When & How I was diagnosed
My name is Tim, I am a 16-year-old from NJ and this is my story…
Sometime in August of 2009, my body began to itch like crazy. After a few weeks of this, my mom and I contacted my pediatrician. She told us that I was probably allergic to the type of soap or laundry detergent we were using. She recommended that I switch to Aveeno body wash and lotion. I continued this for five months, but still the itching persisted increasing with intensity over time. It got to the point where I was scratching my skin raw, especially on my feet. I would scratch them so much that it hurt to wear socks and shoes.
Then around Thanksgiving, I developed a cough and persistent headaches. Now, I associated this with a sinus infection because I have been prone to them in the past; I even have had surgery to try and resolve this problem. I went to my pediatrician and she put me an antibiotic for the sinus infection, but this did not give me any relief from the cough and headaches. We then went to my ENT and he put me on a stronger antibiotic for the same thing, a sinus infection. Once again, no relief. He then ordered a Sinus Cat-Scan to see what was going on in my sinuses, with the intention that surgery was the next option.
During this same time period, my uncle was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia. Sadly, he passed away form the disease just three weeks from diagnoses, on Christmas Eve 2009. At my uncle’s funeral, most of my family who I do not see often said that I did not look good and that I had lost a lot of weight. His passing really scared my mom into thinking that there might be something seriously wrong with me. She had my pediatrician run blood work on me while I was still seeing my ENT. All of these tests came out negative, still no answers. My pediatrician then decided that since I was going for a Sinus Cat-Scan for my ENT, that she would have me get a chest X-Ray just to make sure everything was alright. That was the day that changed my life.
It was Thursday January 7, 2010 and I was in the waiting room awaiting the technician who would perform the Sinus Cat-Scan. I had just had the chest x-ray when my mom’s cell phone rang. She went outside to answer it, and my brother and I remained in the waiting room. I had the Cat-Scan done and then was getting ready to go find my mom when she came back inside crying. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that that was my pediatrician calling with the results of the Chest X-Ray. They had found a mass in my chest and it was probably cancerous. Upon hearing the news, my brother immediately began crying. Seeing my brother’s reaction devastated me.
I began to cry, not for fear of death, but from the fear of leaving those who I loved and loved me behind. The thought of them having to continue living their lives with the pain of not having me, made me want to puke. I knew that from now on i would have to face some very challenging times, but that my faith in Jesus Christ would keep me strong.
Over the next six days, I went through a variety of tests including a bone marrow aspiration and a biopsy of my lymph nodes. Finally, after five long months, we had answers when these results came in; I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma stage 3B.
My experiences with treatment
My oncologist told me that for treatment i would have to undergo four cycles of chemotherapy followed by six weeks of radiation. He said that I would feel horrible and that my hair would fall out as a result of the chemo. The latter made me freak out. My hair was my life! It always had to be perfect. It took me about a week to comes to terms with this, and then I decided that I had to make sure that I was the one to take my hair, not cancer. First I cut the sides short and gave myself a mohawk. Then after my first cycle of chemo I shaved my head.
At the end of each of my chemo cycles I spiked a fever and earned myself a spot on the Pediatric Oncology floor of the hospital. This along with mouth sores were the worst side effect of the chemo that I experienced. Thank God for that!!
When I went for my half way scans after my second round of chemo, my doctors decided that I was a slow early responder to the chemo. In response to this, they added two more cycles of chemo to the original four I was completing. Of course I was upset at this, but i was convinced that I would rather have them give me more chemo then less and relapse as a result.
During the course of my chemo, I also received six blood transfusions and three platelet transfusions. Now, I do not like the sight of blood, so the blood transfusions were troublesome for me. I had to have the nurses cover up the IV pole with a pillow case and cover me up with blankets so I could not see the blood go down into my PORT. This helped me to get through it.
On May 24, 2010 I completed my last round of chemo! Now I am halfway through my radiation treatment and the end is now in sight. i thank God everyday that he gave me the strength to get through this hard time in my life and that he made my journey bearable.
What I have learned
Throughout my battle with cancer I have learned a lot. Most importantly, I learned to appreciate the important things in life: family, friends, and faith. Now I have always been very religious, but having cancer has reaffirmed my belief that there is a God and He is a benevolent one. I also learned that there are many other children whose journeys are harder than mine. I hope to God that they will be able to get through these hard times and be able to live a long and healthy life.
How I got involved
I heard about HEADstrong from a fellow Hodgkin’s patient. She wrote about her story and I felt the need to share my experiences with this disease. I hope that by doing so I can help someone else who has been diagnosed with pediatric cancer.
Although I am nearing the end of my treatment, I want to continue to stay involved. I also am planing on completing my Eagle Scout Project. I hope to stay active for many years to come, in hopes of helping others with this disease.