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Monday, September 25, 2017

Young girl on steps

Asia Cutforth

As a part of September’s National Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Awareness Month, we are sharing the story of Asia Cutforth, an education intern at the Cancer Support Community.

For many college students, fall break is the first opportunity to go home after weeks of roommate drama and questionable dining hall food. When Asia Cutforth got on the plane home to Denver the October of her freshman year at American University, she expected to return that Monday for her midterm exams.

When she first got sick in August, doctors told her it was asthma. Then a chest scan a few weeks later showed a haziness in her lungs. They diagnosed her with atypical pneumonia, and she scheduled her follow-up exam for fall break.

When she went back, the haze hadn’t gone away, so she took more tests. Doctors found cancerous cells in her lymph nodes, and, evidentially, it had already reached a vital organ. She was diagnosed with stage four Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma that weekend.

“My whole life ended,” Cutforth said. “When you think of cancer, you think of old people, of lumps and bumps and spots. But that wasn’t me.”

One in 100 US College students is a cancer survivor, according to the National Cancer Institute. Moving across the country to start school, Cutforth knew her life would change. Just not this much.

“I couldn’t believe what was going on,” she said. “I was supposed to go to school and get a degree. My entire life plan was ruined.”

The day she got diagnosed she met with a fertility specialist to talk about the possibility of freezing her eggs, a difficult topic for an 18-year-old. She was forced to withdraw from the semester and stayed in Denver for six rounds of chemotherapy and two fields of radiation.

Seven months later, Curforth was in remission. She knows she was lucky to have beaten the Lymphoma so quickly, but she still had trouble adjusting back into her normal life.

“Cancer had become such a huge part of my identity, and it was so hard because people either didn’t know I had cancer, or they wouldn’t talk to me about it.”

Now a senior at AU, Cutforth has overcome the loneliness and depression that followed her treatment. Now, she talks to everyone about cancer. She helps organize the school’s Relay for Life event, consults for non-profits, writes all of her papers about the disease and is an Education Intern here at the Cancer Support Community.

After graduation, Cutforth now plans to use her public health degree to advocate for young adults with cancer. Her advice to them?

“Know that a diagnosis does not mean your world is ending forever,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to talk about it. Go to counseling. Share your story, and don’t let anyone make you feel uncomfortable about sharing a piece of who you are.”