Terry Flaherty diagnosed at 25

At 25, I was preparing to go into the Boston Police Academy. I exercised, was healthy and on top of my game. When I began to experience pain in my shoulder, I figured it was from working out. I felt a large lump in the same shoulder, but again, I wrote it off as a gym injury.

Three weeks passed, and while the pain was gone, the lump was still there. I decided not to ignore the lump anymore and made an appointment to see my primary care doctor. After an exam, the doctor said the lump was nothing to worry about and to come back in a few months if it was still there.

Something about this didn’t feel right, so I showed the lump to my father. Immediately, he said that I couldn’t wait and needed to get the lump looked at somewhere else. Before I knew it, I was going for an MRI and having surgery to remove a node in my shoulder. I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Now, I am 41 years old and happy to say, cancer-free. Because my cancer was found early, I was able to follow my father’s footsteps and decided to become a career Boston firefighter. I’m doing great and make sure to see my doctor every year.

Since having cancer, there have been a couple of times when I’ve had swollen lymph nodes. Even though I was scared, I told my doctor right away, and thankfully, they were just swollen from a virus. Many firefighters avoid the doctor and are afraid of what the doctor may tell them. It’s important to me now that I encourage my brothers to do their yearly physicals. I stress the importance of being honest with your doctor, telling them everything, telling them the truth. I remind them that if you have something that doesn’t go away within a week or two, have it looked at and get another opinion if the first one doesn’t feel right. It will save your life.

Symptoms

  • pain in shoulder
  • lump in shoulder