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Surviving Lymphoma

By Catherine, a Children's National Patient
150 Years Stronger Patient Story Catherine

I was 16 when I got news that made my life crumble: I had Hodgkin lymphoma. I asked the oncologist if I was going to die. That was the first of 901 days I spent fighting cancer at Children’s National Hospital.

My team understood that I had a life outside the hospital that I wanted to cling to it as hard as I could. They adjusted the treatment schedule to give me the freedom to chase things I loved doing, such as dancing and going to school.

The hospital became part of my community and made me feel less alone. I bonded with new friends in the art room. I talked with kids my age in the teen room who could relate about cancer. I also had the same psychologist for three years — that was huge. She was there when I was diagnosed and was with me through every new treatment. She cared about me as a whole person and was always there when I needed her, even just for a hug. She understood the science of my disease and how it impacted my emotions and my mental state.

Having lymphoma meant the most awful kind of uncertainty. I didn’t know if the chemo would work, if my friends who were also patients would live or if I would ever be able to go to college. I had no idea if I had a future. But on day 901, Dr. Shana Jacobs told us my most recent scan was free of cancer. That night, my family celebrated.

My community at Children’s National always made the hard stuff easier. They stuck by me. For that, I will always be grateful.