Orange Ribbon for Leukemia with copy space

A Mom’s Cancer Chronicles:
Don’t Ignore Aches And Pains

In today’s Cancer Chronicles, Mom, wife and journalist Loriana Hernandez-Aldama takes you inside her battle with Leukemia. She writes to you from her room inside Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland where she has been fighting since January. Separated from her 2-year old son Gabriel, she is staying focused on surviving, winning and one day being under one roof as a family with her husband, Cesar Aldama, and their son. Right now she is recovering from a long week of chemo and dealing with the side effects that follow once her immune system is wiped out. That includes very serious infections that can pop up. Here’s her first post with advice that could save your life.

For 7 months I have shared my journey and battle to fight cancer. I have shared many ups and downs, the emotional and the physical wounds. Writing is my coping mechanism. It’s what I know and what I have done for 20 years as a journalist. As a journalist, you always hope your story can make a difference to inform, educate, raise awareness, inspire and for me it is now to save a lives. I hope this next post does that. It’s not just about leukemia but it is about CANCER and words may make you squeamish that i’m mentioning in a post but its worth it to save a life. I feel obligated after a dear friend visited me yesterday with heart breaking news. Before we get to her story.. I have to share a little behind the months leading up to my Leukemia diagnosis. I could have acted sooner and stayed vigilant.

It seems every cancer patient I meet here has a story about some random health issue that seemed like nothing and got written off for some other day or perhaps he or she felt silly just making a big deal about it. Stories range from bug bite that brought on a fever and lead to a blood test detecting cancer. Another friend found his cancer after a blood test was done before knee surgery and for another guy or flu like symptoms that just seemed to never go away. For me.. there were a few flags that went up. In August my primary doctor sent me to an oncologist in Austin to look closer at a blood test. The doctor looked at it and said… “nope.. no cancer you are fine.” You must just be rundown. hmmm very true… I was exhausted taking care of Gabriel alone and and getting up at 1:45 a.m. for work, but who wouldn’t be?

Then it was horrible bone pain in November one night before getting up at anchor Good Day Austin. It was excruciating pain in my arm. I thought maybe it was nerve pain… maybe shingles coming on… I got acupuncture and massage and by the end of the week it subsided. I also started to look swollen and I wrote that off to weight gain. Then I had a CBC (complete blood count) and even an oncologist in Austin wrote off my odd looking white blood cells as probably just being “run down” from a virus. He too had me convinced there was NOTHING… in fact…..the oncologist I met with even said “I’m only doing this bone marrow biopsy for you to appease your fertility doctor. He’s concerned about your blood test and won’t do an embryo transfer without the procedure. But I’m so sure you don’t have cancer I won’t even make a follow up appointment for you… I’ll just call you.” I did a toast at lunch with my girlfriend Crysta Lee to celebrate it that I didn’t have cancer. The next day I didn’t really wait by the phone.. I knew this was all a misunderstanding. Then my fertility Dr. Shar Kavoussi called and asked if he could come over. I got a phone call from the doctor around the same time. Thank GOD for Dr. Kavoussi for being extra careful and doing a blood test and demanding that biopsy or I would have been pregnant with cancer.

The point of my story is to urge everyone to get a CBC blood test on a regular basis to see if there is anything suspicious. Don’t wait for a surgery you have scheduled or a random doctor appointment to find out you have cancer. Be proactive. If you have insurance, take these tests often and if you don’t feel right.. .even the smallest thing could be a sign of something bad brewing in your body. Catch it early…and fight hard.

Now this week another story about cancer being caught out of the blue where a dear friend went to the doctor and just casually mentioned “yeah I have occasional blood in my stool with a little mucus. It’s rare but sure.” Her doctor suggests a blood test and it came back negative. She could have just walked away and celebrated she had nothing wrong. Good thing she didn’t. Despite feeling great she insisted on a colonoscopy anyway. Why? she doesn’t fit the mold.. she’s a fit 40 year old woman who an avid runner and fitness enthusiast and feels great. The next day she got the news: She has colon cancer. She started treatment today at Johns Hopkins with radiation.

See life can change in an instant.. it can be any of us. You are not immune. You might feel on top of your game, loving life, your job and everything is going your way but things can change quickly in life. Please take care of your health and follow up on the little strange illnesses that pop-up. They could be one piece in a bigger puzzle. You don’t want to end up here – in the hospital fighting for your life while your son is across the country without you and crying and asking for you at night because you can’t take care of him.

Thanks for the prayers and for reading such long long post… it was weighing heavy on my heart.

Don’t forget to #ArmorUp today!