In the spring of 2020, Jaclyn Downs, 45, felt generally healthy, if overworked.
It was a particularly busy period in her work as a nutritionist, and she exercised regularly and intensely.
So when he started to feel a twinge under his armpit after a rigorous bike ride, he didn’t think anything of it.
“It didn’t hurt me while I was exercising vigorously,” the mother of two from Pennsylvania told DailyMail.com.
‘It would appear for about five to 10 minutes and then disappear. I thought it was a muscle pull.
Jaclyn Downs, a mother of two, assumed she had pulled a muscle during a vigorous bike ride. In fact, a tumor the size of a grapefruit was growing near her ribcage.
‘I felt a little more tired than usual before I was diagnosed, but I’m a working mother of two.
“I also wondered if it was due to my age and hormonal changes that were disrupting my sleep, as I would get a little hot from time to time.”
But within a few months, the pain had spread to the center of his chest. There was also another strange symptom: a small “crinkling” sound she heard when she exhaled.
He didn’t think there was any reason to worry though as the sound quickly disappeared.
He visited his family doctor just in case. The appointment marked the beginning of a living nightmare, in which she would face the prospect of leaving her young children, then aged four and eight, without a mother.
Although his blood tests were normal, the doctor ordered a chest x-ray just in case.
Jaclyn Downs didn’t think about the twinge in her chest after the exercise, but scans revealed a large tumor had been growing under her ribs.
Jaclyn Downs was surprised by the size of the tumor that had grown in her chest, given that her symptoms were minimal
The resulting images were far from what was expected: a cancerous tumor the size of a grapefruit was growing inside his chest cavity and had begun to eat away at his rib.
Jaclyn was diagnosed Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a type of cancer of the immune system, in mid-July.
More than 18,000 people are diagnosed with this disease each year, making it the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
It occurs when a type of white blood cell grows too quickly and abnormally, forming large lumps and leaving patients extremely vulnerable to infection.
“It was a surprisingly large tumor for the minimal amount of symptoms I had; I guess it was because it was growing so quickly,” Jaclyn said.
Within two weeks he underwent his first round of powerful chemotherapy.
The nutritionist attributes her successful recovery to her healthy lifestyle (regular exercise and nutritious diet).
She said: ‘The tumor was growing very fast. When I started chemotherapy in the first week of August, the tumor was so large that I had to walk with a pillow under my arm; I could see it visually.
“It was a scary time because I have two young children and I didn’t know if they were going to have a mother.”
Specialists recommended five more rounds of chemotherapy to give Jaclyn the best chance of a long-term recovery, but the drugs pushed her into menopause at the age of just 42.
‘Luckily I had a really good medical team and they were incredibly supportive while I was having chemotherapy every three weeks.
It took six rounds of chemotherapy to ensure Jaclyn’s cancer cells were destroyed.
‘Although the tumor had appeared so quickly, I had a scan the morning before my fourth chemotherapy treatment and it was completely gone.
“I think the first round basically destroyed him; after that, I didn’t have to walk around with a pillow.”
‘Although I considered stopping treatment after my fourth round of chemo, I was advised to do the fifth and sixth treatments to ensure it went away, and it really took its toll on me.
‘I remember feeling really bad on Thanksgiving. I had to sit with my feet propped up on the ottoman, very sad that I wasn’t sociable enough to join the others.’
Jaclyn believes she responded well to treatment because she was “trying to live as well as possible before getting cancer.”
“I still felt good and had enough energy to stay active during treatment,” she said. ‘I was doing yoga and skating. I even learned to hit the skatepark when I had cancer.
Today, Jaclyn is in remission and the chances of her disease returning are slim.
Reflecting on what she learned from the experience, Jaclyn, who has been cancer-free since December 2020, said, “While cancer can happen to anyone, I believe it is your baseline level of health that determines how well or easily overcomes it.” and recover afterwards.
“Before, I wasn’t a person who went to the doctor very easily, and I waited until there was an important reason to go; I went through the checklist of all the things I thought I’d try and it still went.” t improving.
“Now I would go much faster to be calmer.”