Prior to being diagnosed with cancer, I was healthy and active. I ran half marathons and enjoyed riding my Peloton as well as chasing after my toddler.
Around Christmas, I found myself winded, unable to compete. My heart rate, which I track regularly, started to go up, and I developed cold symptoms, particularly a cough. I let it go for about two weeks. I tested negative for Covid and the flu, so I just assumed it was a normal cold. I tried to wait it out, but three weeks later, it had only become worse, and my resting heart rate had gone up over 30 beats per minute from my normal. So, in January, I went to the doctor who did an exam and determined that the cough was just lingering from being sick in December and that it should clear up soon. The very next day, I woke up and my face was completely swollen. I called my doctor who said it was likely an allergic reaction and prescribed steroids.
The cough never got any better, and the swelling came back after I completed the course of steroids. I had a telehealth appointment with a nurse practitioner who I had never met before, and she made me feel like my symptoms weren’t serious. She told me my facial swelling wasn’t that bad, the cough would go away eventually, and that even though my heart rate was significantly elevated for me, it was normal for my age.
I was coughing so badly that I could not lay down to sleep, so I went to urgent care for a chest X-ray. I assumed I had pneumonia. The X-ray results came back, and the doctor sent me straight to the emergency room. That night, I had a CT scan and they told me I had a 15 cm tumor in my chest that was sitting on a vein, and my right lung was full of fluid. I was scared, but also relieved that I had an answer for all of my symptoms. A biopsy revealed that I had cancer.
Self-advocacy led to my lymphoma diagnosis. I urge others to trust your gut. Know your body and speak up for yourself. Don’t let anyone, even a doctor, make you feel that you are making a bigger deal out of your symptoms than you should be.
- elevated heart rate
- cold-like symptoms
- persistent cough
- swelling in the face