By Alyce Collins
THIS TWENTY-SEVEN-YEAR-OLD was due to go on holiday but a persistent cough took her to visit the doctor FOUR TIMES where she was told it was just allergies before scans revealed she’d been suffering with HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA.
Co-manager at Ulta Beauty, Meagan Bechtold (27) from Las Vegas, USA, had suffered with a dry cough since March 2018 and visited her doctor three times only to be told it was a bad cold, allergies or bronchitis.
However, on July 13, 2018, Meagan and her husband Chris were due to go on holiday to Mexico the following week, so she visited her doctor a fourth time insisting that she needed treatment before her holiday.
Meagan had seen the same doctor on each visit, so he was aware that the bronchitis medication hadn’t had any effect and scheduled Meagan for an X-ray immediately. The X-ray showed worrying results and Meagan was told to go to the hospital right away
The couple cancelled their holiday after a CT scan was carried out at the hospital and nurses told Meagan that she had cancer and within a week this was confirmed as Hodgkin’s Lymphoma 2B. Meagan’s lungs were full of liquid and there was a 13-centimetre lung mass located in her diaphragm, so she couldn’t leave the hospital for 11 days.
Meagan began her first round of chemotherapy straight away which led her to lose 10lb, gave her constant nausea and mouth sores. After her first round of chemotherapy, Meagan went into ‘hibernation’ and slept for three days straight, only waking to drink water.
During her second round of chemotherapy, Meagan began losing her hair, so she decided to shave it completely. Meagan dreaded making this decision because she feared looking like a cancer patient, but now she is empowered by not being defined by her appearance.
“I suffered with a dry cough since about March and I also had bronchitis the year prior,” said Meagan.
“I visited Urgent Care on three separate occasions. The first time they told me I had a cold that wouldn’t go away, the second time they told me it was bad allergies, and the third time he told me my bronchitis was coming back.
“I fortunately saw the same doctor every time and after the bronchitis diagnosis he told me if the antibiotics didn’t work that he wanted to do an X-ray because he knew the antibiotics had worked for me before.
“A part of me was extremely worried because antibiotics almost always worked for me for anything I had. One night I was so worried I even Googled ‘lung cancer’ but I brushed it off and listened to what they told me. I wasn’t confident asking questions at the time.
“Once they sent me to the hospital after my X-Ray, in my gut I knew something was really wrong. I was also scared out of my mind because I was 26 and just got diagnosed with cancer. Luckily my doctors explained that if you’re going to get cancer, Hodgkin’s is one of the most curable.
“I also had never even heard of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so I Googled everything like crazy and I was relieved how much it made sense because I had almost every symptom in the book.
“I was extremely sick, and I had a 13-centimetre lung mass located in my diaphragm and my lungs were filled with fluid. I couldn’t breathe and was constantly hooked up to oxygen for about two months after my diagnosis.
“I had drenching night sweats to the point where my husband had to change my hospital sheets and gown almost every night.”
Chemotherapy was very difficult as Meagan dropped from 7st 10lb to just 7st after losing her appetite and she started losing her hair during the second round of chemotherapy.
Meagan hopes to inspire others to remain positive throughout their struggles as she has learned the importance of seeking optimism and beauty wherever she can.
“Losing my hair was hands down the most traumatising part of this whole experience,” said Meagan.
“I was completely naive in thinking that I would be different and not lose my hair. During my second round of chemo the nurse asked me if I had lost any hair yet and I said no and that I hoped I wouldn’t.
“Sure enough, that’s when it started falling out. First it fell out normally as if it was shedding so I was still hopeful, but then the chunks were getting bigger. I had pretty long hair but once it started falling out, I asked my husband to cut it into a bob.
“My cute bob lasted about two days until my hair started to matte together and become dreads. I started to have bald spots and hair was accumulating everywhere – on the floor, in the sink, on my pillow, in my food.
“I knew it was inevitable and I would have to shave it, so that day I asked my husband if he would shave it for me and I cried the entire time.
“My hair was a huge part of my identity and I was extremely blessed with long, thick hair and just like that I felt as if I lost myself completely. I honestly believe that the main reason hair loss is the worst is because that’s the first time you truly look and feel like a cancer patient.
“After the hair was gone and I put makeup on the next day I felt liberated and empowered. I felt as if I was forced to find myself without appearance being part of the picture. You learn what truly matters during this process and for me hair loss had the biggest impact on my outlook. It was both the absolute worst and the most empowering of experiences.
“Seeing people post their ‘last chemo’ or ‘officially cancer free’ posts were incredibly motivating because I would see these people go through this and then come out the other side stronger than before, and I wanted that for myself.
“My husband and my family tell me every single day how proud they are of me and how strong I am. They pushed me when I felt like giving up. The most important thing during all of this was to never lose sight of the goal, and no matter how bad and ugly things got I had to remember to pick myself up.
“I learned to let go of the need to control everything, I learned everything you could possibly know about the word ‘patience’. I learned that the most important things in life aren’t things at all and I learned to love every part of myself, including my flaws.
“Stressing yourself out about things you have no control over is completely useless. By stressing and worrying about tomorrow’s problems, you’re completely ruining your current day.
“The world would be such a better place if we all loved ourselves and put self-care first. I used to envy people who had more things or were succeeding faster than I was, and now I’m completely happy for them. There is no timeline or requirement for you to accomplish things in life. You decide when things are right for you.”
To see more, visit https://www.instagram.com/bechtold_badass/