In October of 2020, I discovered something that would change my life forever. While attending Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I noticed something strange after my basketball practice; it was a small lump under my arm. It was the size of a quarter. This was a bit concerning, but I assumed it was just a swollen lymph node. The next day, I went to an Urgent Care and the mass was diagnosed as an abscess. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic to me and said that if it did not subside in a week to return for another examination. So, I proceeded to go about with my regular schedule while taking the antibiotics. After a few days, I ran a fever and felt extremely fatigued; however, exhaustion is nothing new for collegiate athletes and I thought little of it at the time. Shortly after I finished the antibiotics and noticed no change in the lump, I returned to Urgent Care. This time, I saw someone different. After telling her my symptoms: night sweats, fevers, fatigue, and loss of appetite, she knew something was not right. She no longer thought my lump was simply an abscess. She believed my symptoms and swollen lymph node were a sign of lymphoma. Hearing that my condition could be cancer was really scary and stressful; especially, since I was away from home and still in classes. After a few days, I received the CT results, which just showed an enlarged lymph node. Additionally, the bloodwork came back normal. This was a relief, and after consulting with the doctor from Urgent Care, she suggested scheduling a consultation with a general surgeon to remove the lymph node. I was relieved because it seemed that all I needed was a surgery to remove the lymph node and then I would be okay.
After returning home from school, I visited the general surgeon for my consultation. However, he was not convinced it was simply a swollen lymph node. So, he prescribed me an antibiotic and I waited a week to see if the swelling would go down. During that week, I continued to run high fevers, feel extremely fatigued and very sick. When I returned to the Surgeon’s office, he decided to do a biopsy on my lump. Afterwards, he sent me to an oncologist to get a second opinion. The oncologist decided to rush the results of the biopsy and told us to come back in a few days. I returned to the Oncologist’s on December 23, anxiously awaiting the results of the biopsy. The Doctor came in and immediately I knew it was not good news. He sat in front of me and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but the news is not good. You have Sarcoma, a form of tissue cancer.” I was in shock. Cancer??? How could I have cancer? I’m only 20 years old. I looked over at my parents who began sobbing, but I was just in a state of pure shock. I did not believe him. All I thought was that something had to have been wrong, and that the diagnosis had to be incorrect. Immediately, I was referred to a Sarcoma specialist at M.D. Anderson.
Finding out that you have a type of cancer with a 18% 5 year survival rate two days before Christmas is not the best gift to receive. The news was debilitating, I no longer felt in control of my life. It seemed like I would only have a few years left to live my life. Eventually, I came to terms with this diagnosis and just decided that I was going to fight as hard as I could and hope for the best. My Faith played a big role in helping me accept my diagnosis. I truly believe that God has a plan for all of us, and although I don’t understand why God allowed this, I know that he will use my story to help others. So, after a consultation with a Sarcoma specialist at M.D. Anderson, I was scheduled to undergo Chemotherapy using some of the strongest Chemo drugs to try and combat my cancer. However, before I could start this process, my doctor ordered a second biopsy on the lump to determine what kind of Sarcoma it was and to see if she needed to add another drug to the mix of Chemotherapies. Exactly one day before I was supposed to start Chemotherapy my Dad received a call from my Sarcoma doctor. She told him that I did not have Sarcoma, but had Melanoma. She also stated that the melanoma had progressed to Stage 4, meaning it had spread to other organs. She explained that with the second biopsy they had tested the soft tissue for a genetic mutation in the BRAF gene which often leads to the development of metastatic melanocytes.
Melanoma was a much better diagnosis as there are many more treatment options available. Additionally, the 5 year survival rate for melanoma patients was significantly higher at 50%. This is where my journey began. I am starting this blog to update friends and family on my progress and to raise awareness for Melanoma. Please follow along with me on my journey.