At 21, most people feel they are just getting started with their lives, but this was not the case for Erin. Instead, she found herself fighting for her life. A simple visit to her family physician about a lump above her collarbone ended up in a terrifying diagnosis: cancer. Initially, her doctor thought it was a cyst and suggested monitoring it for 6 months, but 2 weeks later Erin had a strong feeling that the lump needed to be removed and convinced her doctor to do so. Her doctor said he would contact her in 2 weeks with the results, but instead she received a call 2 days later asking her to come into the office. She knew something was wrong.
Erin’s mom and best friend accompanied her to the appointment, but she went into the exam room by herself to hear the unthinkable: Hodgkins Lymphoma. Erin went numb and could barely speak. The doctor encouraged Erin to go get her mom. “That was the longest walk to the waiting room. The minute I opened the door, I just looked at my mom and cried, more for her than myself.” All she could think about was how much this was going to hurt everyone around her.
Understandably, Erin had difficulty accepting her diagnosis and slipped into depression. For her, the word “cancer” meant she was going to die. She hit bottom when she received a DWI two weeks after her diagnosis. This was a real eye opener for Erin. She said, “What was drinking going to do? Cure my cancer? Solve all of my problems? No, none of this. I needed to step up and accept this battle and be ready to fight!” And that is what she did.
Before a treatment plan could be designed, Erin had numerous scans, blood tests, and a bone marrow biopsy to see if the cancer had spread. These tests showed some activity down her sternum, so it was decided that she would have 8 weeks of daily radiation on her neck, down her sternum, and her armpits. You can see where the darker skin was burned from the radiation and peeled off to the lighter skin in the picture of Erin during her treatment. She was given two small dot tattoos to line up the radiation treatments. These tattoos are constant reminders of her battle and can also be conversation starters depending on what shirt she wears.
Erin credits her family and friends with getting her through her “hard battle”. Thankfully, Erin has been in remission for nearly 12 years, and she is happily married with two adorable children. However, she is forever changed by her experience. She knows her risks for other cancers in the areas that were hit by the radiation are higher, so she pays close attention to her body. This heightened awareness also carries over to her children.Erin’s advice to others is simple: “Always trust yourself; you know your body better than anyone else does! Never be afraid to ask questions and always look out for the best interest of yourself.” She hates to imagine what could have happened if she had waited 6 months like her doctor had originally suggested.