I knew I needed to believe and trust the process because it’s the only treatment at the moment.
The hospital had to start the treatment as early as possible because I was diagnosed with the 4th stage. My mother stayed with me for a few days. My family and friends would video call me frequently for the whole month while I was admitted. I received 12 chemotherapies in total. The side-effects of the chemotherapy were tiredness and pain. I didn’t lose my weight or hair during the treatment. My psychologist was my mental health mentor during the treatment. I also created an Instagram account to connect socially to more people like me and express our feelings, which made me feel better about the whole journey.
My apprenticeship on this trip
Life is unexpected and unreal; anything can happen to anyone anytime. I think acceptance is the key to overcoming it. We should have the ability and the fortitude to adapt to that.
Secondly, I’ve understood the importance of my loved ones. The ones that looked out for me in these difficult times. My mother is my heroine; she made me delicious meals. My father would look after my medication. My friends would motivate me to recover. I suppose quality is more important than quantity.
Listen to your body, try to accept things the way they are, do not take life too seriously, enjoy each moment, and be thankful.
Finally, your past should not disturb your future. Don’t push yourself so hard. An effective way to help you is to commit yourself to activities that make you happy, as I enjoy drawing and painting. Also, I connected to more lives like me via social media, and talking to them made my healing process much more manageable.
My word to all the champions out there is I know the treatment is hard, but it is the only way to save ourselves. Don’t give up; respect and believe the process. I see my cancer as my friend, and I embrace it because it has allowed me to look at this world differently and with hope.