Hodgkins Lymphoma Grad- Cassidy
Name: Cassidy Skaggs
Age at Enrollment: 22
Major: Stage 2a Hodgkins Lymphoma
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis?
I had a lump on the left side of my neck and my neck was very sore, it was like I slept on it wrong.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor?
I went to urgent care at the end of January 2018, because I did not have a primary doctor here in Louisville because I had just moved up here for school. They said I was having muscle spasms and sent me home. I went back two weeks later because the pain was worse and I developed another lump on the same side of my neck and they said the same thing. I finally went to the ER because the pain was so bad and I had developed a third lump on the left side of my neck and the ER docs exact words were “I am nervous you might have lymphoma” but he sent me home and didn’t do any testing or anything. That didn’t sit well with me or my parents so my parents came up the next day and we went to a different ER and they sent me home and said it was nothing. We went to the urgent care that I had been going to that exact same day and he finally ordered bloodwork and a needle aspiration biopsy. I got that done a week later and got the results a week after that and they said it was just an infection and it wasn’t cancer. We got into a family doctor after that and I went to her for about 5 visits within a month or so span and she kept sending me home with stronger antibiotics and kept saying I had an infection. My mom finally got me into an ENT and in the first five minutes of me being there he had scheduled a surgery for my biopsy of my lymph nodes. He was very mad that no one had sent me to him in a span of four months. I had my appointment with him on Monday and had my biopsy surgery on Friday and April 11, 2018 I was diagnosed.
I was originally supposed to have 6 months of chemotherapy which is 24 rounds of chemo, but I ended up being cancer free after only a couple of treatments. My doctor took my case to conferences and they came to a conclusion that with my age and the cancer I had, it was better to stop treatment early to keep away the cancer rather doing more treatments to prevent it. It could have caused more harm in the future.
What has been your biggest struggle since your diagnosis?
My biggest struggle was finding out who my true friends and family were. I lost my best friend because I had cancer, and one of my grandparents didn’t even call and check on me.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) thus far and how did you you get through it/them?
My hardest moment was probably shaving my head. I first cut off 14 inches of my hair to donate and then we had a head shaving party. I know hair doesn’t mean much to people but my hair was my favorite part about myself. I knew that I wanted to shave my hair before I lost it because I knew I didn’t want to find clumps of my hair everywhere. I didn’t want cancer to take my hair. I wanted to have the power to take it myself. I got through it with the help of my family, my fiancé and my friends and all of their support.
What has been your biggest accomplishment since your diagnosis?
My biggest accomplishment is finding out how strong I actually am. I know if I trust in the Lord and believe in myself, I can overcome anything that comes my way.
What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? What advice would you tell them to ignore?
The advice I would give is do not worry about how other people feel, focus on yourself and getting healthy. It is also okay to cry, its okay to be mad. You need to let it out!
How did your family and friends respond?
Most of my family and friends were very supportive! My community was also super supportive. I couldn’t have gotten through this alone.
Since your diagnosis, what does it look like to you to “get back up” ?
What it looks like to me is getting stronger physically and mentally. I am starting to work out again, do yoga and just focusing on myself!
When you feel overwhelmed or anxious, what do you do?
My fiancé was one of my biggest supporters and he always held my hands and told me to look at him and breath deep and it always helps me. So I just focus on my breathing!
What did you know about the type of cancer that you were diagnosed with prior to your diagnosis?
I have been going to a camp called Camp Quality since 2014. This camp is where kids with cancer go and get to be kids again. We go for a week in the summer and I have a “camper” that had cancer. All the kids that go there have or had cancer and multiple kids had Hodgkins, but I honestly didn’t know what it was- I just knew *of* it.
What do you now want people to be aware of?
I want people to be aware that blood cancer does exist. Like people always know about breast cancer because it is highly advertised and most stores sell think pink things.
Have you created any meaning out of this experience? If so, what was it/how did you do it?
I looked at this experience as a learning experience because I learned so much about myself and others and how something like this can bring people close together
How did/do you find joy during this experience?
I kept a really good attitude and I met the most amazing people throughout this experience including all of my nurses that have honestly changed my world around for the better.
Since your diagnosis, what new belief, habit or behavior has most improved your quality of life? How has your diagnosis informed your life?
I really believe in living life to the fullest because you don’t know what day will be your last. It has greatly improved my quality of life because I don’t focus on the negative, I focus on the better things in life and I am happy!
Did you learn anything about yourself or your life? If so, what was it?
I learned that I am strong, I am a warrior. My life is precious and I need to live it to the fullest!
If you could write anything you wanted on a billboard in NYC’s Times Square that would reach millions of people, what would it read?
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face” -Eleanor Roosevelt.
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and twice as beautiful as you’d ever imagined.”
Please donate to Kosair Charities or Camp Quality Kentuckiana!! It where kids with cancer get to be kids again (: