In December 2015, I noticed lymphnode swelling but dismissed it as I had just had strep throat. It either became less noticeable or I acclimated to it until the second week of Jan where I noticed it was visible on my neck when I looked up. My family urged me to go to the doctor. A round of antibiotics, normal bloodwork and no change in size prompted a referral to the ENT. At this point I noticed pain, when I drank alochol, in the lymphnodes all the way into my shoulder. I was also very tired, sleeping around 10-12 hrs a day. At this point, Dr. Google had diagnosed me with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I knew what I had. Why didn’t the doctor’s? At the ENT’s I was given another round of antibitoics. I had an ultrasound on my neck that showed bilateral swollen lymphnodes in my neck, the largest measuring 6.4cmx6cmx2cm. I was officially freaked to learn there is a tennis ball in my neck. I also was no longer enjoy taking walks over a mile. I used to walk 3+ miles twice a week. I would get tired about half a mile in. The ENT ordered a fine needle biopsy. I remember looking up at the surgeon and telling him you have to find the Reed- Sternberg cell. I have Hodgkins Lymphoma. Find it. Of course, he didn’t. The funny thing about lymphoma is that less than 10% of the cells are cancerous. I lost ten pounds in February.
My ENT ordered a CT of the soft tissue of the neck. A radiologist missed a bunch of nodes. My doctor after feeling the nodes felt that lymphoma was definitely a consideration. We scheduled the excisional biopsy as she reviewed my CT for a second and third time with two other radiologists. On March 5th, they removed a supraclavicular node that was the size of a ping pong ball and looked very abnormal. She said it was hard to get out, sticking onto the tissue of other things and did not have smooth planes. It took an hour and a half to remove it as it was near the jugular, parotid, and spinal accessory nerve. March 10th at my post op, I was told it was Hodgkin Lymphoma as a preliminary diagnosis. I got the confirmation on the 11th around 11:15 AM. I was so relieved to have the diagnosis. Now I had to wait 4 weeks to be seen at MD Anderson.
I told everyone I was pretty sure I had cancer, a day before my excisional biopsy. My online community, church community, friends, and family came together and gave me support like no other. A dear friend started an online campaign and made t-shirts emblazoned with Pray Big on the front and #karikickscancer on the back. Strangers and friends raised over $6,000 to help with medical expenses and living expenses. We didn’t lose our home to cancer thanks to the love of others. I didnt have to chose less expensive treatments due to the love others. I never lost hope.
After 12 chemo treatments of AVD (6 rounds), I am done with treatment. I survived. My port is gone. My body is mine. My daughter kept me going like no one else could. Little brown eyes looking at me as mommy, not as a cancer patient. My husband diligently took care of my daughter and me. Never asking for anything in return. My family stepped in and cleaned, drove, and babysat me and my sweet Elinore. Friends, family, and strangers provided for us when I couldn’t. That’s how #lovebeatscancer . I am living proof that love can beat cancer. I am standing, scars and all. Feet planted on the ground. Surviving isn’t the end of this journey. Cancer never leaves you. Now I am picking up the pieces and finding out where this Kari who has been through cancer belongs in this world. I belong here because I am here- thanks to love.