Brevard County, FL, USA

A Family's Strength: A Young Brother and Sister's Journey with Hodgkin's Lymphoma Cancer

Brother and sister were both diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, only three months apart

BREVARD COUNTY, FL. - A solitary diagnosis completely transformed the life of my 21-year-old younger sibling. Initially diagnosed with bronchitis, a routine medical examination unexpectedly revealed the presence of concerning abnormalities on an X-ray. Despite being initially informed about a mere chest infection, the discovery of scattered tumors caught us off guard. To eliminate these tumors, Cameron made the decision to undergo an open-heart surgery. Despite medical experts assuring us that the tumors were not cancerous, we still had apprehensions about the possible existence of cancer.

Hodgkins Lymphoma cancer surgery

The medical procedure lasted for a lengthy and exhausting period of 8 hours, during which we had to endure hospital meals and nervously wait in rooms filled with anticipation, desperately searching for updates on his condition. When the operation concluded, the surgeon approached us and conveyed the news that the tumors were cancerous. 

Our family had never experienced this specific illness before, and we were not familiar with it, except for the recent death of Uncle Joe, who was not related to us by blood but was married to my father's sister and had lived with us in Florida for most of our lives. 

Uncle Joe succumbed to cancer a few weeks after receiving his diagnosis.

I experienced my brother's unfortunate cancer diagnosis at a time when I was already six months pregnant and my spouse was serving in the United States Army abroad. Our precious baby girl, our second child, was born on June 8, 2013, in the midst of my husband's unwavering commitment to our nation. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to be present for the birth due to his deployment.

The series of events that followed initiated a lifelong expedition for our family. While my brother began his chemotherapy, I believed my main focus would be caring for a newborn. However, unforeseeably, my health worsened. I made several visits to the emergency room due to peculiar symptoms, including difficulty breathing, excessive nighttime sweating, and swollen lymph nodes. Three months after my brother's diagnosis, I received the news that I, too, had Hodgkin's lymphoma. My scan results were neatly inscribed on a plain sheet of paper.

"There is a large anterosuperior mediastinal mass that extends around the left heart border measuring 12.3cm. A second mass adjacent to the left heart is also present, measuring 4.9cm. Within the right mediastinum, there is an enlarged lymph node measuring 3.8cm. Multiple other scattered enlarged lymph nodes are also identified in the left region…"

When the nurse who is collecting your information appears solemn, you can sense that the news you are about to receive will not be positive. The doctor entered the room with an anxious expression, carefully examining the papers in front of them, glancing at the nurse with concern, and then exhaling deeply. "Well, it seems you have tumors," the doctor uttered. I interjected, "I had a feeling; I just had a feeling. I knew it was cancer." The doctor inquired if I felt capable of driving home. At that moment, I believed I was, but my mind was consumed by a tumultuous conflict throughout the entire journey.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would come face to face with cancer during my twenties. The physical pain I endure is just a fraction of the battle. It's a constant fight against my own thoughts when I hear the words, "You have cancer." I had to completely change my perspective on life, my faith, and the legacy I wanted to leave behind. Unless someone has gone through this journey, it's impossible to fully understand the magnitude of this experience.

I was lucky that my younger sibling was diagnosed with cancer before me. His situation provided me with a glimpse of the world I was going to experience. It was heartbreaking yet reassuring to find out that tumors had spread throughout the entire left side of my body. Obtaining a proper diagnosis required me to consult with six different doctors, and I owe my persistence in seeking genuine explanations for my brother's influence.

I hope to convey the message that people should realize they are not solitary in their struggles. It is perfectly acceptable to maintain a positive outlook while undergoing treatments, but it is also common to feel scared, bewildered, sorrowful and enraged in the midst of this transformative ordeal. I was aware that the course of my existence was about to shift drastically. I had to have faith that this unforeseen and dreadful news would ultimately mold me into an improved rendition of who I am.