It was my senior year of high school when I started feeling sick. I had a cough, a little trouble breathing and was tired. I went to my Doctor and she prescribed me some antibiotics that didn’t work. So when I was having trouble walking up the stairs as an 18-year-old, I figured something was wrong and went back to the doctors. She knew something wasn’t right and sent me to the hospital.

The day of

In the hospital waiting room, I remember telling my mom after a 4-hour doctor visit and about an hour into my hospital visit, “If I have to stay here overnight, I’m going to be so mad.” Then a nurse came over and showed me my X-ray which was obvious to me that something wasn’t right. So the Nurse said, “I’m surprised you’re just sitting there and talking to me with how bad your X-ray came out.” That was when my 36 day stay in the hospital started.

Brian Cohen

My diagnosis

On maybe the third day the Doctor came in and said that I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This all meant nothing to me due to the fact that I hadn’t known anyone who went through chemotherapy or had cancer. It was more of a shock than anything when you hear that you have cancer and it didn’t help that I’m looking at a room filled with about 5 concerned doctors and 5 crying family members.

As I was going through my first treatment I remember telling close friends how I’ll be fine and I’ll be back in school in no time. I had no clue what I was about to go through. Then when the first treatment ended, I started getting side effects. Blood clots, infections, mouth sores, nausea, constipation so bad that I was getting fed through an IV. Thankfully I had a great support system. Both of my parents practically lived in the hospital with me, and my friends and family were asking how they can help in any way.

My best friend made bracelets to raise money for me. My parents’ close friends held two fundraisers, one at Outback Steakhouse and one at an American legion. I would constantly get texts and cards to tell me to stay strong which really helped.

Brian Cohen

A week into my stay I stopped accepting visitors. I was way too weak to even hold conversations without being exhausted afterwards. So I would ask people to make food for my parents or to help out my parents who are going through this with me.

Be strong

If I could talk to someone who’s going through cancer, I would tell them to be strong for as long as you can, and when you’re weak let your loved ones fight for you. There will be days where this disease will break you down. That’s okay, you can cry, you don’t have to be superman, but once you’re out of that hole you have to continue to fight. I’m proud to say now that I’ve been cancer free for 5 years, and have just started an X-ray job at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, where I do all I can to help others going through cancer and other diseases.

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