Hello! My name is Amanda Roman. I was 28 years old the summer of June 2014 when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
I couldn’t figure out how something like this could happen to me. I live a pretty normal life, take care of myself, and was training to become a firefighter. I had honestly never even heard of Lymphoma. Growing up in a large family with many relatives and cousins, cancer had never shown its face to any of us. I didn’t have much knowledge about cancer, besides the ones you hear more of like breast cancer.
Looking back I think no one knows your body better than you do. Don’t ignore it, and I didn’t. I had been battling a general unwell feeling for a while; my cardio level was slowly becoming more challenging, and then out of nowhere came a cough and even periods of shortness of breath. After visiting the walk-in clinic a few times, one doctor finally told me to go to the hospital. That’s when x-rays discovered my left lung was full of fluid in the plural sac. The doctors kept me overnight, I had a CT scan the next day and that’s when I first heard the term Lymphoma. My mom and I are very close, but she was out of town that day… all I wanted was my mom. Thankfully I wasn’t alone as my best friend was there with me. Still, how was I going to tell everyone? Of course everyone feared the worst, even I did at first, but there was that one word the doctor told me right after she said Lymphoma and that it’s ‘curable’. That was it, all I needed to know, and now I’m going to conquer this!
Fast forward through everything else and my mom has been by my side ever since, even through the gruelling bone marrow biopsy. I was introduced to Dr. Galbraith at the Abbotsford Cancer Centre at the beginning of July 2014 where he explained what kind of treatment I would be getting… ABVD Chemotherapy. Twelve rounds over a period of six months and I would lose my hair, battle with numbness in my fingers and maybe even get mouth sores. Luckily though, I didn’t lose all my hair (I kept it buzzed short), nor did I battled any of the side effects! Yes of course there are days when I didn’t feel well right after chemo, and nothing I ate tasted good, or I was tired and couldn’t sleep well… but those symptoms only lasted a few days, then I was back to my normal self. That part was over just before Christmas of 2014 and what a way to celebrate being done with chemo! (so I thought)
January of 2015 the PET scan showed cancer was still showing its face, but in my spleen. Surgery was the first option, but when the cancer started to spread to my lymph nodes again, my oncologist decided to try a Stem Cell Transplant instead. Which meant more chemotherapy, and then I’d be admitted to Vancouver General Hospital for three weeks while I underwent the transplant and stayed till I recovered. There I did lose all my hair and develop mouth sores this time… but it was like “bringing out the big guns” in terms of chemotherapy, so it was okay. Also, the interesting thing about the transplant was that I’d be using my own cells. I got to take part in the process of collecting the cells as well as receiving them! The science behind it all is truly amazing.
I remember back near the beginning, right after my first round of chemo. I was so scared, it was very emotional; I didn’t know what this road ahead was going to be like. I thought for sure my summer was ruined, that I would be stuck inside while everyone is out enjoying the sunshine. But that wasn’t the case at all. I hope that by sharing my story it will give others hope, and to look at cancer almost as a gift, one that anyone would probably return, but one that helps you open your eyes to the world around you.
I’ve been off work and on disability through all this, so my day to day schedule definitely changed, but I was happy to develop a new routine. I take the dog for a walk every morning, catch up on some reading, and recently took up guitar lessons. I’ve always wanted to learn the guitar so what better opportunity then now! What I didn’t expect was the support from friends who I hadn’t spoken to since high school. I didn’t put anything on Facebook that specifically said what I was going through, but people still get it. They can see the pictures of your chopped hair and start to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I was really surprised and humbled by all the messages of encouragement I had received.
This journey is one I hope to never go through again, but it’s something that has given me so much more then I can describe. Cancer is a terrible disease and I have the utmost respect for it, but if you can walk away from it, it gives such a gift of life. We live in such a busy world and it takes nothing to reconnect with someone… to write them a short message if anything.
Once I’m through with my treatment I am taking a much needed vacation and inviting anyone who can come!
To the volunteers who are behind Light The Night, you are simply amazing, it helped me to know that I wasn’t alone!
Let’s find an end to Blood Cancers!