After sending applications to over a dozen Physician Assistant programs across the country, 22-year-old Erin Janae Lynch was excited to welcome new adventures and changes into her life. She marked this new chapter by spending six weeks volunteering in Mozambique, embracing her passion for marine conservation. A few weeks before her departure, Erin noticed her lymph nodes were extremely swollen.
“My Primary Care Physician referred me to an Ears Nose Throat Specialist who did a needle biopsy,” Erin said. “The results were inconclusive, so we proceeded to do an excisional biopsy. I was diagnosed with stage 2 unfavorable Hodgkin’s Lymphoma on July 30, 2021.”
Erin knew she would face changes in this next chapter of her life, but she never expected events to unfold quite like this. Given her aptitude for healthcare, Erin sought a second opinion to gain more clarity around this diagnosis. She soon visited Dr. Ryan Lynch (no relation) and learned of a clinical trial opportunity at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
“Dr. Lynch told me along with standard treatment, I was eligible for this clinical trial,” Erin began. “He walked me through each treatment type and remained neutral while informing me of my options. Ultimately, I decided to consent to the clinical trial. I know these trials are the next best thing in the world of cancer treatment, and if no one participates in these trials, we can’t make any progress in finding better treatment options.”
Soon after that, Erin started receiving AN+AD – two immunotherapy drugs (brentuximab vedotin and nivolumab) and two chemotherapy drugs (doxorubicin and dacarbazine) – all of which are IV infused through a port. The clinical trial investigates how well these drugs work to treat Classical Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and seeks to understand the related side effects.
“I experienced nausea, but it was controlled with Zofran, an antinausea medication,” Erin shared. “I also am experiencing fatigue. After my first infusion, I slept in until 11:30, a big difference for an early riser like me who wakes up at 7 am without an alarm. I had weird sensations of warmth, like a hot flash, while getting dacarbazine infused. I am still early in my treatment, so I haven’t experienced hair loss yet, but I am prepared for that to happen in the next week or so.”
The past month threw more curveballs and unknowns at Erin than she had ever experienced before. Having no family history of cancer in any form, everything from the first biopsy was new territory for her and her family.
“I had a hard time with all the unknowns,” Erin reflected. “I am so grateful to have a background in biology and healthcare. That made it easier for me to understand what was going on. But it is hard to feel sick and not know what day you are going to feel better.”
Through all the unexpected twists and turns, Erin maintains her positive and hopeful mindset, even when challenging.
“It was really difficult seeing my family and friends upset,” Erin stated. “I felt like I was making everyone sad, but I was able to change my mindset and remember that they are sad because they all love me. Then I felt very loved instead of sad.”
Building a positive and hopeful mindset takes practice, and there will almost certainly be bumps along the way. Over the past month in treatment, Erin has experienced many ups and downs. But, she has also built habits that will strengthen her.
“Take it one day at a time,” Erin advised. “I call friends and family often. I go for lots of walks and try to stay as active as I can on days that I’m feeling good. I journal on big days to help reflect on what happened, and I know I would like to look back on my notes someday.
I keep my dreams for the future intact and just keep reminding myself that this is a small hiccup—a break from all other things. And one day soon will be a distant memory. I also like to think about how I can relate to an even bigger population than I could before. I have a new community and an opportunity to educate and be a resource to others.”
Erin’s story is a part of our Faces & Voices of Cancer initiative that uplifts and amplifies the stories of those impacted by cancer. If you are interested in sharing your story, please visit Faces and Voices of Cancer at www.facesandvoicesofcancer.org. If you would like to honor those facing cancer, please make a gift today.
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