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Saturday, April 5, 2014

My Month of Hell

"It gets better" is not just the mantra of the LGBT community to gay youth, it's also the mantra of my medical team of doctors and nurses. "It gets better" they say, over and over. And it has. But as soon as it gets better, it gets worse.

Since the first week of March 2014 I have been on a new clinical trial and it's been kicking my a$$. Out of a list of 28 possible side effects, I have experienced 18. Want me to list them for you? Sure! They include: low red blood cell count, low platelets, feeling week and unwell (ha!), infection, constipation, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, abnormal liver function, ECG changes, salt imbalance, change of taste, shortness, itchiness, low white blood cell count, pain, fever, abnormal heart beats, diarrhea, stomatisis, chills, swelling, changes in blood work, weight decreased - anorexia, headache, cough, rash, low blood pressure. So when one side effect gets better, another one comes in it's place. It's like they know I have relief before the next one steps in, and it's so frustrating.

I was hoping that at this point I would have some sense of normality or routine. But I still feel so out of it, so "off" from my normal life that it fuels my frustration and sadness. I feel stupid for being so cocky that I could conquer this cancer thing...I preached to anyone that asked that I could live my life and even thrive despite cancer. It rang true at the time, but now I feel like the rug has been yanked from under my feet and I'm left graveling on the floor. In the matter of a few days I went from feeling almost to (dare I say it) completely normal to feeling like complete crap.

When I embark upon each new clinical trial I'm given a packet that I have to sign, full of medical jargon and side effects. But in the past I never experienced side effects that were too debilitating so I foolishly thought I would be the same for this trial. Although as I mentioned below I was informed about the possible nausea but I just knew that wouldn't affect me. And now I'm paying for it.

One of the hardest parts are the reactions from others. People aren't used to seeing me feel unwell, so they assume I will get better within a few days or surely a week. But it's not a cold, it doesn't work like that. I have absolutely no idea when I will feel better and I feel worse when someone asks if I feel better, only to disappoint them with the same old response: "No, but hopefully soon." It's crushing me and I feel angry that it's so hard for people to understand how things with me can change so dramatically. These drugs are poison and even though the current drugs are supposed to be less toxic, they can still change your body in an instant. It just reminds me how different I am from everyone else, how alone I feel because no one understands. I know I can't expect them to understand, but I just wish they could.

The emotional part of this experience continues to haunt me. I literally cry everyday because I feel so uncomfortable in my own body. As I wiped my tears and my mascara on Ross's fresh white t-shirt (sorry!) one night, he reminded me that I've been through worse, I've felt worse, and I've experienced much worse. I know that logically, but honestly it's hard for me remember. I suppose its the same memory loss that women have after having a baby...they forget how much it hurts that they are shocked by the pain during baby #2. I honestly can't believe what I've been through before, I can't believe I survived so many different types of chemo and continued to work.

This may seem silly, but I feel like I'm weaker now then when I started this journey. I feel so worn down and low at times, that I admittedly have those deep dark thoughts that crept into my mind back in 2009. There are times when I'm in such extreme pain and feel so lost that I think to not exist would be better than this. Now death has been my greatest fear since a very young age when I would have anxiety attacks about dying and creep into my parents' bed for comfort. But when your body betrays you and nothing seems to make it better, you just want the pain to stop. Just for a second you can allow your mind to go there, to wonder what it would be like to not be here anymore. And then you acknowledge the fact that for you, yes the pain would be over. But for your friends and family, it would just begin. I often think about the fact that I came so close to dying after my blood clot and how Ross was this close to coming home to an empty house without me, with wedding presents still to be opened, thank you notes still to be written, and I remember how selfish I'm being. It's not just about me, it's about the people who love me.

I feel ashamed of those thoughts, for not wanting to be a "cancer warrior" anymore, for not wanting to be strong. I want to push through, I desperately do, but it's hard. A few months ago I felt strong and confident that I could go to work, hang out with my friends, be a good wife, think about starting a family, and living my life. Now I feel foolish at the idea I could handle starting a family, haven't seen my friends in weeks, rely on Ross to handle all the household work, and barely function at work. I would scream out loud if I didn't feel like I wanted to throw up.

I hate being such a downer and truly hope that in the next few weeks it truly will get better.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Hollywood Highs and Lows

I've realized that when things are going well in my life and cancerland, I tend to post less because life is good and there's not much to say...but when things are going not-so-well, I want to vent to my faithful readers and let the world know how crappy I feel. So this is one of those posts. Beware, it's a little long...

The last few weeks (I'm not sure how many, I've been telling Ross that I feel like I've lost my sense of time since starting this new trial) have basically sucked. I started the new clinical trial and this one requires a 4-hour infusion of one chemo drug once a week and a daily oral pill of a second chemo drug. Usually I'm all about an oral mediciation. In the past oral drugs have meant low maintenance, easy breezy, and side effect free. This one, ahhhh not so much. I was warned that the biggest side effect from this new drug combo was nausea, but my medical team had figured out how to control it with anti-nausea meds, so I really didn't worry. However, mere hours after taking my first oral pill, I was hugging the toilet bowl for dear life as I proceeded to "release" everything I had eaten that day. Unfortunately I was also on my cell phone headset with my mother at the time, and there was no time to tell her to hold on, rip out the headset and get down to business before I vomited 10 times in a row, so she got a nice soundtrack of my experience right in her ear. I know. EWWWW. If I were her, I would have hung up. But she was a trooper and stayed right there, telling me it was going to be ok. (Later my dad got on the phone and I had another episode, and he said, "Ahh, call us back when you can" LOL. Men. They can't handle it. Poor Ross is completely helpless when I puke, trying to comfort me while simultaneously not looking at the contents of the toilet).

The next day I promptly filled my anti-nausea medication (yeah I know, I should have already had it, but I didn't think it would be a big deal!) and thought that would be it. Well I didn't throw up anymore, but instead I had this thick layer of nausea overshadowing my life. Everywhere I went, nausea followed. I felt like the character from the Peanuts comics with the rain cloud over my head. I hadn't felt this consistently nauseous since 2010 and it really messed with my head. Plus, this month at work has been super busy with lots of travel, so there was no time to be sick. I literally had three breakdowns in one day as I struggled to figure out how to cope.

So my doctors and nurses gave me like five different anti-nausea medications so we could figure out which combo worked. Unfortunately the two I choose to take together put me in a loopy, out of my mind state where I didn't know which way was up or down. It was like I was high, but not in a good way. Oh and I was at work when the loopiness kicked in. Oh and I stilllll felt nauseous! Oh and to make it even more fun, I had bouts of stomach and back pain from the cancer cells dying...which is good news, but it hurt like a #%&*$!!! So I became paranoid that I appeared crazy, couldn't keep my eyes open at my desk, and was frantically trying to wrap things up at work because Ross and I were scheduled to fly to Los Angeles for our friends' wedding that weekend.

Our friends Debbie and O'Neil were getting married and I had really been looking forward to the wedding. The date has changed several times due to the fact that the bride is the personal chef to a huge pop star that shall not be named (Rihanna!) and was on tour with said pop star for over a year. So once the date was finally confirmed and flights were booked, I was going to LA, no matter what.

The night before we left was tortuous. I am the kind of packer that has to try on every outfit before I pack it (shoes and accessories too) so I don't forget anything. In fact, that's what I was doing the night of my massive blood clot...trying on clothes and packing for the Hamptons. Ross doesn't get it...he's all like, "you already know what the clothes look like." But it's just my packing process. I'm committed to it. It's my thing. So there I was, crawling around on our bedroom floor picking out clothes, half trying them on and then collapsing on the bed in pain/nausea. It was a long night but I made it...although I still forgot a sparkly clutch and shaw for the wedding! But worse things have happened.

The next day we were on the 7am flight to LA and the first few hours of the flight were ok, but the last 45 minutes I felt like I was going to scream if I didn't get off the plane. I couldn't get comfy and the nausea had it's hold of me. I knew I looked like crap (I mean who looks great off a 6 hour flight? Except for Ross. He annoyingly looks exactly the same) so when we arrived at LAX and met up with our friends, I was ready for them to say that I looked tired. And Ross's cousin Nyema did not disappoint. We had barely rounded the corner before he said, "Man, you look tired!" Argh! So I responded, "I'm not tired! I'm sick. SICK!," giving him a knowing look like, "You know--CANCER SICK!" It wasn't his fault though. Everyone is so used to me looking and feeling fine, so no one expects me to confess that I am actually feeling the effects of cancer treatment. But this time I was, and I wanted everyone to feel sorry for me, damnit!

We made it to the hotel where I tried to rest, but then I noticed a new affliction had taken over. Smells. Everything smelled the same. My clothes, my hair, my skin, Ross. And this smell made me feel even more nauseous. For the next few days I tried to pull it together and put my best face forward as everyone around me partied, drank and celebrated Debbie and O'Neil. It was good to escape the polar vortex of NYC and get some good ol' Vitamin D by the pool, but it made me really sad that a trip I had been looking forward to for so long was runined beacuse of stupid cancer. I hadn't felt like this in a longgggg time and it really messed with my head. The "why me's" found their way back in...especially when I found out that a few ladies at the wedding were pregnant. That was another dagger in my stomach because here I was with nausea, pain in the stomach and senstivity to smell...classic preggo symptoms...but I wouldn't have a bundle of joy in 9 months. So I really started to feel sorry for myself.

The night of the wedding I rested all day in the hopes I could feel well enough to hit the dance floor, and I'm ashamed to admit it but I asked God to have Rihanna appear (she was rumored to come to the wedding) as I knew a celeb sighting would instantly make me feel better, lol! Rih Rih didn't make it, but her band performed which made it feel like a real live concert. From the pictures you can't even tell I'm sick (I know how to give good face when I need to) and Debbie and O'Neil were beautiful and happy. I also got to see my cousin Melvin who lives in LA and meet his daughter Dakota who is the cutest thing in the world...and has the same curls as me!

Debbie and O'Neil make it official! #hollywoodwedding


"I woke up like this" Uh no, sorry Beyonce I did not.
My back and stomach hurt but I'll never turn down a photo op on the Penthouse floor of a posh Hollywood hotel. And doesn't Ross look smashing in his tux?
Cousins! There's nothing like a child to make you smile 
We took the red eye back to NYC and I went directly to my doctor's office where I burst into tears and begged them to do something. I hated the way I felt so much that I even asked to get off the trial. My doctor promised me that it does get better and they can figure out how to manage my nausea, so I should hang in there. This week I had a break from the oral pill, so I did feel much better. But I start taking the pill again next week and I'm a little nervous. I can't go through this again, I need to have some semblance of a normal life.

This was a really hard lesson...realizing that I'm not in control of this cancer thing and side effects can still mess with me. Here I was, thinking that I had everything under control and it's not always that simple. I have a PET scan in April and that will determine if I stay on the trial or not, and I just pray if I do stay on it, things truly get better.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Delicate Balancing Act

It's been months since an update and I promise that I've been writing blog posts in my head but they never made it to this blog! (Don't you hate when that happens?) I think it's because I've been living this delicate balancing act of work, cancer treatment, my TV hosting career and oh yeah, trying to have a personal life. It's a lot. A. Lot. And most days I think that everything will be fine, it's good to be busy, I have less time to think about cancer, but a few days ago I almost starting crying while walking to work (which is always so embarrassing) and I wanted to yell at myself to pull it together because frankly I was running late and had no time to feel sorry for myself. I have an annoying habit of feeling really sorry for myself an inopportune times (i.e., at my desk, on the subway, when the pizza delivery guy shows up, etc.) instead of crying alone in bed or the shower like a normal person.
This photo doesn't have anything to do with anything, except that
I like it, it's fierce, and cancer can't take away my SMIZE (Hey Tyra!)

I think the fact that I've been living with cancer for 4 1/2 years is either something I don't think about or it suddenly weighs on me so hard that I think I can't breathe and I literally want to shut down, fall to the floor and break into a million pieces. Oh yeah, and stand in the middle of Times Square and have a temper tantrum. Damn that would feel good. But most days I try to shove it out of my mind and just live my life and think of cancer as something on my to-do list...frankly my doctors have said that I've done so well because my life is so full and I don't dwell on the sad stuff, but every now and then it catches up with me.

Even so, after I have a breakdown I can turn on the TV or pick up a magazine or chat with a friend abut the most inconsequential thing in the world (what will Lupita Nyong'o wear to the Oscars? Is Lisa from RHOBH really that conniving?) and I laugh to myself because I realize that I'm still ME. Even though I get REALLY pissed off that I'm still dealing with cancer and clinical trials, and not celebrating my 4th year of remission, I just have to accept this is what my new life is--post cancer diagnosis. This is the new Morgan and she's pretty amazing. How do I do it? I have no freaking idea. I just do.

On the treatment front, a month ago we found out the latest treatment stopped being as effective. Again, on to a new medication. This one is an oral pill and IV medication that my doctor promised wouldn't make my hair fall out--there goes old Morgan again! It's frustrating, it's sad, but it's not devastating. I'm used to hearing yay and nay every few months and I'm just thankful to God that there are other options for me. Right now I'm in LA for work so life goes on! I'll just keep balancing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Coffee and Conversation

This past week I had the opportunity to speak as part of "Coffee and Conversation," a breakfast event in conjunction with the Southern Women's Show in my hometown of Charlotte. Coffee and Conversation is part of the Belva Wallace Greenage Cancer Foundation, founded by Belva Wallace Greenage, a two-time cancer survivor who is living (and thriving!) with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer....talk about inspiration!

Coffee and Conversation program


Belva asked that I share my story as part of the Coffee and Conversation event because the theme was "claiming your best life" and that's what I try to do with my blog. I spoke alongside Moira Quinn, a breast cancer survivor, and Dr Russ Greenfield, an integrated medicine doctor...and it went really well. Although my father did tell me I went a little long (lol, thanks Daddy!) but truthfully I could have talked for days...for some reason when I get started talking about this cancer journey, I can't shut up!

It's strange...sometimes I do still feel ashamed about it, but once it's out in the open I can talk about every little scary, sad, funny, crazy, ridiculous thing I've been through...and trust me, there have been a lot. Sometimes I worry I sound too blase about it, because I can say I had a stem cell transplant, a massive blood clot and 4 years of chemo without batting an eye...and I forget how horrifying it can sound to someone who is hearing it for the first time. I often say that it doesn't sound real...it sounds like a book or a movie, but in fact it's 4 years of my life! Which is both really sad and really amazing.

Mid speech


And that juxtaposition was the spirit of my speech and the event...learning the deal with this awful circumstance and (hopefully) showing that you don't have to let it define you. I always laugh to myself when people say, "how do you do it?" because I think, "what other choice do I have?" I'm still me. I still have hopes and dreams and plans for the future. Frankly, I don't know what else to do but try and live my life. That doesn't mean it's always easy...some days I feel like I am the saddest person on Earth. But other days I realize how blessed I truly am. It's a constant battle for me every day as I struggle to not feel so sorry for myself and try to find the good in my life...through this awful situation I've gained a new platform and way to connect with other people. So for that I am grateful.

My parents support means the world to me


Unfortunately as I was getting on the plane to leave Charlotte after a great weekend with my parents, I checked my Facebook and saw that a fellow Hodgkin's lymphoma warrior had passed away. I never met Karin Diamond in person, but her story connected with me as we are the same age and diagnosed the same year. We also have the same doctor in NYC, so I kept up with her that way. I remember reading her blog when I was in Greece on my honeymoon and crying with a mixture of happiness and fear, as Karin was about to began an allo with her sister's stem cells. Since the allo, Karin has had a rough road. She was in and out of the hospital and dealt with a lot of pain and other issues. Her husband Craig was there every step of the way, and she wrote of how wonderful their relationship was, and what a great partner he was. I stood in the airport in shock on Sunday as I read Craig's farewell post on Karin's blog. He said she passed away at home, and she is finally at peace. Although I'm grateful she is no longer in pain, it just does not seem fair! I want to shout and scream about how unfair it is. And how scary it is. Why her? Why do things like this have to happen? How is she gone and I am still here? We have the same disease and it's just awful. She had so much life to live and seemed to be a wonderful person. I do take comfort in the fact that Karin traveled to Rhode Island for a vacation a few weeks before she passed...something she was determined to do and our doctor/medical team wanted her to do. She had a smile on her face as she went to the beach with family and friends and she had joy in her life...she truly did everything she could to "claim her best life" and for that I am grateful. Rest in peace Karin.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Missing In Action



I know, I know, I’ve been a neglectful blogger! But no news is good news right?
And for the most part, it’s all good news. Since my last post in April, I’ve started a new job at a new magazine and I’ve been spending a lot of time at work, getting used to everything. But I’m really excited! The job is fun and I get to do a lot of interesting things, which is great. Plus, my new boss is a breast cancer survivor…and she worked throughout her diagnosis and treatment while planning her wedding…just like me! Imagine that? So it’s nice to come into a new job where someone really, truly understands what it’s like to balance your real, normal life with your not-so-normal, cancer patient life.

So that’s my official excuse for my long absence from my blog (and the one that I’ve been telling my mother every time she asked me why I haven’t posted) and it’s true! A new job has given me something entirely new to focus, worry and stress about that some days, (can’t believe I’m writing this) I don’t even think about cancer! So weird. It does cross my mind every once and a while of course, especially when dealing with new co workers who want to know why I’m not in the office some days. At my old job, I was already working there for a year before I was diagnosed, so I didn’t have to explain myself to everyone…so it’s definitely awkward when it comes up. My shameful secret (yes, I still feel that way…will it ever not be shameful?).

The other reason I’ve been MIA is because there wasn’t too much report. Up until July I was continuing on with the NAE trial and had two good scans in a row…although I didn’t want to make too much of deal about good scans, for fear that I would jinx myself. Then the other shoe dropped. My good luck ran out and the cancer started to grow again. Damnit! But, for the 2nd time after receiving bad news, I didn’t cry! Once again, I expected it…I got 7 good months out of the NAE trial with only a headache from the crazy schedule and a little bit of pain from the drug…but in the weeks leading up to the scan, my lower back hurt and I just didn’t feel like I was going to get good news.

And so we start again…this time I started a trial called TGTR, which is an oral medication! When my doctor said that, I didn’t even care about the bad news, because “Hallelujah” I was going back to an oral medicine! But before I could get too excited, he reminded me that I’m on a clinical trial, so it still requires a lot of time in the doctor’s office for blood work, tests and other fun stuff. Ugh, annoying schedule again! But virtually no side effects from this new med! Except that I have to fast before and after taking the meds and this girl likes to eat, but now I’m just really complaining.

I started the TGTR trial in August and so far so good…I have a scan in October, but I’m trying to stay positive that everything will be fine. Ironically, when I came in for my first day of TGTR, my nurse practitioner told me that a new scan I had the day earlier showed the cancer had decreased since my bad scan in July! I think the words, “it’s a miracle!” actually came out of my mouth as I mentally explored the idea that I.Had.Cured.Myself! As it turns out, I had an upper respiratory infection when I did the latest scan and apparently when your immune system fights an infection, it can inadvertently fight the cancer too! So why can’t they just inject me with the common cold you ask? Yes, I asked that too…not even joking. Researchers are actually working on this idea, so who knows what the future holds!

But as of now, I’ll stick with TGTR and the oral medication. And I promise to keep everyone updated as to how I’m doing…a little sooner this time! 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Stop the Clot!

Ross and I before the walk began
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at the 4th Annual American Business Women's Association Walk for Blood Clot Awareness Month in Brooklyn. The walk is a collaboration with the National Blood Clot Alliance, and I was their patient speaker. So I shared my story of the massive pulmonary embolism I experienced just a week after Ross and I returned from our honeymoon in Greece.

I was really excited (and a little nervous!) to share my story, so I was so happy that it turned out to be a wonderful event. It was a gorgeous day and several of my close friends came out to support and cheer me on. Since the focus of this event was about blood clots, and not cancer, I wanted to make sure that I spoke about my blood clot experience, but I also explained that cancer was one of the risks for clots.






Gorgeous day in BK with my girls: Tiffany, Nneka and Kamila

Ross was set to tape my speech but unfortunately his iPhone ran out of space in the middle of the speech...but, like the good husband he is...he continued to hold his phone up the entire time so I still believed he was taping and he didn't throw me off, lol! Because he knew that the first thing I would say to him was, "why did you stop taping!" So alas, I only have the very beginning of my speech and it's basically me saying my name, so not really enough to post. But as you can tell from the pics, it was a happy day. Ironically, in the days leading up to my speech I started feeling pain in my legs again and started worrying about clots. As I said in my speech, the blood clot has affected me far worse than the cancer diagnosis, because it was such a terrifying physical incident that I will never forget. So often, on my down-in-the-dumps, crying, sad days, I worry more about clots than cancer. Despite having so many precautions (being on blood thinners and having a filter in my lung), I don't know if I'll ever get over the fear of clots...especially if I feel a pain in my leg! It sucks to be so fearful of what's happening (or not happening) in your own body.

The Oglivie family! Close friends from way back in the day
A doctor who specializes in blood clots also spoke at the event. And in an awful ironic twist, he had a blood clot as well. Despite being a doctor who knew the risks, he still developed one and it just shows you that no one is immune to horrible things. The world is so scary these days with the Boston marathon bombing, the Newtown shooting, the North Korea threats...and then you have to worry about a war going on in your own body...sometimes it's all too much!

A quick cancer update: I just completed the 3rd cycle of the NAE clinical trial and according to the PET/CT scan I had on Friday, the cancer has now decreased by 28%! So although it's not a huge decrease from last time, it's enough for me to stay on the trial. I start cycle 4 next week and the first day of the new cycle is usually the hardest, so I'm hoping with my new pain meds, it won't be too bad. So that's it for now! The hope is that things keep getting smaller and smaller and we continue on a good path!

Celebrating a successful day with brunch in Brooklyn


Friday, March 22, 2013

My Brother's Keeper

Loving my new baby brother's fro in 1987

Growing up I always wanted a sister. I thought having a sister would be the best thing ever because we could share clothes, do each other's hair and play Barbies together. I would constantly tell my mom that she needed to have another baby--and make sure that it's a girl. She finally sat me down and told me that she wasn't having any more babies, so I better learn to be happy with my little brother! Frankly, now I'm actually glad I never got that sister...selfishly speaking of course...because all the physical transformations I've had to deal with in the past 3 years probably would have made me hate my sister. She would have remained the same as I lost my hair, lost my perfect skin and in some ways, lost my dignity.

So I guess it took cancer for me to realize that having a brother wasn't so bad! Lol...just kidding bro! My brother Garrett will always be my "little" brother. Like any big sister, it's hard for me to see my brother as a true adult. Despite the fact that he towers over me at 6'4",  he just graduated business school, he's living in Atlanta on his own, paying his own bills, and working in corporate America, I still see him as the eternal 12-year-old that drove me crazy. So it makes it even harder to realize that on March 24th, Garrett will turn 26. This is astonishing in itself, but for me, 26 is a milestone age because it's the age I was diagnosed with cancer. I often mourn those first 25 years of my life and the person I was. The way life was before it became so damn hard.

1999 holiday photo! Don't we all
have a pic like this? 
My parents (especially my father who has seven siblings) constantly remind me to check in on my brother because "he's the only one you have." And it's true. When I relapsed, I was told to have my brother tested to see if he was a match for me. If he was, I would received his stem cells through an allo transplant.

"Oh the irony," I thought. The brother that I had tormented growing up would now be charged with saving my life. God was definitely trying to teach me a lesson with this one! But sadly, Garrett wasn't a match. I just assumed he would be, and after learning that he wasn't, I soon became fiercely jealous of any cancer patient with a sibling who was a match. There's a sense of safety in knowing that your sibling will always be there to give you the stem cells you need exactly when you need them. As opposed to a stranger, who may not be available if and when you decide to push the button to move forward with an allo. I am still lucky, having two 9/10 matches and one 10/10 match, but in the back of my mind I worry about those potential matches. What if something happens to one of them? What if they change their mind? What if they (God forbid) get cancer themselves? Hey, it happened to me. I've been in the Be A Match registry since 2001 and was diagnosed in 2009.

When did he get so tall? Garrett and I in November 2009
So if my brother had been a match, I could watch over him, make sure he was being healthy, make sure he was doing all the right things, and yell at him if he wasn't. Of course, I still do that, because all I do is worry about my friends and family and their health. Sometimes I'm glad it was me who got sick, because I'm vigilant enough to go to the doctor when something is wrong. Would Garrett have reacted the same way? He almost made my heart stop this past Christmas when he casually mentioned to me that he had a "swollen lymph node" under his arm. Those exact words I google'd 3 years ago and led me to a cancer diagnosis. I berated him about it and he said it went away and he was fine. And most likely he is, but hearing those words from my little brother on the cusp of his own 26th year frightened the crap of out of me. After all, we grew up in the same house, ate the same food, and were exposed to the same environment, until I moved away for college. Garrett was actually the "sickly" child in our house, having asthma throughout his childhood, even though he swears he's grown out of it now. So even though Hodgkin's isn't genetic and no one really knows the cause, I still worry about him and if he's getting regular checkups, and doing the right things. Because the only thing more frightening than one sick child is two. I can't even imagine. My father actually has a colleague who is dealing with just that. His daughter has thyroid cancer and his son has Hodgkin's. WTF. How does that happen? When I hear stories about siblings with cancer at the same time, or a mother/daughter or husband/wife, I think, "how much can one family take?" Just not fair.

So I pray that as Garrett turns 26, his health remains unblemished. He gets to hold on to a little of the carefreeness that I no longer have.  Of course he's not completely naive due to the fact that his big sister was diagnosed with cancer at such a young age, but I hope that he has a long, healthy life in front of him. Because health is the best birthday gift you can get!