My name is Erica Campbell, and I was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2013. My symptoms first began in November 2012. I had an ongoing cough that I thought was a cold, but no medications helped.
Eventually, I returned to my doctor and received a CAT scan. The scan showed that my lymph nodes were inflamed around my lungs. My doctor told me it could be Hodgkin lymphoma and sent me to see a specialist to undergo a lymph node biopsy. I received an official diagnosis on March 28, 2013.
By this point, my health felt like it was seriously declining. My red blood cell count was so low that I needed a blood transfusion. After my diagnosis, I had multiple complications: shingles, a blood clot, and a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection. I was in and out of the hospital for weeks. I had to eventually get a bone marrow biopsy, and that was when I realized I had stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma, as the cancer had spread to my bone marrow.
I was so scared and confused. Everything was so foreign to me. So many thoughts were going through my head: Am I going to die? Am I going to live to see 28 years of age? Am I going to be around my family for much longer?
My doctor assured me that Hodgkin lymphoma is highly curable, even at stage 4. I received chemotherapy for six months, and by June 2013, I had a PET scan that showed no evidence of cancer. I still had to continue treatment, and officially finished in September 2013. The last day of treatment was the best day of my life.
I couldn’t have gotten through this emotional roller coaster without my family and friends. The cancer diagnosis was new to them as well, so I also had an advisor/social worker at my cancer center. She gave me contacts to get peer-to-peer support and talk to someone just like myself. They were able to tell me what their experience was like — even if it was different than mine.
My advice to someone who is newly diagnosed is to keep pushing. Never give up and continue to survive with your beautiful smile. You’re not alone. If you ever need support, there are organizations that will support you along your journey.
Five years later, I still have good days and bad days where I think about all that I went through. But to be where I am today and have my cancer advocacy and support group, Dzire2Survive, through which I can shine a light on Hodgkin lymphoma, raise awareness, and talk to others, is what keeps me going.
Sometimes we go through tough days, but the most important thing to remember is to keep pushing through. Know that you are strong, and you can overpower what you’re going through.
My goal in the long run is to hopefully one day eradicate this disease. But right now, most importantly, my goal is to give hope and to uplift. No one knows what the next day holds. But if you push through, stay strong, and don’t give up, your future and your quality of life can be amazing.
Erica Campbell was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma in March 2013. Six months later, she finished treatment and was declared cancer-free. Today, Erica continues her journey as an inspirational speaker, cancer advocate, founder of Dzire2Survive, and model.