In January 2020, seven days after getting married, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 29. After six brutal months of chemotherapy, my cancer was in remission, and I was ready to return to “normal” life. Unfortunately, my health continued to worsen.
In December 2021, I had pain, swelling, and bulging veins in my right arm. Doctors found blood clots in my subclavian and axillary veins, and I was prescribed blood thinners.
A year and a half later, I felt unusually short of breath walking to and from work. I could not bend down or stand up without feeling dizzy and almost passing out. I contacted my oncologist, who ordered several tests to find the cause.
The tests showed that I still had blood clots in my neck and in my lungs. I saw a pulmonary hypertension specialist who presumed my clots developed two years ago due to my port-a-cath, the device implanted in my chest used to infuse chemo. I was experiencing right-sided heart failure, which led to the diagnosis of chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension (CTEPH).
CTEPH is a life-threatening type of pulmonary hypertension due to old blood clots blocking the blood vessels in the lungs. I needed a 12-hour, open heart-lung bypass surgery to remove the scarred blood clots from my pulmonary arteries.
I was discharged from the hospital after 31 days. I returned home with nine new medications, five tanks of oxygen, and a list of recovery responsibilities. My surgeons were unable to safely remove all of the clots from my lungs, but they hope that balloon pulmonary angioplasty procedures will help widen the arteries that are still clogged.
I am about five months post-op and feeling better, but learning how to live with residual pulmonary hypertension is challenging. CTEPH and its symptoms are often misdiagnosed, so spreading awareness is key.
This experience has led me to develop more compassion and helped me discover what matters most. I’ve reset my priorities to focus on family, health, and happiness. I cherish every healthy day and find purpose in the other ones.