Through Overcoming Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I gained empowerment
By: Dacil Acosta (United Kingdom)
It was Monday 29th January, 2018 and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I had put my 16-month-old daughter down for her nap and I was sticking to my New Year’s resolution of doing yoga in the kitchen while she slept. I lay face down on the yoga mat and as I stretched my arms up and arched my back and my neck, I felt a large lump caught behind my right clavicle. It was painless and after prodding a bit, I continued with my work out, completely calm and oblivious of how my life was about to be changed forever.
Tuesday morning and the thought crossed my mind that perhaps I should get it checked. The doctor assured me that it was common to have inflamed lymph nodes during the winter months but seeing that I was keen on getting it checked, he agreed to send me to get some blood tests and take it from there. Although I didn’t really think it was anything sinister, I figured it was best to know either way. I was the confident type of woman who had been raised to tackle any problems head on; with hard work, determination, effort and perseverance I could resolve anything.
Fast forward two weeks, I had had many tests done, including an x-ray, CT scan, ultra sound, and more blood tests. I was sitting at the haematologist’s office saying they had found a 9cm tumour in my chest, had various smaller tumours on either side of my neck and I’d need a biopsy and PET scan to determine whether I was “only” stage 2 or whether there had been more metastasis. I felt totally shell-shocked. How could this be? I felt fine!! Was he sure there hadn’t been a mix up with someone else’s results? Sure, I had been feeling exhausted, but show me a mother of a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old who isn’t!
When the results came back that I had Stage II Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I felt a whirlwind of emotions. Having feared the worst, my initial response was relief. Yes, I had 6 months of chemo ahead of me (it was the aggressive type of cells) and potentially radiotherapy after 2 months if my body wasn’t responding as well, but it was curable.
Next came the fear, visceral, petrifying… what if I didn’t make it? I realised after the initial shock that I might be able to make peace with dying young. After all, at 38 years of age I had had a wonderful and fulfilling life. But, and this was a huge BUT, I simply couldn’t leave my girls behind. The thought of my girls growing up without me, their mother, too young to even remember who I was, what I looked like, how much I loved them. It was simply impossible. I wanted to wake up from this awful nightmare. I wanted to pretend that nothing had happened, that everything was like it was before. Maybe if I hadn’t pressed to get all those tests done it might have gone away on its own?
It took many months of meditation, soul-searching, shiatsu, reading, special diet, yoga, and talking to family and friends that I slowly realized I had to take my armour down, stop fighting my current reality and accept the situation. It was a tough process, especially for someone who liked to be in control and felt that things could always be resolved with “hard work”. I learned that accepting the reality of our situation is not the same as “giving up” or throwing in the towel. I was determined, throughout the entire process that I would make it to the other side, that I would see my girls grow. But being able to stop fighting the situation and accepting my reality was a liberating experience. It brought a serenity inside me I had never felt before. I realised how much more positive energy I had flowing around me and I could use it to concentrate on my healing and on appreciating the beautiful life around me. Two years on from the end of my treatment, and I am grateful for my journey. The quote goes: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” This is what I learned thanks to my experience with cancer.