LymphomaPatient Stories

Patient Stories: The "C" Word

Read Ernest William II's story of being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma.
April 2016 Vol 2 No 2
Ernest T. William, II
Cleveland, OH

During my summer internship at General Motors in Flint, MI, while attending the University of Akron in Ohio, I suddenly began to feel extremely restless for no obvious reason. Soon after, a lump the size of a golf ball appeared in the left side of my neck, which was accompanied by a very painful sore throat.

Unexplainable Lump

Because I was from out of state, I didn’t know any doctors there. The doctor I went to see said I had a sinus infection and prescribed Theraflu. But after a few days of not getting better, my supervisor began to worry, having noticed that the lump had enlarged significantly.

So I left the internship a couple of weeks early and moved back to Ohio. I immediately made an appointment to see my doctor.

My doctor first sent me to get an ultrasound, but it didn’t provide an answer. Next, I had a CT scan, and that, too, provided no answers. The next test was a PET scan, and still no answer. I was now beginning to get nervous. My doctor said that he didn’t think that anything was wrong, because I was only 21 years old and in good shape. However, just to be sure, he said I should have a biopsy from a tissue of the lump. At this point, the school year started, and I had to skip all my classes one day to get the biopsy.

Hodgkin Lymphoma

Two weeks later, the doctor’s office called for me to come in. My doctor reassured me that I was not going to die, but he then told me I had Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. I was very scared, mainly because I wondered how to tell my mother over the phone about that. The doctor said that I would be getting a call from an oncologist, I would get the right treatment, and I would be okay.

When I left the doctor’s office I called my mom. I took a deep breath and told her that the doctor said I had cancer. Immediately, my mom cried so much that I tried to stay strong for her, but I couldn’t deal with it for long and I hung up on her.

My parents and my professors tried to convince me to drop out of school temporarily, and focus on taking care of the cancer, but I refused. I promised God and myself that I would beat cancer, and still make it through my electrical engineering courses.

There is no question that it was tough, getting chemotherapy every other Thursday for as long as my blood cell counts were appropriate, while still attending class and going to doctors’ appointments. Having a bone marrow test in my hip 1 hour before taking a school test made me think I might have made the wrong decision to stay in school and keep working all while getting cancer treatment.

Inspired by Inspirations

There were times I did want to quit and give up, but I believed that I had so much more to offer to the world, and tell my story to inspire and help other people who were struggling. After 6 months of chemo and an additional 6 months of radiation therapy, I was cleared of the cancer and the therapy was over. I was able to go back to school full time and receive my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Akron, after attending school for 7 years.

Although this was 9 years ago, I remember this as if it were yesterday. I am so blessed and thankful to be able to share my story with you. Last August I married my beautiful wife, Deanna. I am now an electrical engineer at NASA’s Glenn Research Center, in Cleveland, OH, and I am also a professional speaker and founder of Inspired by Inspirations, LLC.

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