When I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I was about to start my senior year at the University of Central Florida (UCF) in May 2012. I did not feel particularly ill before being diagnosed, but I felt soreness under my left arm. At a routine check-up that month, I told my doctor about it, which quickly led to scans, a diagnosis, and lots of medical tests. Luckily, my doctors caught the cancer early and I was able to start treatment shortly after the diagnosis. I was involved with several student organizations and planned to spend the summer at UCF—instead, I took the summer and fall semesters off for chemotherapy and radiation.
Treatment started almost immediately after I was diagnosed. I started with six rounds of chemotherapy, which started the week after my 21st birthday. During chemo, I lost my hair and a lot of my strength. Though I responded well to the treatment, I had to stay home most of the time because of how low my white blood cell count was, which also led to dietary restrictions. After chemo, I had a month of radiation treatment. By the time I finished radiation, some of my hair had started to come back and I was able to eat and exercise normally again. My cancer was in remission when I finished treatment, and has been for almost two years now.
I still need to get scans twice a year and see my oncologists, but I have been able to get my life back on track. I graduated UCF in 2013 and am now in my second year of law school at Florida State University (FSU). My strength and hair have returned, but my life will never be the same; there is always the risk of relapse or a secondary cancer looming over me, but I am determined to continue working towards my goals and not living in fear. I am fortunate that I was able to overcome this disease thanks to the amazing medical professionals that oversaw my treatment, as well as the moral support from my family, friends, and organizations like the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).
This year, I am working with Foundation Beyond Belief (FBB) to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night Walk. When I was diagnosed, LLS helped me pay for my treatment, as they have helped countless others in my situation. Towards the end of my treatment in 2012, I made a team for Light the Night with my friends and family in Boca Raton, but this year I am working with FBB because of their commitment to secular charity here in Tallahassee. Disease does not discriminate based on faith, and secular people struggle with cancer the same way religious people do. There are, unfortunately, those that think nonreligious people don’t donate to charity, but organizations like FBB and the American Humanist Association help correct that misconception. Humanism is, in my opinion, an essential part of a secular lifestyle, and I am honored to share my story with secular organizations that make it their mission to help people with no supernatural motivation.
I hope that you will consider joining a team or donating to this cause; your support makes a huge difference in people’s lives. Your life changes forever when you’re diagnosed, but thanks to organizations like LLS, many survivors, including myself, are able to get their lives back on track. People of all nationalities and creeds, and their loved ones, are affected by cancer every day. But thanks to scientific breakthroughs, medical professionals, and patients’ support networks, it is no longer the death sentence it once was.