20 May 2016 – this day started like an ordinary day, until I got up from bed and felt a massive pain in my chest. I did not think much of it immediately and decided to still go for a 45-minute run at a local gym before going to my internship. The pain continued the whole morning and it was clear by lunchtime that it will not go away by itself and I should probably go and see a doctor. Strong girl as I am, through pain and tears I rode my bicycle back home, took my boyfriend along and went to the hospital. Luckily enough I was able to see a doctor straight away. I described my symptoms and he undertook multiple tests (e.g. blood test and EKG), which were perfect. Thus, it was clear that there is nothing wrong with my heart (obviously doctors first guess was that I might have an heart attack) and additional tests– an x-ray – needs to be taken. From that moment onwards things started to go downhill as the doctor said that there is a shadow in my chest that needs further investigation. Scary moment, huh? It sure was. Moments later I was on my way to another hospital to get a CT scan. After the scan I was given the scans and a report and was told to go and see my doctor as soon as possible. First thing the next day I returned to the hospital, saw a doctor who after few moments of inspecting the report stated, “how soon can you fly to your home country?”
CT scan showed that I have 10cm x 8cm x 2cm “mass” in my chest and as you all probably know, Cambodia is not well-known for its high end medical care (or any proper medical care at all?), I should fly back to my home country to get the mass further investigated.
Without any doubts we both decided that we have to leave Cambodia temporarily to get the mass checked, but to be honest the timing could have not been any worse. Since that moment we had lived in Cambodia for 10 months already during which my boyfriend had started an enjoyable full-time job, I slowly but steadily enjoyed the Cambodian-lifestyle, had established a nice group of friends (hello sweets, I miss you!) and few days earlier started the most perfect internship at the UNOHCHR. Thus, it is not surprising that this rapid departure was really sad.
But okay, back to the more important stuff – a day after seeing the doctor we booked flights and a couple of days later arrived to Sydney. The decision to come here was fairly easy – 1. I have Australian permanent residency, thus free medical care, 2. Medical care here is very high level, 3. My boyfriend is Australian (could be a reason, right?) and 4. I have lived here before; I know the city/country and have friends and family (my dear brother and his family in Perth!), who can support me when necessary.
On our arrival, directly from the airport, we went to see a GP, who referred me to a cardiothoracic specialist, who I saw couple of days later. Long story short – according to him, the mass in my chest is either 1. Thymoma (cancer of thymus gland), which is relatively rare for young adults or 2. Lymphoma, which in essence is a cancer of the lymphatic system but has different types, but affects people from many different age groups. In order to be 100 percent sure, I was referred to additional test. Since that moment I have experienced quite a lot – CT scan assisted biopsy, mini-surgery during which they removed a tissue sample of the mass for a new biopsy (had to stay in hospital for 2 nights), and a PET scan.
After meeting the specialist, it was clear that I have cancer, just not entirely sure which type yet and that I have to prepare myself for a (possibly long and tiring) fight.
It was not until few weeks later, on 21 June 2016, one day and one month since that “not-so-ordinary-day”, when I had an appointment with hematologist, who gave me the official diagnosis – primary mediastinal large B-cell non-Hodgins lymphoma. This type of lymphoma is relatively uncommon, but luckily (thank god!) chemotherapy has really good success rates! So positivity all the way!
This upcoming week will be pretty intense as I will need to undergo some pre-chemo tests -> bone marrow biopsy (errr!), blood tests, full body CT scan, etc. According to the hematologist, I will start chemotherapy sometime next week!
In my next posts I will talk a bit more about the type of cancer I have, what kind of chemo treatment I will be getting and other stuff that has been/is happening lately.