The origin story for 26-year-old Morgan Alamo and her husband, Elvis, reads like a biopic of pop culture in the early 2000s. In brief: World of Warcraft, Myspace, long-distance instant messaging and a mutual love of Mario all played a central role.
But the soft-spoken and composed Lawrence native, who enjoys battling video game rivals in her free time, couldn’t have anticipated the real-life monsters she would have to overcome. Two days after her Mario-themed wedding, doctors told Alamo for the very first time that they thought she might have cancer.
All of this began six months earlier, with a part-time job opening at a day care, which hardly sounds like a life-altering prospect for most. But for Alamo, a physical examination, which the day care required as part of its interview process, became the catalyst of a yearlong process that would result in a cancer diagnosis.
“I just tried not to be scared and to focus on how to keep moving forward,” Alamo says.
When she visited a doctor’s office for the routine physical, Alamo’s results revealed she was anemic. This initiated a six-month merry-go-round of inconclusive tests and anxiety that required consultations with specialists at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Kansas University Hospital and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Doctors finally diagnosed Alamo with Castleman disease, a rare disorder that causes overgrowth of cells in a person’s lymph nodes.
Castleman doesn’t always correlate directly with cancer, but in Alamo’s case, doctors found Hodgkin lymphoma in fall 2014. After months of anxiety and confusion, Alamo finally felt as if she was able to retake the reins, with an assertive treatment plan and an empowering personal choice.
“I shaved my head before my first chemo appointment. I had hair almost down to my waist — I’d been growing it for like seven years — and I didn’t want to see it slowly fall out and get thinner,” Alamo recalls. “I was expecting to be sad about it, but it just felt really good to do something I wanted to do and to be in charge, to have control again.” Read more