IN THEIR WORDS

Hannah Levine

Hodgkin’s Disease at 12

When I was 12 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I had found a small, pea-sized lump on the left side of neck. My mom told me just to keep an eye on it, and not to worry too much. So, I forgot about it. A few months later, that small lump had grown significantly, in addition to new lumps. I went to my primary physician, and he did blood tests and exams, but nothing showed up. He told me I had something called “cat-scratch fever” and put me on medication that I turned out to be allergic to.

Then, something amazing happened to me. I was in the library at my school, trying to print out a document. When I went to the printer, the only thing there was a paper with the symptoms of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma listed. I went to my doctor and told him I was absolutely positive I had cancer. He informed me that that was impossible since I showed absolutely no signs of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. By this time, my head was tilted to the right because there were so many enlarged lymph nodes on the left side of my neck. I couldn’t even turn my head.

I told my mom that I knew I had cancer and she immediately took action. We made an appointment with a different doctor, who referred me to a surgeon, who then scheduled me for a biopsy a few days later. One-and-a-half hours after the biopsy, the surgeon told my family I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He told me he found about 14 enlarged, grey, hard lymph nodes in my neck.

The cancer spread to my left armpit, the right side of neck, and then my right armpit. I missed every other week of school and was very sick. I went through eight chemotherapy treatments and fourteen radiation treatments. I lost all of my hair, gained 20 pounds of water-weight due to steroids, and suffered many complications.

Having to stand up to my elders as a twelve year old was incredibly difficult. No one ever thinks that a little girl knows better than a medically trained person. However, advocating for myself is what probably saved my life. If I hadn’t stood up and said “Hey! This is my life, I know I have cancer, and I want this checked,” I might have caught it too late.

Never be embarrassed or shy to ask your doctor to check something. Even if it turns out to be nothing, taking the steps to check and taking precautions can be lifesaving. Check yourself! Being careful and being aware has never been and never will be a bad thing!

"Check yourself! Being careful and being aware has never been and never will be a bad thing!"

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