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Dealing with Lupus, Sjogren's, and a Cancer Diagnosis

I thought having a lupus diagnosis was hard. But, these last few weeks have really tested my strength. I had recently undergone many tests (an MRI and 2 biopsies) to determine if my new symptoms was related to Sjogren's syndrome. Ultimately, I learned I had Sjogren's and Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I felt numb and was in a state of shock. I didn’t think this was real life. I was ready for the Sjogren's diagnosis but the cancer diagnosis came out of left field.

Processing the cancer diagnosis

I was only 33-years-old. I was still so young and never thought this could happen to me. But, life threw a major curveball at us. I was in a daze and couldn’t believe what was happening. There was so many people who were trying to console and comfort me. They sent their prayers and support. But this time it was just different. When I got my lupus diagnosis I remember crying uncontrollably but I don’t think it hit me as hard. There is just something about the word cancer that just punches you in the gut.

I was filled with so much emotions. I was sad, frustrated, angry, shocked. I thought I was over grieving my old life. The healthy life I had before lupus. But, now I had another life to grieve. My life with lupus only. I now got hit with a triple whammy. I now had lupus, Sjogren's, and cancer, and would have to navigate this new life physically, mentally and financially.

Trying to stay positive

I keep trying to stay positive and keep my mind busy. I keep telling myself that everything will be fine. My family and friends say the same. But, it’s really hard to stay positive all the time. Out of nowhere something would trigger me and I would just cry uncontrollably again. I know its unhealthy to think about the what ifs scenario but at this current state its all I could think about. The fact that I now had lupus, Sjogren's, and cancer it just made me worry about not only about my future, but also my husband’s future and my family’s future.

Soon after learning about my new diagnosis, I scheduled my second opinion consult with another hospital. I was hoping that they would tell me the first reports were wrong. My results were switched with someone else. I was perfectly fine. But, ultimately the second hospital confirmed what we already knew.

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Learning more about my cancer

The type of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma I had was called mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT) lymphoma. Most of the time MALT lymphoma develops in the stomach, but can also be seen in the lung, skin, thyroid gland, salivary gland, bowel and eyes. MALT lymphoma usually starts in the areas of the body where there has been long term inflammation which could be caused from an infection or an autoimmune conditions like Hashimotos or Sjogren's.1

Looking ahead with lupus, Sjogren's, and cancer

The best news the oncologist mentioned was that this type of lymphoma was slow-growing. We knew based on my reports it definitely is in my parotid gland, but I would need a whole body scan to determine if it had spread anywhere else in my body. From there, we would be able to determine what stage my lymphoma was at and what my treatment was going to be.

We are hopeful that it hasn’t spread yet since it is slow-growing and I am not experiencing any other symptoms besides dry mouth and the lump in my parotid gland. Ultimately, I am glad I pushed forward to determine the causes of my symptoms. I was not experiencing the typical cancer symptoms, so without those test I would have never known. I am hopeful for the future and know that I have to stay strong and will fight this battle hard.

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