Please introduce yourself (Name, where you’re from) - What was your life like before undergoing chemotherapy?

 Lexi, Port Deposit, MD

I feel like my life before cancer was forever ago; I was entering year three of living my post-grad life from the University of Tennessee in Atlanta, GA. Working a full-time job in construction marketing, living with my boyfriend, and finally made good friends in my new city.  Everything seemed like it was aligning until one day I had a gut feeling something was changing.

 Bring us along your journey – when were you diagnosed with cancer? What was your initial reaction?

 My “diagnosis” journey took actually 6 months. I was first initially diagnosed with GERD because I was having difficulty swallowing. I was thrown on an “elimination diet” and dropped 60 pounds. From there, I was doing routine endoscopies that were not successful. I was told I had 1mm of space in my esophagus. No one knew what was wrong with me. Going to endless doctors in Atlanta. I moved home to be seen at John’s Hopkins where I was then thrown into a series of tests.

Within a week of being home I was put on a liquid diet for a month, and one surgical biopsy later I was diagnosed. My first initial reaction was relief. That sounds really morbid because your going face to face with something that could kill you, but knowing that there was a course of action and treatment for Large B Cell Non- Hodgkin’s Lymphoma put me at ease. Also, anything that could promise me to be able to eat normally again I was all game for because at this point I was the lowest weight I have ever been in my entire life.

 What was your first chemotherapy treatment like? What treatment/treatments did you or are currently undergoing?

My first treatment was so long. I was in the infusion center for 6 hours because of an antibody-drug that they have to give you at a slow drip because it has all kinds of side effects. But other than that I was ready. My sad girl hours had to be put on the back burner because truly the gloves were on. This thing took my life away for a few months so I was going to give this thing the ride of its life. I had bright pink hair going into treatment and the nurses had no idea what to do with me at first. Later on, they finally got my dark sense of humor and made me feel even more powerful.

 Who did you turn to as your support system?

 The months leading up to my diagnosis. The lymphoma word was thrown around so I had an idea about what was going on. This led to 2 am nights on social media trying to find other girls my age who looked like me and who were going through the same thing. I searched on Tik Tok of all places “lymphoma” and “cancer” and from there I found one of my best friends now. Also from there I found other girls who were many stages ahead of me and in remission for other types of cancer who I was looking up to. They documented their journeys so I had an idea of what I was getting myself into. It was like some crazy sign and nuts how the algorithm works because I felt so supported but I never even met these girls before. You reach out and immediately you become best friends because you speed through all the crap of starting a new friendship. It is sucky that you make friends this way in the cancer community, but some of these new friendships I have mean more to me now than some friendships I have had since high school. You feel like you go through battle with these girls and it is a crazy bond I will forever be grateful for. Other than that my family. But they had no idea how/ what to do. I looked at my parents while I was getting diagnosed like “we have one hour to be sad because we have no time to be sad” and since I said that they were my biggest hype people. Because they too were ready to show this thing what we were made of.

 What is something you wished you knew before starting your chemo treatment?

Stay the heck off of Google, don’t google the side effects. Reach out to those people on social media because odds are they will give you better information than any google response. I was greatly prepared because I did a lot of work beforehand. I luckily had the privilege of getting my eyebrows micro bladed, and ordered a bomb wig months before anything even happened because at the end of the day I just wanted to feel like myself. Also, the biggest thing I wish I would of known is that you need to listen to yourself and you are allowed to feel any type of way that you want.

Have there been certain side effects that have been worse than others?

My biggest side effect other than my hair falling out was nausea and finger numbness.

Nausea I would get only the night of my treatment. I learned that it was all mentally I was working myself up. My doctor ended up giving me a prescription that helped me sleep through this and this helped dramatically.

Finger numbness: I am a much better talk to text kind of person now until my cells make their way back lol

What are tips/tricks you have learned along the way to help with chemo side effects?

 Ice, Ice Baby. Literally anything cold. Especially if you are getting the “red devil”. Pack your mouth full of it to prevent any mouth sores.

 Zantac- twice a day when you are the steroid.

 A face roller. Something you can keep in the fridge to help with all of the “moon face” after treatment.

Also following the “cancer patient” meme account. It will give you one heck of a good laugh.

Do you recommend any chemo-friendly products?

Those anti-nausea suckers you put into your mouth do not work at all. lol

But, stay on top of your nausea in any way you can. With the meds your doctor gives you. Setting a timer because chemo brain is really a thing. It’s hard to recommend products because of some work for some and not for others. But the advice I would give is to listen to your body. Whatever you want to eat, whatever you want to do to do. Do it because whatever sounds appeasing comes in ways and you need to take care of your body.

Any advice for other chemo patients?

Full cowgirl/ cowboy energy you have to have going into this.  Mentality is everything!