Tanya: Young Adult Lymphoma Survivor - Video Transcript

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Network Newsletter
Date: Fall 2008
Duration: 0 / 03:41

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My name is Tanya, and when I was 21 years old, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. When I was 18, I was living in Los Angeles and I was going to school there for college. Maybe the whole year of 2004 I was just constantly sick: fevers, night sweats, coughing. I had a kind of protrusion, kind a like, it looked like a tumor. When I'd go like that, it was like a golf-ball size. And I came home for Christmas in 2004. I showed my parents, and they're both in the medical field, and they were both like, "Well, that doesn't look right." So they asked me if it hurt, and I said, "No, no it doesn't hurt." And so January 2005, I had a bunch of doctors' appointments. Finally, I had an open biopsy, and I was diagnosed with lymphoma.

During my six months of chemo, I had a couple challenges. All the norms, you know I was tired and what not. But mostly I didn't get a port put in, so it was really hard to find my veins.

Other challenges I had, all of my hair fell out: my hair, my eyebrows, everything. And so people thought I just shaved my head. So I constantly got the question, "Oh, you're so young. Why'd you shave your head, blah, blah, blah?" So it got so tiring hearing, hearing that, and I would say, "Oh I have cancer." Or, you know, it would just, I would blow people off and say, "Oh, yeah I have cancer." And they'd be like [air sucking noise], you know?

So really the worst challenge I had was radiation. That was five days a week for like two months. And it was worse than chemo for me. It was really, really bad. I had radiation from here to here, front and back, and it was just, you know, third degree burns. And I would have to put like fresh aloe on myself.

While I was getting my treatment my doctor did discuss with me if I wanted to freeze my eggs. I decided not to do it. Luckily about three years later, I'm pregnant.

In my experience you, you can't really find happiness outward, you can't find peace outward. You really have to find it within. Your true happiness and your true peace is gonna come from within. I mean, you have people to support you, family or friends, but at the end of the day, you know, you're laying in bed, or, or you're by yourself. And if you don't have that inner peace and inner happiness, then it's gonna be really, really hard to get through things.

When I was diagnosed, I had no idea what lymphoma was. The best source was the Internet. I mean I found everything about lymphoma, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, everything. The only challenge was I was 21 and there was nobody my age that had cancer.

I started volunteering at M. D. Anderson, so helping, helping other people helped me understand what I as going through. Of course, my family, my friends, everybody was really supportive.

Most importantly, I found my relationship with God. I mean, I was always raised Catholic and everything, but I mean, I wasn't really paying attention. But I feel like God grabbed me by the neck and brought me back from California to Texas. And then I just, that whole time I just, God was really the thing that helped me through it. I was peaceful through the whole thing. I just knew that it was in His hands. Whatever happened happened. And I, that was really ultimately the thing that got me through my cancer.

Yeah, God, family, friends and the Internet.

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Videographer/Video Editor: Deborah E. Thomas
Producers: Sara Farris, Marisa Mir, Deborah E. Thomas