An Interview with a two-time Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Survivor

By Abraham Ortiz Jr, Jenna Lindman

I connected with Abraham Ortiz Jr. vis the Stupid Cancer Facebook Page. He is a 24-year-old salesman from Lorain, Ohio. He has been in remission from his second battle with cancer since October of 2017. He loves foots and has enjoyed playing it for most of his life, even while going through cancer treatment. With his wife, Jessica, and family by his side, he has successfully beat cancer twice. Abraham, thank you so much for sharing your cancer journey with me!

When were you diagnosed and what was your diagnosis?

I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma twice. Once when I was 9 and again at 22.

What are the characteristics of the cancer you had?

Some characteristics of my cancer are off balance blood numbers, body weakness, vomiting and diarrhea, headaches, and occasional mental imbalance.

What is the story behind how you found out you had cancer?

The first time I found out about my cancer was because I was having problems with bowel movements. I couldn’t hold them for more than a minute. The second time I had major back pain that caused me to slow down at work and had scans done.

What were the emotions you felt when you were told your diagnosis?

My emotions the first time were very minimal. I really wasn’t scared or nervous. Being a child I kind of just felt like it would all be okay. The second time I actually was extremely nervous and terrified. Me and my wife really didn’t know what to expect. I think I felt lost to best describe it.

How did you tell your family or friends and how did they react?

My mom was with me both times so she usually told my family. My wife was there the second time and told my friends. They both made sure I didn’t have to really tell people. I didn’t want to.

Abraham with his wife, Jessica

What was your treatment plan? How long was it? Did you experience side effects?

The plan the first time was just chemo and radiation. It went pretty smooth from what I remember. The second time was a lot worse. I had to do chemo again but this time I had to drive back and forth from Dayton, OH to Cleveland, OH for treatments. Than I had to have a bone marrow transplant. I had an allergic reaction to one of my chemos for the transplant and ended up in a coma like state for about a month. It set me back pretty far in my transplant process.

How did cancer change your daily routine? Did it impact your relationships?

My routine changed completely. I went from working every day and playing football to doing nothing outside of video games. It was definitely different. The only relationships it really changed were the ones that weren’t really that strong to begin with. Didn’t lose any relationships I needed.

What was the hardest thing you faced while going through treatment?

The hardest thing about treatment was probably the feeling that I lost my mind. I was really in a dark place mentally and it affected me emotionally and physically and my marriage.

Did you have a caretaker? If so, could you tell us about what that was like?

My wife was my caretaker. It definitely was a million times easier with her and she was a major part of me being here today. I’m sure I wouldn’t have gotten through it without her.

If a friend of yours was diagnosed with the same cancer, what would you want them to know?

If one of my friends were in the same situation my biggest piece of advice would definitely be to find your team. Find the people you can lean on. Family, friends, and even nurses and doctors. Find the people who are gonna help carry you.

What’s the best support or advice you received? What was the worst, or most annoying?

If one of my friends were in the same situation my biggest piece of advice would definitely be to find your team. Find the people you can lean on. Family, friends, and even nurses and doctors. Find the people who are gonna help carry you.

If there was a moment(s) where you felt hopeless, how did you get through that?

Whenever I felt hopeless I really didn’t do anything. Usually my wife or dad got me out of it. Talking to my siblings and watching football helped too.

Abraham and his sister, Elia while battling cancer a second time.

Sometimes, people report feeling abandoned, scared, or feeling that no one understands them through parts (or all) of their cancer journey. Did you ever feel like this? If so how did you cope, and how would you suggest others cope? Do you think there is a way to avoid feeling like this, or is it a part of the journey?

I felt like that the entire time. It’s a part of it. It’s human. I don’t think you can avoid it. I think to get through it you have to just remember that when it’s all done, you’ll be better than anyone who hasn’t gone through it.

Was there anything someone said to you about your cancer journey that really bothered you? If so, what would you want people to know to create a better understanding? How would you suggest responding to comments from people that don’t feel great?

What bothered me, again, was the whole be grateful and you’re blessed thing. It doesn’t make sense to me because I don’t think we should be grateful that we didn’t die from it or think we’re blessed because we survived. What would make us blessed would be it never happening in the first place. I’d suggest whenever you hear something you don’t like, either say something or just ignore them and remember they don’t understand what you’re going through. Like so many others.

Is there anything that has transformed in your attitude or outlook since being diagnosed?

The biggest difference in me now I think is that I’ll fight for my happiness. I don’t care what it is. I will fight for my happiness because I’ve been so low I didn’t care if I was happy so I never want to get back to that.

Are there any challenges you face now?

The biggest challenges I face now are probably just the physical setbacks. Like for instance I would love to enlist in the military and I really can’t. That’s what sucks.                                                                                                       

Are there any resources you know about that were helpful for you?

I tried blogging and it really helped while I did it. I actually wish I would’ve did it more. I recommend really any organization that lets you talk. Talking helps so much. Everyone is different though.

What else would you like to share?

Really the only unique thing about me is I’m me. And that’s what makes whoever reads this unique too. Everyone is different and everyone has their own ways. I learned through all this to help yourself and be better, you have to love you. Love you for you. And if you can’t, which does happen sometimes, love yourself for who you want to be. That person is amazing too.  

Abraham and his father, Abraham Ortiz Sr.

Note from Jenna: Sometimes the best therapy is just talking to someone who’s been there. Imerman Angels One-on-One Cancer Support was created on the belief that no one should face cancer alone. While we recognize that each life situation is unique, we connect those that are predisposed to receive a cancer diagnosis, cancer fighters, survivors and caregivers with “Mentor Angels” – a previvor, a cancer survivor or caregiver who is as similar as possible in age, gender, and most importantly, experience. Mentor Angels provide chance to ask personal questions and receive support from a peer who has been down the same road before. The service is absolutely free and helps anyone touched by any type of cancer, at any stage, at any age, living anywhere in the world. We want to ensure no one faces cancer alone -together we are stronger! Go to for more information