what I want you to know: cancer at 24

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions.  It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s post is by Andrea Mayhew.
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At 24 I was single,going out with friends and living a carefree life. It was December of 2002 and all of sudden my high school sweetheart came back in my life and we were planning our future together. Life was exciting and held so much prospect for the two of us. A month later,two weeks before my 25th birthday I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and had a tumor in my chest.  That was 8 years ago. My story is a typical cancer story. You know,somehow,someone,somewhere always has it. Cancer. You can get it by what you eat,what building you choose to walk in, where you live. But at 24 I got cancer & I was clueless.

I went in to a hospital my mom worked at because I had an extremely high fever and my back was KILLING me! Extreme pain. While in the ER the doctor noticed I had a cough and wanted to take an x-ray to rule out phenomena. As I was waiting with Jon,my high school sweetheart, we were goofing around and discussing our plans of the weekend. In walks my mom and the look of devastation was all over her face. She says to me,"Drea the xray shows you have a tumor in your chest" Just like in the movies I thought she was kidding and started laughing and told her to stop joking. She repeated the words to me and all I can now remember is saying NO over & over again. How could I have a tumor. I'm invincible right. Nothing bad could ever happen to me. I'm young. Sadly I was in a bubble.

Because now at 33 I know that babies get cancer,3 year olds get cancer,10 year olds get cancer, it's not just older people.


I had to have a surgery right away to remove the tumor from my chest and have it biopsied to determine what exactly it was. Surgery? Are you kidding me? I have never broken a bone.Never had a surgery. And now I was going in to have my ribs broken,my chest split apart so a doctor could remove a huge tumor in my chest cavity.I woke up from the surgery in the worst pain I have ever experienced. My oldest brother was at my side and I had a tube down my throat. It was a time I rather forget. After I completely came to I was told the tumor was indeed malignant and I would have to undergo chemo once I healed from my surgery.

Two weeks went by after the surgery and my mom went in the Cancer Center with me to hear about the types of chemo I would be receiving. All of this was just unreal. We walk in and I'm the youngest person there by a good 40 years. My Oncologist sits with us and tells me about Hodgkins.How it usually affects people between 18-30 years old. And how the type that I had was "the best type of cancer I could get". Looking back,those words helped me through this whole process. All those treatments, all the shots Jon had to give me at home to keep my white blood cells up,all the nausea, the cold sweats,the hot flashes,the taste of mercury 24/7, the constant pain I was in. Those words helped me realize that I would get through it. Sure I had cancer, it stopped time for a while but in the end it has made me realize just how much time we have.

Jon & I married in 2006 and our firstborn son came exactly 9 months later. Why waste time right? Our second born son arrived in 2009 and life is pretty darn fantastic. Mason my eldest asks me about me scar on my chest. At 4 years old all I tell him is that I had something really bad in me and the doctors had to get it out. He is fine with that answer now. Imagining my boys having to go through what I did makes me hurt for my parents and family. I'm so sorry they had to go through that. Cancer sucks.Plain & simple. I'm just so thankful for what I had and what I now have because of it.



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