I am literally shaking as I type this blog post. I have mixed feelings about sharing something so personal in my life, but I’m a firm believer that every experience in life shapes us as a person, and as an influencer who shares her whole life on the internet, I think it’s important to share my “not so perfect life” moments as we all have them- no matter how big or small.
The past nine weeks have been the hardest time in my life. I have “secretly” seen six doctors/specialists, spent time in two hospitals, visited twelve doctor’s offices, had four ultrasounds, three separate lab tests, and two biopsies performed; spent countless hours on the phone arguing with insurance companies and hospitals for referrals, results, doctor’s orders and appointments. I may not have family here with me on the west coast, but I am my own advocate and needed to fight for my own health.
This whole time, I have been walking around with a smile on my face, pretending that everything was just fine when in reality I have been living the past nine weeks with uncertainty. I felt guilty every time I got off of a FaceTime chat with my parents, telling them I’m okay. I felt stressed from the unknown and from arguing with healthcare providers/insurance companies. I cried myself to sleep and on my drive to work. I woke-up in the middle of the night from anxiety/panic attacks. I tried to keep myself busy at work to keep my mind off of things. I stress ate. I isolated myself from people. I was frustrated at myself for not trusting in God and his plan for me. And I put my new life in California on pause.
Well I’m ready to share my story now to hopefully help anyone else out there who is going through something that:
A) It’s okay to not be okay- you don’t need to pretend!
B) Fight for your health!
C) Ask for help if you need it!
D) Stress doesn’t help, it actually makes things and your health worse!
E) Try your best to stay off of Google!
Okay, so let me backtrack. First week of December I noticed two little bumps on my neck. I personally have never had inflamed lymph nodes when I’m sick, but apparently it’s common. I still felt a bit weird that I felt these tapioca ball like objects on the side of my neck, so I dragged myself to urgent care and they put me on antibiotics for two weeks for a potential “bacterial infection.”
After those two weeks, I went home for the holidays and didn’t think much of it. Once I came back to LA, I noticed a third bump on my neck, but this time a lot larger than the other two. I called my primary care physician and of course couldn’t schedule a last minute appointment. I thought about going back to urgent care, but figured all they would do is prescribe me more antibiotics and/or tell me to go to ER. So I did the next best thing, I had a “Teladoc”- video conference appointment. During my appointment, I told this doctor my symptoms and without any knowledge of my health history or without any lab test results, he automatically told me that he doesn’t want to scare me, but I might have leukemia or lymphoma.
Of course, at this time I started to freak out a tad as I’ve never had anyone tell me “I might have cancer.” I thought to myself, this is simply a virtual doctor, there’s absolutely no way he can potentially diagnose me with cancer. In spite of it all, I called my primary care doctor’s office once again and told them that I’ve potentially been diagnosed with leukemia or lymphoma. Lo and behold, my doctor had a last minute cancellation and could see me the next day. I went to my doctor and she looks at my bumps and tells me that she too thinks I might have lymphoma so she takes my urine and blood samples, and her colleague in the same office performs an urgent ultrasound on me.
A couple of days later, I get a startling call from my doctor during work. She tells me that the ultrasound detected numerous inflamed lymph nodes all throughout my neck, and she has urgently scheduled an appointment with an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor on my behalf. At this point, I am shook. Literally, had my first emotional breakdown/anxiety attack at work. I was trying to remain calm, but my whole body was shaking and I couldn’t stop the tears. I apologize to my co-workers and bosses who had to see me like this.
Fast forward, on the day of my ENT appointment, I get another call from my primary care physician’s office telling me they scheduled another appointment on my behalf, this time with a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in diseases relating to blood), who also happens to be an oncologist (doctor who specializes in cancer). At this point, I am SERIOUSLY freaking out. But the day must go on.
I meet with ENT and they perform the procedure where they stick something down your throat and up your nose-both very uncomfortable. Again, the doctor tells me nothing is wrong, but the bumps on my neck are not normal so they’re going to put in an order to make sure I have a biopsy procedure performed just in case. And like the other two doctors, he too thinks it could be lymphoma.
The next day, I meet with my hematologist/oncologist who is confused like me on why I am at his office when they haven’t officially diagnosed me with cancer. He is nice enough to tell me that he can meet with me after my biopsy and proceeds to tell me that there is a possibility that the bumps on my neck can be from lymphoma. At this point, a total of four doctors have told me I might have cancer, so of course, I am not fine.
This is when the stress eating starts. This is when the sleepless nights begin. This is when the anxiety/panic attacks start. And this is when I have these spontaneous lightheaded moments.
I am a planner. The fact that I can’t plan a solution drives me crazy, so the last thing I need to do is spend hours on the phone with my insurance company to expedite my referral. And so begins my fight for health.
I finally visit an imaging center who performs my first fine needle biopsy. Definitely not as bad as getting a tattoo. I am the type of person who does not like to ask for favors or burden anyone, but the word “biopsy” scared me for some reason, so I kindly asked my roommate to accompany me to this one. Thanks, Daphne!!
Now the waiting game. This part is the worst part. You’re constantly waiting for your phone to ring, and in my case, calling the imaging center myself nonstop for days. After about four days later, I was told I could pickup my results. And of course, it stated that I need to get another type of biopsy for a different type of analysis. At this point, I am freaking out even more.
Because I didn’t really have a doctor at this point as my oncologist and ENT were referred specialists and my primary care physician couldn’t help me anymore with my “potential cancer” issue, I had to constantly call the ENT and oncology offices to have them put in a referral for my second biopsy. After a week of calling both offices, they both put in urgent referrals because my lymph nodes were getting bigger at this time. And of course, I had to call my insurance company 15 times (yes, I counted) to expedite my approval. If any of you have to call insurance companies, doctor’s offices, etc., here’s a tip: write down names of who you speak with as everyone will give you a different answer!
After getting approved for my second biopsy, I had to get blood work done in preparation. And of course they didn’t get enough blood the first time around so I actually had to visit a Labcorp office twice in one week. Oh also, did I mention? Every time I had an ultrasound or biopsy performed, I needed to physically pickup a CD of images/videos from each office and deliver it to the new office?!
Just when I think everything is fine and my second biopsy is set to go, the day before my second biopsy, the hospital calls and says they have to cancel my appointment because they scheduled me for the wrong type of biopsy and they can’t perform the biopsy I need to get without a surgeon. Okay, what the actual F***!?! Excuse my language. It’s bad enough I am not in the right emotional state. How does a hospital schedule you for something that they cannot do?! How could they have not told me this two weeks ago when they scheduled this appointment or when I had to drop off my CD ‘s of images/videos from my previous ultrasounds and biopsy, which in fact I had to pickup form two separate offices!? At this point, I was so fed up all I could do was cry and yell at everyone involved in scheduling this appointment. And sometimes, this is a method you have to do because after all the crying and yelling on the phone, I was able to re-schedule my second biopsy two days after my initial appointment.
The day of my second biopsy, I go to the hospital thinking I’ll be in and out, and ready to go back to work, but of course I end up staying there for 7 hours (had to fast for this one, so yes, I was hangry). I had no problems dealing with all of this alone, till I was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to an IV for seven hours by myself and everyone else near me had their wives, husbands or kids bedside. Oh and the worst part?! Every time a nurse or someone older saw me, they’d pass by and say, “you’re too young for this!” UM….. what?! I don’t think there’s a set age for “cancer.” And trust me, there are other places I want to be than lying on a hospital bed by myself.
And after all of the stress, tears and arguments… nine weeks later. I’m happy to report that my results came out BENIGN!!! I’ve never been so happy to see a word typed up on a piece of paper. They say your friends are your chosen family and I cannot thank my friends enough for letting me vent, praying for me, checking up on me before and after my procedures, sending me care packages and handwritten letters, and going through all of this with me. I personally chose not to tell my family during all of this as I knew they’d feel helpless as they are across the country from me, so I have to say, I seriously could not have done any of this without my friends. <3
Live life to the fullest, all. If there’s something you want to do, do it. If there’s something you want to eat, eat it. If there’s somewhere you want to go, just go. You seriously never know where life might take you. And do yourself a favor. If there’s a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile, reach out to him or her, you seriously never know what a person might be going through and how you might be able to help them just by talking to them.