Hi Everyone! My name is Lia Sartorio and I am 21 years old. I am Stage 4 Hodgkin's lymphoma SURVIVOR! My world was turned upside down on May 6th, 2019, when I was diagnosed with lymphoma. I had been experiencing severe back pain for a few months, and after many unsuccessful chiropractic visits, I was prescribed an MRI. Expecting to see nothing but a pinched nerve, the MRI uncovered that I had abnormal bone marrow in my lower back and pelvis. Within two weeks of my MRI, I underwent a CT Scan, a PET scan, a bone marrow biopsy, and a surgical Lymph Node Biopsy. Within two weeks I had a full diagnosis. I had Stage 4 Nodular Sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma that spread to the bone marrow in my lower back and pelvis.
For the next 6 months, I underwent AVD chemo every 2 weeks. Chemo was not a walk in the park. I experienced extreme fatigue, nausea, and food aversions. However, I made sure to embrace the days when I felt good. I went to many hospital support groups and classes. It was essential for me to reach out for support and guidance. I met many wonderful people through these classes, and the classes helped me to relax, be mindful, and process my overwhelming emotions. After 4 rounds of chemo, I had another PET scan. I am so happy to report that the scan came back completely negative for cancer. My body had reacted so wonderfully to chemo.
Many people expected me to be thrilled by this news, however, I was not celebrating. I was relieved, but I was not thrilled. I still had 8 rounds of preventative chemo left. It was hard for me to see the light. Nonetheless, I persevered. I finished my 12th and final chemo treatment on October 17th, 2019. I had my post-chemo PET a couple of weeks afterward in November. My PET showed a "COMPLETE RESPONSE TO CHEMO." I was thrilled to learn the news of my great scan.
I am still dealing with the mental and physical repercussions of chemo and my cancer diagnosis. I wake up feeling fatigued, and that makes it hard to complete daily tasks that were once easy for me to accomplish. I often find myself submerged in bouts of anxiety and depression. I am scared of the unknown and the uncertainty of life. My innocence has been stripped away. Some people assume that, now that I'm done with treatment, my life has gone back to normal. What these people do not understand is that my life will never be the same. It's going to take time for me to bounce back. It's going to take time for me to regain my physical strength. It's going to take time before I can trust again. I am trying my best. I have learned an abundance of lessons from my cancer experience.
To my surprise, many positive aspects have come out of this horrific experience. I am more compassionate towards people and their unique struggles. I have learned the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. I have made deep friendships with other cancer fighters, thrivers, and survivors. I have gained an abundance of mental strength because I am facing obstacles that many 21-year-olds do not have to go through. I'm learning, more than ever, that I don't need a lot to make me happy. I have a greater appreciation for the simple things in life.
Lastly, cancer has given me the opportunity to be a guiding force for people wallowing in a pit of destructive emotions following a cancer diagnosis. With the new skills and wisdom that I learn every single day, I will be able to help people. Every day my fate is being shaped. I am going to turn this horrible ordeal into a supportive foundation for my future. I am going to learn from these challenges and grow from them. Who knows-- maybe these trials and tribulations will guide me in my career path. I can only hope. Everyone's cancer journey is one-of-a-kind. Embrace your journey. Embrace every emotion. You will get through this!