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Alter Egos and Super Heroes

Hi, I’m Anne Sorsa from Lahti, Finland. I was diagnosed with stage IV Hodgkins lymphoma in October 2017 when I was 36-years-old. The news came to me as a shock and I was rushed to biopsy and after the biopsy results within a week I was in a PET-scan and started the AVBD-treatments immediately after that.

I didn’t have the time to think about the fact that I had cancer but I decided that this wasn’t going to beat me down. My family and friends took the news hard and I had to tell them to not feel sorry for me but back me up and make me laugh. I started to search all the positive sides of cancer and cancer treatments and tried to hold onto humor as often as I could. My surname means a wild duck so I joked about shreading my feathers when my hair started to fall and I shaved it off.

When I bought my first wigs I realised that I could have a new look almost every day if I wanted. My alter egos got to party when one day I could be a Fierce Red Head, the next a Black Magic Woman, the next a Purple Babe and so on. Also I’ve been a huge Batman fan and the phrase ”always be yourself unless you can be Batman. Then be Batman.” became a mantra for me during all the IVs and blood tests.

When I was on the drug dexamethason I, at times, felt invincible and joked in the cancer ward that I felt like I could dive through the floor which in those drugs and chemo seemed like flowing water. Being the youngest patient in the ward I tried to smile and bring joy and light with me every time I went there. In the middle of my AVBD-treatments I met a fellow HL fighter in the ward and we became friends instantly as she was the same age and with the same mentality. Whenever we had our appointments at the same time the cancer ward filled with laughter. We joked about how chemo brain made us easy to please as we forgot lots of things in short-term memory, so folks could tell us the same jokes over again. We didn’t mind the hair loss as mentioned before, it just gave more opportunities. Bloatedness due to cortisone medication made us laugh because it was so weird. We saw opportunities where some could see only obstacles.

In March 2018 my PET-scan showed that the AVBD-chemo hadn’t worked so I had to step up the game and move to the escalated BEACOPP-treatments. I became weaker and weaker but my smile didn’t fade because I had my family and friends with me. They made me laugh by sending me funny pictures, memes and texts when they couldn’t visit the hospital. When they visited they brought me cards with jokes and gave me pep talks and told me normal everyday things.

I’ve done yoga and pilates for years and those kept me in peace when my mind tried to sink to depths. I did yoga even in my hospital bed when I had the tubes chained to my port it didn’t stop me. In the beginning of June 2018 I was done with eBEACOPP and my enemy No. 1 was in remission. Three weeks after the last treatment I went to a summer music festival which lasted three days. I partied my heart out with my brothers and their wives and fiancés. During the summer I felt less and less better and I didn’t feel that I was at all recovering although I tried my best.

In August I got the news that HL had relapsed. As bad as before. They moved my treatments to an university hospital. They told me I would need stem cell treatments. From October until December 2018 I got three rounds of brentuximabivedotin-bendamustine treatments and they harvested my own stem cells. In January 2019 I had intensive BEAM-treatment and then they put back the stem cells. Now I’ve been home for a month and recovering slowly.

I see life as an adventure full of beauty and light and try to enjoy every little thing I can. Happiness and joy comes from within and you just have to trust yourself to be strong. Bad days and blue feelings come with the package but you don’t have to get stuck with those feelings. Just let them come and go and concentrate on the positive feelings and everything that makes you happy and smile. And remember ”always be yourself unless you can be Batman. Then be Batman!”

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