Life as an Adolescent Young Adult Cancer Survivor

July 17 2023

Written by Diamonique “Diamond” Suber

Imagine entering your senior year of high school as a scholar athlete, looking forward to a full-ride athletic scholarship, only to be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a few short months later. This was my reality at just 17 years old.

My journey started as I was walking the aisles of Walmart with my parents, and I felt a small nodule in my neck. I had my mom check out this spot and she took me to be checked. As I sat in the emergency room, I was told after my examination that this nodule was simply an infection my body was fighting off that settled in my lymph nodes which would get bigger before it got better. A 14-day antibiotic and two emergency room visits later, I found myself being referred to Brenner’s for a biopsy.

November 8, 2013, I sat in the 9th floor Pediatric HemOnc clinic being told I had stage 3a Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The events that followed my diagnosis are somewhat of a blur. It consisted of surgery for my port-a-cath placement and then my treatment began. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Although I turned 18 shortly after my first chemotherapy treatment, I was able to remain on the pediatric unit throughout my treatment. This, I am thankful for.

Once I hit my 3-year remission mark, I was transitioned from the pediatric HemOnc clinic to the Survivorship clinic and although I love my care team dearly and have been given numerous opportunities through the Survivorship clinic, there is a noticeable difference in treatment being a young adult as opposed to when I was an adolescent. As an adolescent patient, I felt like my care team was my family. We would discuss things like my college plans and my personal life outside of my diagnosis. As a young adult patient, I feel like visits are in and out and although I enjoy that, sometimes I just wish I still got asked those questions about my personal life. I wish we had those check-ins of “what are you doing now” “how’s the family” etc. Instead, I get “you look great” “don’t forget your mammograms start this year” “let’s plan to have you back in one year”.

I am not complaining one bit because I am blessed to be able to say I am 9 years cancer free. In those 9 years, I have participated in numerous Relay for Life events, graduated high school and college, given birth to a now handsome 3 year old, which are some things that if you asked me 9 years ago, were things that may not have been possible for me. I am a part of an adolescent young adult support group, I have been a speaker in two major conferences, one for NCORP and one for SCOR as an adolescent young adult patient advocate.

Cancer pushed me to live beyond my wildest dreams. Cancer showed me that I need to be grateful for each day that I have on this earth, and I intend to continue to use my voice to advocate for adolescent young adult patients in every aspect that I can.

This is simply the beginning. The best is yet to come.

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