IN THEIR WORDS
Lymphoma At 18
During my freshman year at college, I tried out for my schools’ hockey team. I was a pretty good hockey player in high school, and I was really psyched to play at the college level, but it seemed harder than I knew it should be. For some reason, I couldn’t perform at the level I knew I could, and I didn’t know why, but I just felt ‘off’. I began to overheat and couldn’t catch my breath, but I didn’t think too much of it. I was a freshman and it was a higher level of playing than I was used to. Maybe it was rookie jitters? Still, I was discouraged that I wasn’t doing better- I called my parents daily to vent my frustrations.
Around this time I also started feeling itchy all over my body. I assumed it was caused by the new protein powder I was using, so I stopped taking it. It mostly subsided, and the rest of the itchiness I thought could be dry skin- the harsh conditions in an ice rink have always messed up my skin.
I made the team, but barely. My coach told me that I didn’t stand out and I wasn’t like the player that he had recruited. I told him that I wasn’t feeling myself and that I was going to work really hard to prove myself on the team. I really wanted to be a better player.
Soon after I found out I made the team, we started having weightlifting sessions in preparation for the season. A few days after that started, I woke up with a golf ball sized lump on my left collarbone. It didn’t seem normal, but I thought I maybe just slept weird or got hit during tryouts. I went to the hockey workout and even though I didn’t think it was much to be worried about, I still decided to show it to my friend and our coach.
They both thought it looked a little abnormal and my coach sent me to the athletic trainer as a precaution. We wanted to make sure that I was okay to skate for the rest of the season! When the athletic trainer saw me, she said that it might be a cyst that needed to be drained, and told me to go to the hospital to get it taken care of. After a few tests and a CAT scan, it was discovered that it wasn’t a cyst…I had cancer. I was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma, on the same day that I decided to get it checked out.
I decided to move closer to my family and take online courses while I had my treatment. I had 6 months of chemotherapy. After that I went back to school and have been on the hockey team every year since then, and I’m back to the player I knew that I could be before my diagnosis.
Looking back, I wish that I would have known that any subtle change in your body can be an early warning sign of cancer. My body was giving me signals that there was something that wasn’t right, and I wrote them off. However, I am extremely glad that I spoke up on the same day that I noticed the lump, and that I had people around me that kept pushing me to get answers. I never thought that a young, healthy, active guy like me could get cancer…but I did. I want to make sure that others pay attention to their health so they get something outside of their ‘normal’ taken care of right away.