Her Pain Was Dismissed, She Fought for Diagnosis

Heidi Richard, 47, invested a calendar year making an attempt to influence medical doctors there was something mistaken with her overall body, but her worsening belly symptoms ended up dismissed as nervousness, acid reflux and mono. In 2020, she was lastly diagnosed with lymphoma — most cancers of the lymphatic system. Soon after grueling cure, the Worcester, Massachusetts, elementary faculty trainer is having ready to run the Boston Marathon. She shared her tale with Right now.

I have been a runner since significant school and I had constantly been a seriously nutritious individual. But in the spring of 2019, I started encountering severe abdomen pains at night time, vomiting and night sweats.

When I went to the doctor, they did some blood work and said, “You’re young, your stomach challenges are probably owing to strain or anxiousness.” They gave me an antacid and despatched me on my way.

But I saved owning extreme abdomen pains and vomiting. I lost 30 lbs . unintentionally and had gotten quite thin. I was trying to eat, but I was just not able to — I was just getting so sick. That summer time, I went again to the health practitioner and they assumed I experienced mono. Exams confirmed I did not have it. The medical doctor imagined I was maybe way too pressured out from do the job and gave me an anxiety medicine. I was informed to hold using the antacid.

But now, these belly indications, rather of just occurring at night, started happening during the day. In February 2020, I was coaching for the Providence Marathon when I started noticing exhaustion. I could not continue to keep up with the team and my back genuinely harm. I started getting some swelling on the facet of my neck.

I went to the doctor again and they started to blow it off once more. They said I pulled a muscle mass and gave me a muscle relaxer. That’s when I explained, no, I want some form of imaging check.

‘I was always inquiring anyone to hear to me’

A CT scan showed some thing suspicious, which led to a biopsy. In April 2020, I was diagnosed with stage 4 diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

It was in all places: my stomach, spleen, bone marrow, sternum, lungs, groin and neck. A mass in my stomach was pushing my intestines to the aspect — that is why I was acquiring these tummy pains.

I generally surprise if I would have been taken far more severely if I ended up male. Medical doctors retained indicating, “Oh, it’s stress or you just cannot take care of the pressure of your job or you are overreacting. It’s not a huge problem.” I do not feel like they would have claimed those people things to me if I had been a gentleman.

And I considered them, even although I knew a thing wasn’t ideal. I was normally asking to be viewed or asking any person to pay attention to me. It was aggravating.

‘You have to know your body’

Know what your baseline is and when a little something is mistaken, don’t be fearful to ask for a next feeling or request for that examination. Really don’t be scared of sounding like a hypochondriac — which is what I was scared of and fortunately I spoke up when I did, simply because ultimately I experienced adequate.

You’re the one who is aware of oneself the most and if you are not experience your most effective, you need to have to advocate for on your own.

Occasionally, I think about: What if I hadn’t demanded that imaging check? It might have long gone on even additional, and maybe they would not have been ready to do anything at all.

I experienced to endure chemotherapy for quite a few months and then had an autologous stem mobile transplant in January 2021. I now get immunotherapy, which trains your have immune technique to kill most cancers cells. Just about every three months, I go for an infusion that lasts about a few several hours.

I’m definitely tired for about 48 hrs later on and my joints are achy. I’ve had to schedule all over that as I qualified for the Boston Marathon — I could not do extensive runs on the weekends when I had the immunotherapy infusion.

Richard hugs her oncology nurse after running the Hartford Half Marathon in Connecticut last October.
Richard hugs her oncology nurse just after running the Hartford Fifty percent Marathon in Connecticut last Oct.Courtesy Heidi Richard

This will be my initial Boston Marathon. I’ve performed the teaching, I have finished the miles. I sense ready in that regard. Emotionally, I’m a small nervous. I experience “nervexcited,” which is a term that my daughter works by using when she’s nervous but also enthusiastic for a little something.

I’m not as rapidly a runner as I employed to be. I get worn out additional effortlessly, so I have to take going for walks breaks. But no make a difference what transpires, I know I’m heading to end. Working a marathon was an analogy that a person of my nurses and I applied all through my therapy to assist me gauge where by I was. She would say, “You’re at the 10-mile mark correct now” or “You’re in the final five miles.” So to run a marathon following utilizing that analogy throughout my cure feels like coming total circle.

Future slide marks two decades since I’ve been in remission — that is when then my possibility of relapse goes down. Because of the chemotherapy drugs I took, I have a better possibility of breast cancer 10 to 15 many years from now. But that was a hazard that I was willing to acquire. 

I’m lucky more than enough to be wholesome more than enough to be out there for the Boston Marathon and undertaking what I like to do. Even if I have to stroll and it normally takes me way extended than I count on, I’m heading to get it done.