Closing the Chapter on Hodgkin's Lymphoma

At 18 years old, Natalie had her whole life ahead of her— a newly entered college student with dreams of becoming a social worker—until her goals were put on hold.

On October 10, 2016, Natalie was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. After being hospitalized for frequent night sweats, high fevers, and unexplained weight loss, accompanied by a growth on her neck, Natalie underwent a biopsy procedure. The biopsy determined cancer.

"Nothing went through my mind," she says when learning the shocking news. "I wasn't upset. I wasn't scared. I was just numb." She continues, "I didn't know how to feel, how to react, or what to expect, until I saw how it affected others. Then I felt my emotions."

Expecting her first appointment to be solemn, Natalie was pleasantly surprised when she met Astera Cancer Care's Medical Oncologist-Hematologist, Dr. Amit Patel, at the Jersey City office. "Dr. Patel greeted me with welcomeness, understanding, and optimism," she says. "He did his best to make me feel at home, which stood out to me. Dr. Patel and the entire staff ensured that I and my family felt comfortable. He educated and updated us throughout my care."

For the first few months, Natalie received IV chemotherapy. She underwent treatment every two weeks for seven months. While she didn't experience adverse side effects, Natalie did endure some hair loss. Halfway through her treatment, it began to grow back.

"Dr. Patel assured me I was going to be fine," she says. Following completion of chemotherapy, Natalie would have a PET scan every three months to check for any signs of cancer.

Natalie also had the support of her loved ones and grew closer to her family and friends.

Cancer-free since April 27, 2017, Natalie is now a graduate student working towards her Masters in Social Work. She interns at a charter school and works part-time at a childcare center. 

"The end of one chapter is the start of another," she says. 

Having cancer taught Natalie the importance of prioritizing health and giving herself grace. "We get so caught up in our daily routine, it's like we're rushing through life, we forget to enjoy the small things, the big things even," she says.

Not taking life too seriously has been her mantra. "I've learned how vulnerable we are as people and how our lives can change at any moment," she says. "Live in the moment; enjoy every second to the fullest."

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