By Sam Jorgenson
PART 1: The Diagnosis
January 16th was supposed to be like any other Saturday, grab a coffee, get a workout in and then watch some sports along with a few beers. This January 16th was much different. Instead, I woke up with an Easter egg-sized lymph node on my neck, right on my collarbone. After sending some photos of the lymph node to my mother, she urged that I “just keep an eye on it.” So that’s exactly what I did.
A few weeks later I went to the doctor for blood work and received a “clean bill of health.” It wasn’t until I finished a workout on February 5th when I knew something was wrong. Post-workout, I began spitting up blood in the shower, and I knew immediately that something was seriously wrong. I met with a general doctor the next day, who immediately sent me to an ear, nose and throat clinic on 14th and 2nd in New York City. It was as if I had the plague and I needed to be quarantined.
I made quick work of the walk and was greeted by a madhouse. At the time, the New York City ear, nose, and throat clinic was being bought by Mount Sinai and was an absolute zoo. Process after process, form after form, and worst of all, I knew something was wrong with me. I finally got to Dr. Jonathan Cabin, a doctor in residency, and we immediately hit it off. I say that as if we spent a lot of time together and had deep conversation, but really it was, “Tell me what you’re in here for and I’ll take a look at you.” I mentioned my journey, what had progressed up to this point, and I got nothing but very surreal stares. He proceeded to stick a camera down my throat and he could see blood on my vocal cords, but he wasn’t sure where it was coming from.
I asked him “Do you think this is Lymphoma?” He was very honest and said I’m not sure, but we need to do a scan. He would later tell me otherwise. Since there was no room to get me in for a CT scan that day, we set an appointment for Monday, February 9th.
“Go home, relax, and just have a chill weekend. I’ll see you Monday afternoon at 1pm after the radiologist has had time to take a look at the scans.”
I’m not even sure how I got home, to be honest with you. Did I walk, take the subway, or catch a cab? I have no clue. I called my mom when I got home and told her what was going on, making sure to downplay it a bit. At one point in the conversation I lost it and started crying. I had been having awful night sweats, a lump on my neck, and now spitting up blood. I was in bad shape, but I still continued to work out twice a day and try to keep my mind somewhat sane.
I lost my father my junior year of college to leukemia. No one knew he had cancer, not even him. However, I do remember him talking about awful night sweats. This stuck with me for some reason. My Mom and Aunt would surprise me in NYC Sunday evening, telling me that they were there for my aunt and her work. I knew that was a bunch of “BS” and they were there to go with me for my scans.
Monday morning, February 9th 2015 rolled around. I was numb, no emotion, no talking, just a lot of fear laying on the table being pushed into the CT machine. It was over in no time, and I impatiently waited the two hours for the results — the longest few hours of my life, or so it seemed. We went back to my apartment to hangout and eat, but I had no appetite. At this point I had lost 20 pounds in about two weeks. I now weighed around 180 pounds. I was scared, nervous, upset, and wondering what to think. All I had known since January 16th was that something was really wrong with me. No answers to my endless list of questions.
We arrived back to the hospital at one o’clock on the dot. Dr. Cabin walked into the waiting room, gave me a head nod, and pointed at the room to enter. I wanted to go in alone, just me. I’ve always been that way for some reason. I sat on the examination table, feet hanging off the edge, Dr. Cabin sitting to my left on a much shorter chair, decked out in scrubs with his surgical hat on. He looked up at me and said, “We’re about 95% sure you have cancer.”
I’m not sure if I went numb, the world stopped and I sped up, or vise-versa. I began to cry and every emotion possible hit me. My Mom and Aunt came into the room and I told them the news. “Mom they’re pretty sure it’s cancer.” I was expecting my Mom to lose it, but that wasn’t the case at all. “Ok well what next?” I immediately stopped crying.
I would undergo surgery that week and would later be diagnosed on February 20th with an aggressive form of testicular cancer. On February 23rd I was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital in New York City under the care of Dr. Darren Feldman. I would undergo a plethora of tests, scans, and everything in between. I began chemotherapy on February 25th, and life would only get better from there. I learned to value every second of life, to always find the bright side of things, and, most of all, how amazing life really is.
My support group was second to none. People I hadn’t talked to in years began reaching out, people flew across the country to see me, and most of all treated me like nothing was wrong.
I have to give a huge shoutout to a few people. The first goes out to Dr. Jonathan Cabin: He may have actually saved my life, by taking me under his wing and pushing me through the crazy medical/insurance mess that takes place on a daily basis. Another would have to be Dr. Darren Feldman and Memorial Sloan Kettering: Dr. Feldman became my coach during the 84-day sprint of chemotherapy, and he really is nothing short of amazing. Mr. Stuart Scott comes next: Although I had never met Stuart, he spoke directly to me with his ESPY speech, his book, and his approach to life, which I will never forget and I take with me every day. Last, but certainly not least is my support group: I can’t begin to name off everyone, but I know for a fact that I would not have survived the battle without those people. So thank you to everyone.