Ann Hargraves diagnosed at 42

At 42, I was a busy mom with a robust work schedule. I worked out regularly, and as an avid runner, frequently participated in road races. When I started having pain in my back, I attributed it to my active lifestyle. I tried yoga, massages, acupuncture, and stretching but found nothing provided relief.

As the pain got worse, my primary care physician sent me to see a rheumatologist who prescribed medication. Still, there was no relief and no answers as to why I was in such pain. I knew in my gut that there was something really wrong. Eventually, I was unable to exercise, couldn’t sit down or sleep at night. When, after a work event, I could barely drive home, I called my doctor and went in for an ultrasound. The test showed something on my pancreas, and I was sent immediately to the emergency room and then admitted.

After 8 days of tests and 4 misdiagnoses, I was diagnosed with stage IV anaplastic large cell lymphoma. The plan was to operate but that didn’t feel right. I had to advocate fiercely to get myself into a hospital that was a better fit for my health needs. The doctors there discovered masses in my back, pancreas and tumors throughout my entire body that were stressing my organs. Had I done the surgery in the first hospital, I most likely would not have survived. My oncologist said I didn’t have time to consider options, that we had already wasted 8 days.

Six weeks after chemotherapy and grueling treatment, I started running again and participated in a cancer walk. Three months after that, I was back doing road races and haven’t stopped since.

Early detection doesn’t just change your life, it affects the quality of your life. If I had been diagnosed sooner, I wouldn’t have needed intense treatment and had the subsequent damage to my body. Instead of pushing more, I learned to live with the pain. It’s incredibly important to pay attention to your symptoms and listen to your inner voice, even if your doctor disagrees. You know when something is wrong and you know when to advocate for yourself.