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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year


The holidays just make me happy. I love this time of the year with all of the decorations, the parties, the presents and the food! Christmas was extra special this year as my family once again gathered together to pray and recognize what we were so grateful for. Whew, it has been one hell of a year for us. I came home to Charlotte the day before Christmas Eve and it's been really nice to get away from freezing cold NYC. We were pretty relaxed on Christmas day this year, it rained almost all day, so my parents, my brother and our little dog Missy stayed in and lounged around, doing nothing. Love those days! I also had a chance to catch up with friends from high school and college, making my rounds around town.


I'm home for a week and a half which is the longest I've been home since college, so I'm soaking up everything. Ross came to Charlotte yesterday after spending Christmas in Chicago with his family and today we had our first wedding venue site visits! Ross laughed because I told him I was anxious about it, since starting to look at venues means that the process is really starting and my stress level might be rising. I'm excited and overwhelmed at the same time. It's a lot to think about but thank goodness we have a lot of time to plan. In the meantime I've been showing off my ring to everyone in Charlotte so that's always fun.


When I get back to New York on Tuesday, I start my last cycle (part 1 of number 6)!! I absolutely cannot wait to get this over with. I had to switch the arm I was getting chemo in because the veins in my left arm started to tire out and the veins were leaving brown stain marks on my arms. So I started getting the drugs put into my right arm but now both arms throb occasionally so I think my body is as ready as my brain to hurry up and finish. I can't believe a month from now I will be done, what an amazing feeling that will be!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Smells are a funny thing

I swear I smell the hospital sometimes. I smell the antibacterial gels, the rubber gloves, the needles and the medicine and it makes me feel sick--even when I haven't just had chemo! I've stopped taking my anti-nausea medication because the smell and taste of it (and sometimes just the thought of it) make me feel nauseous...oh the irony! It would be funny if it didn't make me feel like I was going to throw up. I was never a fan of hospitals before and I am certainly not a fan now. Sometimes it's hard just to put one foot in front of the other to walk to the hospital for a treatment or test because I dread the smells inside that place.

I've had to stop using Purell at the airport or my office because just a whiff and I get flashbacks. So I've resorted to washing my hands 10 million times a day, which isn't bad, it's just not that convenient. I think I dread chemo mostly because of the smells, the process itself isn't that bad once you get used to it, but that hospital smell gets stuck to you and you can't get it off! I never know what will trigger it, but every once in a while in my house, at work, on the street, I smell something that turns my stomach and reminds me of my current situation.

I cannot wait to be done. 2 more treatments, 2 more treatments. It's like a mantra I have to repeat to myself to get to the end--kinda like when I'm working out and I have to tell myself just 10 more minutes to go. It's been a looonnngggg 5 months (wow 5 months??) and even though I'm close to the end, it's harder now than ever before. I feel emotionally beaten down from the process and it ain't over! I'm hoping my spirits will be lifted after I'm finished with chemo and I just have to focus on rebuilding myself. I'm going home to Charlotte for Christmas in a few days and that should help as well, because I like to pretend that things are as they used to be and being back in Charlotte will definitely let me do that...well until I see people who haven't seen me since "the news". I'm not looking forward to that because I think it will bring back all the sad crazy feelings I had when I was first diagnosed. I know that my parents' friends and close acquaintances will want to see me, but I think it will be hard to sort of re-live the whole thing again. It's probably not the most rational or sane thing to do, but sometimes I'd rather just pretend I'm fine and never went through this. Unfortunately it doesn't really work that way and I know I did go through this and things aren't the same as they used to be. Plus, I can't exactly back away from someone who just wants to ask how I'm doing--that would be a little weird. So I must be an adult and face the music.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Chemo Hair

Chemo hair is different from regular hair; it's softer, weaker, and makes me sad when I see it in my hand instead of on my head. When I started this journey, keeping my hair was the 2nd priority, right there after beating this disease. I figured I didn't care if I had to throw up all day as long as I could still have my hair and thus not have the "look" of cancer. I'll admit it, it was very important to me. I was lucky enough to not throw up all day (I've actually only thrown up 3 times so far...knock on wood!) and I have kept most of my hair.

However, about a month ago I really started to notice a difference in the thickness of it. It's starting to look pretty thin to me, my ponytail feels like a joke when I put it up to go to the gym because it's so thin. The length is the same as before, in fact I think it's grown a little bit which is odd, but it's much thinner. Yet every time I feel sorry for myself, I have to thank God that I still have some hair and haven't had to wear my wig....yes it's beautiful...but I reallyyyyy don't want to wear it. I think of all the other people fighting cancer and having to face baldness and I really have to recognize my blessings. It's a constant struggle though because one second I realize how lucky I am and the next second I'm complaining about how thin it is. My friends and coworkers swear they can't tell the difference, but I have a feeling they're lying to me...it's ok, I probably would as well...but I'm dying to know what they really think. You can't really tell in pictures but in person I think it's obvious, especially when you see my lovely little bald spot on the left side of my head. I'm actually more ok with the bald spot than the thinness, because I think the bald spot will go away pretty quickly after I stop treatment but I'm a little unsure about how my hair will look as new hair grows in. I guess volume-boosting products will be my new best friend--thank goodness I work for a women's magazine!

Luckily I had already decided (a few years ago in fact before I was engaged...lol) that I would wear my hair in a sleek chignon for my wedding with a few pieces of extensions for fullness, so I'm not too worried about my hair for the big day, plus hopefully my hair should be back to normal by then. Chemo hair is weird though because it attaches itself everywhere! It usually doesn't fall out unless I brush my hair or run my fingers through it, so I try and limit that. But when I do brush my hair, it clings to my clothes and my skin. Even when I think I've gotten every last piece off, there's always one hair hanging on to my finger or my elbow...it's like it knows it's not supposed to leave my head and is trying to hang on to me :(

My hair and my eyebrows are where I've noticed the biggest change; I still have to shave my legs and there's still plenty of hair on my arms (yuck!). Actually, my eyebrows are the sliver lining to this dark cloud. I used to pluck my eyebrows every other day and get them professionally done every 2 weeks. Since I started chemo, I've only gotten them professionally done twice in 4 months...the hair underneath the eyebrow just doesn't seem to grow back which means I have a permanent "done" eyebrow...yea me!

I'm counting down the days until I'm done with chemo (Jan 18th!) so I can focus on growing back some hair instead of losing it, but it will be a while till the drugs are out of my system, so for now I do my daily routine to hold on to as much of it as possible.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Treading lightly


Although I was obviously thrilled to hear the news that my lymph nodes had returned to a more "normal" size and the PET scan couldn't detect any metabolic activity in them anymore, I still don't feel as happy as I thought I would at this point. I think part of it is due to the fact that I still have to continue with chemo treatments (3 more at this point) to "mop up" any remaining cancer cells that may have gone undetected by the PET scan. My doctor determined that I had some patches on my lungs possibly due to the Bleomycin drug (part of my ABVD treatment), so he took it out of my treatment. Bleomycin actually also causes these strange lines that look like cat scratches all over your skin, so now that I'm not on it anymore, I'm looking forward to those going away--vain I know! I had to take a pulmonary function test to make sure that my lungs are ok...basically you do a serious of breathing exercises into a tube and it assesses your lung function...it makes you feel like you've been working out for hours! But everything turned out fine and my lungs were ok, so that was a relief.


Even though I know the chemo is working, it still makes me sad to still have to go back to the hospital and continue to be poked and prodded. I told the nurse the other day that I was tired of seeing her face! That tells you how over this I am. This whole experience can feel so lonely since people can empathize but no one knows exactly how I feel inside everyday and every night. Thankfully I haven't had extreme side effects, but I think that also makes people forget that I am going through this horrible ordeal and its on my mind 24/7. I've found that when I told people the good news, they would say things like, "wow that was quick" or "great, you're all cured now!" and oh how I wish that was true. I feel like I have tread lightly and not get too excited yet because my journey really is far from over...I have to finish up chemo and then continue to have PET scans every month and then every few months to keep track of my health. I still have a while before the big "R"--Remission term is used. It's kinda depressing to think about, for the rest of my life I'll have to check in and make sure that nothing fishy is going on in my lymphatic system. My medical history and life as I know it has changed.


But I'm not all doom and gloom, because I did celebrate my good news with my friends on Friday and we had a great time with dinner and drinks, toasting to my future. See pics above. I've read that life after chemo can be even harder than during the process--emotionally that is--because you're struggling to find your new normal (that is a life of hospitals and needles) and everyone around you expects you to slip back to your old normal. It's definitely interesting to say the least!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

ALL CLEAR

I spoke to my doctor today and the mass in my chest is gone!!  The lymph nodes also are not showing any activity of cancer. Thank God!!!  It's a surreal feeling and I think it's still sinking in. I still have to have 2 more rounds of chemo just in case.  My doctor thinks that for a young woman such as myself, continuing with the chemo will be better than having radiation because the risks of me getting breast cancer in 10 to 15 yrs would be higher if I have radiation treatment.  So 2 more rounds, 4 more visits.  I'm still dreading going to the hospital on Friday but at least now I know that these treatments are "just in case"

I'm off to celebrate by eating tons of carbs!!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thankful






My favorite time of the year is here....the holidays! Cue the Donny Hathaway music! Thanksgiving was wonderful. Ross came to town and he and I cooked dinner for my parents and my brother in New York. And it turned out really well, if I do say so myself. Ross and I were each in charge of several dishes (Ross was in charge of the turkey and it was amazing!) and we were in the kitchen till 1am the night before Thanksgiving cooking and preparing food. The next day I was on my feet all day until we ate dinner. I can't believe my mother has been doing this every holiday for years, I was exhausted!! But everything was delicious and for some reason my father got a kick out of seeing me in the kitchen with an apron on and a spatula in my hand...hey I can cook! What's so funny about that? He was pleasantly surprised (does that mean he doubted my skills??) when he tasted my homemade red velvet cake. Sooo yummy! It was nice for all of us to spend the holiday together and the weekend served as a taste of what's to come after Ross and I get married.

Each year at Thanksgiving we usually go around the table and say what we are thankful for, and normally I say something about being thankful for my family, friends, health, job, life, etc. It's nice but as soon the words were out of my mouth, they were usually forgotten and I was on to the food consumption portion of the evening. This year was very different as Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning and feeling for me. I'm thankful to be alive for one. I never viewed my cancer as a death sentence, but I recognize the fact that it can be deadly and I am soo thankful that I have had the opportunity to live my life as I always have with a few trips to the hospital in between. I'm thankful that although this journey has been hard and will continue to be hard, I am strong enough to handle it and it hasn't knocked me down. I'm thankful for everyone who has ever prayed for me or thought about me or sent good vibes my way. I'm so thankful for my family, my fiance, my friends and loved ones who have been there for me. And of course, as I said at the dinner table, I'm thankful for my hair :)

Tomorrow is a big day for me. It's the day I have my 2nd PET scan and it will determine if the cancer is gone. I'm so scared and I just want to know now. I want to be cancer-free soo bad, more than anything I want to shout those words out loud. I want to type those words on this blog and have them be true instead of just hoping and wishing. It's hard not to let your mind go to a dark place and think the worst, especially because I know positivity breeds good things, so I'm trying my best. But this is the day I have been looking forward to because it means everything else I've gone through was worth it. So, wish me luck!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Isn't it ironic...don't ya think?




Alanis Morrisette really said it best in her song "Ironic". Song lyrics are here if you're unfamilar :) I'm feeling like my life is really ironic right now. Physically I'm doing well...I finished my 4th treatment today and although I feel a little achy in my back and neck (a new symptom of chemo....it's never boring I'll tell you that), I'm doing ok. Emotionally though I find myself feeling angry. It was hard to make the walk to the hospital today and I'm consistently struggling to get my attitude in check when I think about what I have to deal with. I think it really comes down to being scared at this point in the journey.

The end of the 4th treatment means that it's time for another PET scan. A PET scan is where I go lie in a big machine and it creates a 3-D image of my body so they can see everything that's going on inside of me. I drink a radioactive tracer so it can highlight any bad stuff AKA cancer in my body. The first time I had one was before I had any treatments and it solidified my diagnosis, so my doctor is hopeful that this one shows the cancer is all gone. I want to believe its gone, I need to believe its gone, hell it needs to be gone!!! So its scary and exciting, the time is here to determine if the past 3 months of yuckiness has worked. And it betta! The PET scan is scheduled for Nov 30th, much to me and my mom's dismay because we hoped to celebrate the cancer's death at Thanksgiving but that's ok, because we can celebrate at Christmas, New Years, MLK Day, President's Day, etc... Shoot, everyday from here on out I might be doing a little jig just walking down the street!

Luckily my mom's sister, my Aunt Claire came to be with me this weekend (she reminds me so much of my mom, so it felt like she was there too) and my friend Christa and my family friend Michelle were also part of the "entourage" today so we had a good time in chemo.

My body appears to be responding when I get my biweekly checkups but only the PET scan can show for sure. Other than my emotional turmoil, my last treatment went really well. I was a cancer jet-setter, jumping on a plane straight from chemo to attend my college's homecoming in Chapel Hill, NC. It was the 1st day with chemo where I had absolutely no nausea...amazing!! My friend Eboni picked me up from the airport and we drove to the hotel to meet my other friend Nichelle and we quickly got dressed, went to dinner with about 20 other girls and then to a party. It was surreal to be back on campus 5 years after graduating and be dealing with this disease, because its definitely not anything I imagined my future would be like when I was in undergrad, but it was a fun experience. First of all, we all looked amazing since graduating if I do say so myself (keeping it fabulous of course..see pics above) and it's always interesting to catch up with people you haven't seen in a while. It was odd when I was asked what new is going on in my life (besides my engagement) and I immediately think "Cancer!" but who wants to say that and ruin the festive mood, so I just said, "oh you know, work and stuff" and kept it moving. I also caught up with my "little" brother Garrett (yeah he's 22 and 6'5" but I still call him little) who is in the area at law school. I felt a little nausea on Sat and Sun but nothing extreme.

The irony is that this is the scariest time of my life and the happiest time of my life. As I flip through wedding books while sitting in chemo, I'm like, wow, really?? Because if this had to happen to me, this was the perfect timing because its before I'm getting married, before I have responsibilities of a husband and children, and before I move on to the next chapter in my life. And if I had to get cancer, this is the cancer to get. So I'm blessed! But in an ironic state of mind.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why Me?

I like to think of myself as a unique person that doesn't necessarily follow the same path as everyone else, so when I find myself having the typical "Why Me?" moments throughout this experience I get mad because its so cliche. And I'm anything but cliche! Lol. Understandably though, it's a natural reaction, so I try not to beat myself up about it.

Recently I've had a couple of emotional "Why Me?" moments and it will just hit me out of nowhere. I'll be watching TV or listening to a friend tell a story and I'll think, "Man, why do I have to deal with this horrible thing in my life? Why me? Why me? Why me??". I'll cry and feel sorry for myself and it will feel good to let it out, but then I have to tell myself to pull it together and move on. I think at this point I'm just tired of the whole cancer/chemo thing....it's not new and interesting anymore...I'm soo over it! Even when I physically feel ok, emotionally at times I feel drained and become overwhelmed just thinking about it, I just want to be done!

Yesterday I felt a little sick and I got really upset because it wasn't a chemo week and normally I should be back to my same ol' self by now. I don't know whether it was the sausage I ate that morning or the chemo still flowing through my veins but I just felt a little crappy and I started feeling sad because I don't want to feel crappy, I just want to be fine. However, I was at work so it wasn't really the best time for a pity party, so as the tears started to come to my eyes I felt like an idiot because I cant just sit at my desk crying--especially when I really didn't feel that bad! So I had to chant to myself "Get it together!!" (which interestingly enough was part of a cheer from my high school cheerleading squad so that made me smile a bit). It worked and then I felt much better (and a little silly) but it's like you never know when these moments are gonna sneak up on you and ruin your perfectly applied navy eyeliner.

I know its ok to have "Why Me?" moments and cry a little bit, although I'm tired of crying because it always makes my nose run too and that's no fun. I can only feel sad for so long so I try not to wallow in the emotion too long. Because really, why not me? I've read that 1 in 5 people get cancer in their lifetime so the chances are alarmingly high. It really really sucks, but I know I can handle it and I am one of the lucky ones with a highly treatable form of the disease so part of me feels like I was chosen to go through this for some bigger purpose. I don't know what that is yet, but I'll let you know when I figure it out.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Patience is a Virtue

"Let me hurry up and take your blood pressure so I can get to Morgan next, because if I don't, she's gonna kill me." My nurse said this to another patient yesterday as I was waiting to get my blood drawn. Oops! I didn't realize that she saw the irritated look on my face as I sat in the blood draw room...waiting...and...waiting for someone to draw my blood. I swear I could do it myself if they would let me, I've watched them do it enough times! I've come to realize that I don't do a very good job of hiding my frustration when things take longer than expected. I am always shocked how long it takes to get things done in a hospital and I am silently cursing people out in my head whenever I feel like I've been waiting too long...and I guess it's starting to show. C'mon people! I have things to do, places to go, cancer to kill, lets get it moving!!

I'm not a very patient person in general, and I blame New York. Before moving to the big bad city, I was a nice, sweet girl :) But you move here and you adapt the "take no prisoners" attitude that my beloved city is known for. I have no patience for tourists who stand in the middle of the sidewalks, people who take too long to make their order at Starbucks and anyone who gets in my way as I run to get on the subway. Get Out Of My Way! Hurry Up! Move! This are the thoughts running through my head on a daily basis as I live, work and play in NYC. I don't know what's happened to me! Yet, the hospital is no different. I get my blood drawn on Thursdays before my chemo appts and I usually walk from my office to the hospital during lunch, so I always feel as though I'm in a hurry, and usually the people around me are not. Hence the looks I shoot at the nurses as I will them to call my name, take my blood and get me outta there (plus its lunchtime and I'm hungry!).

And apparently my looks haven't gotten unnoticed. The 2 main nurses in the blood draw room often kid me about how I always have to "get back to the office" (but I do! I'm a busy lady) and how I'm always running through the hospital in my heels. I try to smile and be nice but sometimes my crazy side takes over and I demand to know what's taking so long. I know its probably not the best approach and I feel bad afterwards...until it happens again that is!

The other thing that irritates me about hospitals is the administration people. I feel like a lot of the hospital assistants and secretaries hate their jobs. One of the assistants I have to deal with every time I need to schedule an appt always is complaining. Her stomach hurts, she's hungry, she left her phone at home that day. And she's complaining to me, a cancer patient! Honey, I know I look fine, but don't complain to me, I'd take a stomach ache over chemo anyday...wanna trade? Ugh. I have no time for this, just schedule my appt! I don't think I'll ever get used to coming to a hospital every other week, making appts for scans, being checked out by a doctor and getting my blood drawn. I thought it would be no biggie by now, but it still feels surreal. Like, am I really in the oncology wing? So weird.

I would love to say that I am working on my patience as I know its probably not good for my stress level, but that would be a flat out lie. Because I'm sitting in chemo now, waiting for the last drug to finish dripping and I'm already thinking about how long I've been here. Relax, release, breatheeeeeeee....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Wishes and Birthday Dreams







My 27th birthday wasn't as painful as I thought (although I did find myself waking up at the unGodly hour of 9:30am one morning which to me is a surefire sign of age). But in fact my whole weekend was really good. Ross and I hit up a Halloween party Saturday night and I dressed up as a leopard and he was a safari hunter...AKA "Indiana Jenkins"...lol! I thought the couple theme was nice since last time we tried it (at my 24th bday party where I forced all my friends to wear costumes), I was Beyonce and Ross was Jay Z but he didn't wear his Yankees hat so he just looked like a guy in a blazer and jeans. However this time our outfits were a hit, the night was fun and it ended at a Pittsburgh diner with lots of good food.

We also saw the Michael Jackson "This Is It" movie and it was a-maz-ing! I sang along with MJ. I received great gifts (thanks Mommie/Daddy/Ross), Ross cooked me dinner (isn't he the best?!) and we ate a yummy chocolate birthday cake.

At one point I ran into Barnes &Noble and bought 2 books: Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, this sort of life-with-cancer survival guide and the Anti-Bride Wedding Planner (thanks Eboni for the rec!), a really cute wedding planner guide. If someone had told me that on my 27th birthday I would be buying a book about cancer AND a wedding planning book, I'd probably say, "Say what??" but that's what my life is right now...this weird dichotomy of disease and love. It's kinda crazy.

Next up...part 1 of cycle 4. I'm soo glad a chemo treatment didn't fall on my birthday weekend, that was such a blessing. I told Ross I actually felt like a "normal" girl because I allowed myself to flat iron my hair (I try to stay away from using heat on it), dress up, go out and not think about cancer for a night...simple things but they made me happy. However, maybe I should stop using that word because the Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips book says, "Normal--why would you want to be that?" which made me think, "Hell yeah, I'm not just normal, I'm fabulous!" LOL.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

27 Birthday Candles


One week from today I'll turn 27. Yep that's right, Nov 1st is the big day if you are reading this and you forgot (shame on you!) mark your calendar immediately :)


Birthdays have always been a big deal for me, whether its my day or someone elses' day, its the perfect opportunity to celebrate you! I'm all about a big party and a big celebration. Ever since I could remember I've been anticipating the next birthday and getting older and moving on to the next phase in my life:


4th birthday: My last birthday as an only child...my little brother Garrett showed up a few months later!

10th birthday: Hit double digits! A big deal. Plus a double b-day swimming party with my friend Nichelle!

13th birthday: Finally became a teenager. Had a sleepover party at my house.

16th birthday: Dinner and a movie...I was just soo grownup

18th birthday: Legally an adult!

21st birthday: Finally able to use my real ID at a bar!


My mother used to always say "don't wish your life away" when I would complain about wanting to grow up and once I was in my twenties I think I got it. When I was a little girl I was always obsessed with becoming a "woman" and being a grown-up. However, when I turned 25 my friends and I laughed about it being all downhill from here...I know, so dramatic...but it just seemed that the twenties were the fun, youthful times of your life and as you near 30 you have to actually be an adult. Instead of being excited about the next phase in my life, each year since 25 I've started to dread it. As I look to turning 27, all I can think is "3 more years till 30...ugh!!" and 30 just seemed so...old (to my 30-plus readers, you're not old, I'm just crazy).


Yet, this birthday is a little different. As it gets closer to November, I felt the had the same "ugh I don't want to turn 27" feeling that I had before my 26th birthday, and I feel like I had to remind myself that so many Cancer patients hope and wish they had another birthday to look forward to. The American Cancer Society's new campaign is "Creating a world with more birthdays" and when I saw their ad in the subway, I was thought, "who am I to not want to get older? I should be happy to turn another year older!" The purpose of the campaign is to raise money to find a cure for Cancer, thus allowing more people around the world to celebrate more birthdays. So this made me I feel little silly about dreading turning another year older.


This year I'll be heading to Pittsburgh to spend the big day with Ross. I've always considered my birthday the kickoff of the holiday season, plus its the day after Halloween so its usually filled with candy AND cake so that makes it extra special. Logically I know 27 is just another year and doesn't mean that I'm getting old (when I tease Ross about getting old, he just says he's getting better) and I am moving to a new phase of my life...Cancer fighter and wife-to-be so I'm trying to keep that in mind.


Someone just remind me of this post when I'm 29 turning 30...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's just HAIR, it will grow back...


Ok, so these are words to NEVER say to someone who is just diagnosed with Cancer and worried about losing their hair. They know that hair grows back, they know its just temporary, but that doesn't make it any easier. Because when it comes down to it, for some people it's not "just hair" it's what you see in the mirror everyday and it's part of you that is snatched away at a time when you're already feeling sick and vulnerable and it's just not fair. I was that person who got angry if my hairdresser cut more than 2 inches off my hair when I just asked for a trim. And in college I went through a phase when I dyed my hair blonder and blonder until it broke off in my hand and I was left with no hair on the front of my head. So faced with the prospect of being bald, I knew it was something that would be very hard for me to deal with.


I've been scared to write about my hair thus far because I don't want to jinx myself. It may seem silly to worry about a jinx but I had no idea what I would look like at this point in my treatment and I've been pleasantly surprised to see that I look like....me! So I don't want to mess up a good thing. Don't get me wrong, I am losing hair. A lot of it. The photo above is about how much hair I lose a night (Sorry if this pic looks gross but its real!). Every night I go through my hair regime of applying Nioxin follicle booster and scalp therapy and moisturize my scalp so it stays conditioned. My hair sheds in the normal way but I just lose much more than I did pre-chemo. It just comes out in my hand when I brush it. It's scary to lose this much hair everyday and it makes me sad, but the silver lining is that when I look in the mirror I can't really tell the difference so I try to keep that in mind.


It's funny, right after I was diagnosed I scoured the Internet for tips on how to keep my hair. I found a couple of websites where people who had not lost all their hair during chemo were concerned that this meant the chemo wasn't working. I remember reading that and thinking, "heck no, if that was me, I'd be thrilled that I still had my hair!" But now that I'm almost halfway through chemo and still have my hair, I find myself thinking, "Oh my God, is the chemo working???" instead of being happy that I still have hair. You have the classic image of a Cancer patient in your head and when you don't look like that you feel like something is wrong. I don't know why I still have my hair, part of me thinks that God was tired of hearing my "please don't let me lose my hair" prayers and decided to cut me a break and let me keep it for a while...lol. I do have to remind myself that I am only halfway through, I still have 3 more cycles to finish (ugh, I feel like I've been getting chemo foreverrrrrrr) so I have no idea what's going to happen. At least I have a fabulous wig just in case :)


The other thing about hair is that I'm a black woman. And we have years and years of issues with hair. Chris Rock touched on it in his new movie Good Hair, but our hair means so much to us because we spend sooo much time on it. Pre-chemo I chemically relaxed my hair every 6-8 weeks. Once I found out that I would have to go through chemo I decided to stop relaxing it but this means that I now have to deal with lovely "new growth" or unprocessed, natural hair at my roots. I was religious about getting my hair blown out straight so this unrelaxed hair at my roots drives me crazy. Unfortunately it's just something I'll have to get used to because even after chemo I'll have to wait a significant amount of time before I can use chemicals again. I was surprised and frustrated to find that I couldn't find anything online about African-American women dealing with chemo and hair loss. Our hair is so fragile and prone to breakage that I was looking for a little guidance. And believe me I searched and searched! This experience has made me become quite an experimenter (is that a word?) so now that I know there's a lack of information in the area, maybe I'll write a book when this is all done!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cancer Paranoia

I have a problem. I have this slight, but scary fear that I will get another kind of Cancer. I don't know why but from the beginning I have always felt that I would beat the Hodgkin's and be fine. I was honestly more concerned about the prospect of losing my hair than I was about the disease itself. I think its because Hodgkin's has such a high cure rate and all the doctors I spoke to seemed so confident that I would beat it.....so I just have this sense of calm that everything is going to be ok and I will get through this....not that it won't be hard (and it has!), but in the end it will be ok. It's similar to the way I felt before I heard my diagnosis, I knew something was wrong, I just felt it and I was so scared. But once I was diagnosed and had a method for fighting it I felt more confident.

However, I do have this fear that something else could happen. I know its not a healthy way to think, but it really disturbed me that I had no idea my cells were mutating and Cancer was forming in my body, so isn't it plausible it could happen somewhere else? I hate to even put those thoughts into the universe, but it seems like Cancer is everywhere I look. I work at a women's magazine and we constantly feature articles about knowing your risks for breast and cervical cancer. Especially now that its Breast Cancer Awareness month, I see pink and ribbons everywhere so its a constant reminder that my life is forever changed by this disease. And don't get me started on ovarian cancer...it has become my biggest fear now because they call it the silent killer since the symptoms are hard to pinpoint and only 20% of women diagnose it early enough. And I've always been paranoid about skin cancer for some reason. I always felt so many black women thought they couldn't get it so they didn't wear sunscreen, but I always have lathered up with SPF 30 everyday and when my job gave free skin cancer screenings this past summer I was the only one with a darker skin tone that was there. So sometimes it feels like Cancer is on my mind 24/7.

I have this urge to write down all the symptoms to every kind of Cancer out there so I know them and can be aware of them and tell my friends and family about them too. But is that anyway to live?? No.

I'm sure I'm more aware of it now, but Cancer is in the media almost everyday. I cried a few weeks ago while reading a profile of Patrick Swayze and his struggle with pancreatic Cancer. And I was deeply troubled to read that one of the winners of the Survivor TV show, Ethan Zohn, who was diagnosed with a rare form of Hodgkin's in May had relapsed. I read about Ethan right after he was first diagnosed (and before I was diagnosed) and when I read his story I felt chills, because it sounded so similar to me. Then while waiting for the results from my lymph node biopsy I read another story in a magazine about Ethan's journey during chemo. A month later I found out that I had Cancer too. And now his Cancer is back. I know these instances are pure coincidence, but I cried my eyes out when I read Ethan's Cancer was back. He was training for the New York Marathon and in remission and all of a sudden he was back in the Cancer trenches. It just sucks because stories like that are so devastating. He has a different form of Hodgkin's that I have but its still a scary reality of this disease. Life is funny that way, connecting you to people you don't even know.

I think I would be scared even if I didn't have Cancer, just seeing whats possible, but I'm even more scared now because I know its real. Anyone can get Cancer, you can be the healthiest person on earth, eat right, work out, don't smoke or drink and your cells could decide to mutate and the kicker is that the doctors just don't know why!! Yikes. What's a girl to do??

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Weight a minute!!

I'm feeling much better since my last post...the intense pains are finally gone! I still have some slight pain in my stomach but nothing like what I experienced this past weekend. I'm still taking every medicine in the world to keep my symptoms at bay and I hope it works!

So while I was suffering in pain I was unable to eat (yes my cockiness about still having an appetite came back to bite me in the butt) and I simply had no need for food. This was almost as concerning as the pain because I love to eat! It was one of the few times I actually felt like a real Cancer patient because I just couldn't force myself to eat and I know this sounds crazy, but after 3 days of only sips of chicken broth, I felt like my jeans were falling off of me so it made me start to think about my weight and how I felt like I looked sickly. Now like many women, I've obsessed over my weight through the years, I've tried every diet out there and worked out intensely all in the hope that I will be...I don't even know because who ever feels like they're perfect? And I have to admit, with the diagnosis of HL, I thought, well the silver lining is that at least I can lose those last few pounds I'm convinced I need to lose (sad but true...the only reason I feel ok admitting this on the Internet because I've read other blogs where people admit the same thing!) because that's what happens when you have Cancer, you lose weight, right? Well, it depends. It does happen for some people, who are extremely sick and nauseous and unable to hold down food. But for others, the discomfort in the stomach leads them to turn to comfort foods...grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, bread, bread and more bread. So that's not exactly great for the waistline or healthy all the time. I've combed through many message boards and read about people who are now Cancer free, yet 20-40 pounds heavier because of their diet during treatment. Crazy right? Who expects to be dealing with a weight problem after fighting Cancer.

Once I heard that this was a possibility, I was determined that this couldn't happen to me, after all I do have a wedding dress to fit into one day (June 2011!) and I can't just let myself go. When you're getting weighed weekly in a hospital in front of a bunch of people you can't help but be aware of your weight and how big or little you are. Especially when the nurses shout your weight out loud in front of everyone! I'm like, "shhhh! excccccuse me!" It seems like a strange thing to worry about when you're about to go into chemo to kill the Cancer in your blood, but I'm a woman, I can't help it!

My doctor said I could continue to work out as long as I felt ok and I could eat mostly everything except sushi. I also have to be really careful about cutting off all the skin on fruits and veggies so I don't ingest any of the pesticides since my immune system is so fragile. For obvious reasons the doctors don't want you to lose a lot of weight so you can be healthy enough to fight the disease. I've fluctuated a little bit but haven't really lost more than 5 pounds. However, about 2 years ago, I became more healthy, started working out consistently and ate more salads and fruits then I probably ever had in my life...and as a result I lost a significant amount of weight. So when people saw me, they often commented on it. Recently I saw a friend who I hadn't seen in a while and she was aware of my diagnosis and said, "oh you do look thin", now me being me, I almost said, "thanks! yeah I've been working out a lot..." and then I realized, "no dummy you have Cancer, she probably didn't mean that as a compliment!", so I had to change my response to, "oh yeah, it happens sometimes". LOL. It's hard because we're so conditioned to want to be thin and fit and even with Cancer looming over my head, my usual vain self only hears "oh you look thin" and immediately thinks its a good thing.

It's a daily struggle to be healthy and not obsess about my weight, but its sooo hard!! The first time I was really sick, the thought of eating a salad really turned my stomach so fries were definitely more appealing. I've definitely had a few "why me, I feel sorry for myself" moments and a cheeseburger and fries have made me feel better. Now with this acid reflux thing, I have to be even more careful with the greasy, fatty foods...I CANNOT go through that again!

I'm still working out, I take spin and kickboxing classes and lift weights, I've even started taking yoga with my friend Kristin. It feels good to look in the mirror and see my "gun show" on my arms...lol...and it makes me feel strong and empowered as I fight this disease. I can't believe that a year ago as I was getting stronger, Cancer was mutating my cells. It goes to show there's no rhyme or reason for this disease. But, I truly believe that being healthy to start with has helped me have less symptoms and will help me in my journey to remission. I want (and need) to be just as strong in 6 months as I am now.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pain, pain go away...


Argh. I'm in pain. Serious pain as I write this. Wednesday night I was woken up each hour by throbbing pain in my stomach and chest. This would be concerning no matter what but as a Cancer patient I tend to live on the side of paranoia where if my fingernail breaks for no reason, I'm like, "oh no, its the Cancer!" So I made an appt with my doctor where I was told that it possibly had nothing to do with the chemo and the Cancer and was probably acid reflux or heartburn. I was ultra confused because I've never had either and when I think of acid reflux I think of Ashlee Simpson lip synching at SNL and blaming her lack of performance on her acid reflux. So I thought it was something in your throat area that caused you not to be able to talk or sing? And although I'm not the best singer in the world, I do think I could hit a note right now even with my pains. But it turns out it could be that there's too much acid in my stomach causing it to freak out and put me in excruciating pain.


Now the nausea sucked. Big Time. But it passes and then I'm back to being my normal self. However, this acid reflux stuff threw me for a loop because It.Wont.Go.Away! I try to sleep, it bothers me. I try to sit at my desk and do work, it bothers me. I wanted to work out last night and the acid reflux laughed in my face....or my stomach I guess. So instead I came home where I tried to distract myself with the latest US Weekly and the possibility that Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel broke up (which I don't believe by the way! they are so cute together) but it didn't work. So I called my Doctor friend Kamilla who has been the recipient of many calls that start with, "I'm having this weird pain..." ever since she finished med school. Hey, who wouldn't want free health care advice! Health insurance is expensive! Thanks Kamilla :) She told me that the Nexium, the medication I have for the acid reflux, could take a few days to work. WHAT?? oh no, I couldn't wait that long so I went to my local Rite Aid and spoke to the pharmacist, told her I have been taking Nexium but I need immediate relief. Like. Right NOW. And she told me without hesitation that I should take some Pepcid AC. Her confidence made me feel like Pepcid AC would be my savior. So I eagerly popped a pill and waited for the magic to happen. When it didn't after an hr, I called Ross in tears asking him to somehow make it better...from Pittsburgh. He looked up Pepcid AC online and it said it could take up to 2 hrs to work...what is with these acid reflux meds?? I'm in pain people, I need results ASAP!


Luckily, I was distracted for an hr or so while I went to pick up my friend Nichelle who came in town for the weekend. As I walked through the streets of Harlem I was more concerned with brushing off guys who's intro line was "Hey Ma!" then I was about my stomach. Whatever, I'll take any distraction that works. So after Nichelle and I came back to my house, the pain set in again. I don't know, I wonder if it's a mind thing at this point. I made a few trips to the bathroom (TMI I know, but it happened) but no relief. We called Nichelle's mom who is a doctor as well and I also called the doctor on-call at my hospital to get some additional advice. I finally decided to go to bed in the hopes I would sleep thru the night. Unfortunately I didn't. But at 5am when I woke up, I felt normal, no pain! It came back about 30 min later but not as strong. I just took some more meds in the hopes they can get me thru the day. As I was laying on my bed I looked at my "wall of fame" where I've placed all my get well cards and read some of the words..."Thinking of you" "You're in my thoughts and prayer", " Today may be a mountain but you were born to climb", I'm trying to take all those positive thoughts and aim them towards my stomach to get me through this. I'm upset because normally after a treatment I'm fine by Friday and with Nichelle here and my friend Eboni on her way to visit as well, I really expected to be in tip top shape to have a fun weekend.


Ironically enough, writing this post has made me feel better..slightly. So I'm praying it gets better throughout the day. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My mommie and me


My mom came into town this past weekend to go with me to my 4th chemo treatment...which means 2 cycles down! Yes! Die Cancer Cells Die! High fives all around.




The thing that bums me out a little bit is the the fact that my doctor told me a few weeks ago that he thinks after my first 4 initial cycles of chemo, I should have 2 more. Umm, what?? I had just wrapped my head around 4 cycles, plotted it on my calendar and determined that the last one would take place right before Thanksgiving which is perfect because I love the holidays. (Seriously, Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas" is on my ipod 24/7...it just makes me happy). So as you can imagine I was really upset at the idea of more chemo and more nausea and more feeling crappy (and my hair, but more on that later). He said the option is up to me, but the alternative is radiation. Radiation scares me b/c of the possible risk of breast cancer and lung cancer 10 years from now...yes Cancer treatment can begat more Cancer because of the localized treatment...I swear it just makes you wanna scream! So even though chemo sucks it does seem to be the lesser of two evils, so we shall see.

For this treatment it was good to have my mom there and my friend Kamilla's mom Lorna came too (and she brought me plenty of ginger tea and ginger candy!). Things were running a little slow in the chemo infusion suite this time since they were kind of busy with a lot of patients. Thus, my mom and I were a little annoyed because we wanted to get started...well ok, and we were worried about being late to our massage appts that were later that evening. I was tempted to tell one of the nurses, "ok I've done this before, somebody get me an IV stat and lets get this show on the road!" Finally after what felt like forever, the fun began (lol) and we were done in time for our fabulous massages at Exhale Spa. A-MA-ZING. Just what I needed after being in the hospital for 4 hours...actually I've decided I need to hit up a spa after every treatment, you know just to ease my nerves...for medicinal purposes...Daddy are you reading this? :)

After our massages we had a great dinner where I ate too much (I've discovered my chemo loss of appetite only seemed to last one day...kind of a bummer since I have the problem of eating too much on most days) and then we watched the movie Fame. The next day we went to this great shoe event and bought designer shoes for $50 (Mine are purple suede Sergio Rossi pumps and my mom got a pair of Botkier gold pumps--I love New York!) We had dinner with a group of my friends Sat night and enjoyed some good ol' fashioned girl time and of course being fabulous!

It was great to spend time with my mom, although I was a bit nervous trying to make sure that my apartment was clean enough for her standards :) But she was a great house guest, so she's welcome back anytime.

As for how I'm feeling, its up and down. Today was worse than yesterday and I find that if I don't think about it, I feel much better and when I think about it, I instantly feel sick...it's weird how the mind works. I'm just happy that September is coming to a close and its almost October, that means I'm one step further to the finish line!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It's nothing a little celeb sighting couldnt fix...



Well its a week later and I made it through the 3rd round of chemo feeling pretty good all weekend long. This round was vastly different from the last one and I'm so grateful. Part of the reason I felt so good was that I had my celeb fix as a seatfiller at the MTV Video Music Awards! My roommate Renee works at MTV and she got me into the awards show and I was really excited because I had the chance to sit near Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo, Chace Crawford from Gossip Girl, Lady Gaga, Joe and Jermaine Jackson and the ultimate...Ms. Beyonce herself! Seatfillers are those people who fill the seats at award shows to make it look full, they also sit in the seat of a celeb when they get up to perform or win an award.

Here's how being a seatfiller works: you get dressed up really cute because you might be on TV! (however walking to the subway at 4pm on a Sunday afternoon wearing leather leggings does make you feel a little...inappropriate). Then you wait in a really long line to go in a hot room with a bunch of other inappriopriately dressed seatfillers (sequins, heavy eyeliner, tight shirts, everything you could imagine). Finally after you are patted down by security to make sure you're not a crazy stalker, you are ushered into Radio City Music Hall to sit in the front of the theater. The production staff explains the rules: you only move during the commercial breaks and you go where the staff tells you to sit and if you happen to sit next to a celeb, DO NOT talk to them (hmm I thought, I'm sure Beyonce wont mind if I ask her where her wig is from). So I sat with the seatfillers for the 1st part of the show where I almost missed Kanye jumping on stage because I thought it was a joke. During the 1st commercial break I was moved to the middle of the theater where I sat right behind Jermaine Jackson and right in front of all the girls from The Hills. I have no idea what happened during the show at that time because I was simultaneously trying to eavesdrop on Lauren Conrad's conversation behind me and figure out what product Jermaine uses on his hair to make it look so....greasy. And his skin up close? Awful.  But I digress...

My joy of scoring such a great seat quickly came to an end when this guy who wasn't famous (uh 'scuse me, who are you?) came back to get his seat. So back to the seatfillers section I went. Luckily I snuck to the front of the crowd and was chosen to move to a seat 3 rows from the stage! Ne-Yo was right behind me and J.Lo and Marc Anthony were in the row in front of me. Can we talk about how un-bootylicious J.Lo looked? She was tiny in person which was very disheartening to see because if she looks bigger on TV than how was I going to look?? (because of course, I expected to make it on TV...and believe me I tried). Actually most people with the exception of Alicia Keys who looked normal were much tiner in person. 

My new seat was great because I had an amazing view of the stage and for some reason no-one ever came to get their seat so I stayed there for the whole show! They moved the celebs around when they won different awards and at one point I saw Beyonce's dad sitting in the front row, 2 rows away from me. Beyonce had just performed so I knew she would be coming to sit down soon.  And then it happened, she walked by, said hi to Ne-Yo and sat down in the front row. We sat in the same section, so that means we were practically sitting together...ha!

It was a fun experience.  I didn't get to actually speak to Beyonce but I was looking in People magazine a few days ago and there is a picture of her and Lady Gaga at the VMAs and I swear I see my head right behind Beyonce's weave! I remember when the picture was being taken and I tried to make myself taller to get in it...check it out above. I took a few other pics on my camera phone, they weren't the best but I tried to document it somewhat.  Sadly I didn't see myself on TV but thats ok cuz I was there, looking fabulous of course!


Friday, September 11, 2009

Whew-hoo!


So chemo #3 was today (well technically yesterday seeing how its past 1am now) and it definitely went better than the last one. Yea for chemo #3! I of course had my team with me...my aunt Harriet and my aunt Michelle came with me and we had a good 'ol time in the chemo suite. Ross called me during the treatment and said, "you always have a entourage during chemo" and I'm like, "Of course! I need to make an event of this!" So the "A", "B" and "V" drugs went smoothly. The "D" drug (the one that takes an hour to receive) hurt a little bit at first but my nurse adjusted it and it felt much better so no more pain after that.

My aunt Harriet asked me how I decided to update my blog and I said that the moments that I want to document just come to me and I basically write them in my head before I head to the computer. I didn't think I was going to write today because I didn't really feel like I had much to say, but I was on my way out to dinner with friends tonight, and as I was getting ready, dancing in my room to Michael Jackson's greatest hits CD (RIP MJ, I was supposed to marry you---until I met Ross that is) I realized, "Hey I had chemo today and I feel good, whew-hoo!" so I felt that I need to document this feeling now in case the next few days get a little not-so-whew-hoo.

My mother reminded me to try and think positive thoughts (and drink lots of green tea and eat lots of ginger-thanks Mommie!) as I headed into my 3rd treatment and I admit it was hard at first. I was feeling a little down at the beginning of this week and I think it was the dred of having to go through the experience of feeling sick and gross again (hey, didn't I just do this??) and that's not really a picker upper. But I tried to get a hold of myself by doing things I would normally do if I lived in a Cancer-free world. So it's Fashion Week in NYC and my friend Chandra invited me to a show on Thursday night. Now us being us, we lagged around at Chandra's office too long and missed the show (made it just in time to see people walking away with gift bags--darn!) but it was also Fashion's Night Out, so we hit a few fashion parties afterwards, met some interesting characters, saw Brad and Taylor from The Rachel Zoe Project and had a really good time. Tonight I had dinner with a group of women that my friend Sherry put together, it was a good night of female bonding and yummy BBQ food (yep, the appetite is still intact...Virgil's BBQ hit the spot).


So I feel like I needed to write these moments down, both in my personal journal and on my blog. Times like this prove that that I didn't let Cancer stand in the way of living my life. Times like this show me that I need to look back on them and say yeah, I can do this! I can push thru the hurt, the scaredness, the nausea, the frustration, and the complete, utter and overwhelming fear to just be me. Whew-hoo!


P.S. The pic above is of me posing before my night out, gotta strut it while I can!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Green with envy...



I've shared with some of my friends about my struggle with jealousy as I continue on my journey to be Cancer-free. Jealous of what? Everyone and everything. After I first got diagnosed I found myself becoming jealous of random strangers walking down the streets, my friends and family, and even actors on TV shows. I was convinced that everyone else's life was so easy...even if they were dealing with an issue at work, a problem with a boyfriend or a conflict somewhere else in their lives, they still didn't have to worry about Cancer so those things seemed so trivial to me. They could just bop along in life, healthy and carefree. "That used to be be me!", I think sometimes when I see a group of girls shopping on a sunny afternoon and just enjoying life. It's hard but I have to remind myself that to an outsider, I AM that girl who's strutting down the street without a care in the world...I don't look sick so someone dealing with their own serious issues could think that my life is so easy. So I'm trying to keep it all in perspective because I don't know what the next person is dealing with. It really stinks that right now my life is filled with chemo and needles and nausea, but its also filled with love and friends and wedding planning, so I do have plenty to be happy about.

I'm also happy that I'm feeling pretty good now. My nausea slowed down by Thursday and I've been feeling like the same ol' me the past few days. I do have this funky thing where the meds are irritating the veins in my "chemo arm" and it kinda hurts on and off throughout the day. But I'll take pain in the arm over nausea any day!

Labor day weekend was just what I needed after a nausea-filled week. Ross came to visit and we spent the weekend hanging with friends and talking about the future so it was so nice to have that time with him. I miss him already but I feel better looking at pics of us like the one above of us showing off our beach bodies at the Vineyard (sexy aren't we? ha!) to remember the fun times we have together. Next up, chemo #3...gotta keep the eye on the prize!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Oh, that's right I do have Cancer




I think I was hit with the reality stick this past weekend. Up until this point I've been feeling pretty good, snapping my fingers, smiling, two-steppin' and all that jazz to the tune of Cancer. "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down" by Puff Daddy and Mase (yes, circa 1997) was my theme song. Then my body said, "uh wait Missy you do have Cancer and you will feel bad some days." I had my 2nd treatment of chemo on Friday and it hit me a little harder than I had hoped. My parents were in town and I think it was really hard for them to actually see me in the hospital, let alone on the oncology floor receiving poisonous drugs in my veins. I can only imagine how it must feel to have a child go through something as scary as Cancer and I wanted to show them that I was ok, I can do this and be fine. And I really was at first. My aunt Ethelyn and my roommate Tiffany also joined me and we laughed, joked and of course had a few photo opps (see above). My mother and I even did a little wedding planning on the side--passed hors d'oeuvres vs. hors d'oeuvres stations, so many choices! I was so busy running my mouth that I didn't realize the nurse had already given me the first 3 drugs, she had to show me the empty bottles to prove it to me. But the 4th drug took a little longer than expected, there was some pain as it flowed into my system so the nurse had to keep adjusting it and I kept thinking, "wait, I'm not supposed to feel pain! I didn't sign up for this" There was a part of me that thought I would be the "straight A" cancer patient...you know, the one that got through this whole ordeal with no pain or discomfort...ha! But the reality is that pain and discomfort kind of go hand in hand with the chemo, so it is what it is.

On Friday night I felt fine. Then Sat I went to my best friend's house for a BBQ and ate much more than I should have, still no nausea though! My cockiness was shut down on Sunday when everything hit me. The nausea feels a little like the morning after drinking too many cocktails...not that I ever have personally experienced that :)...but it never goes away no matter what you do. Then my mouth and ears started to hurt...the chemo attacks all the fast acting cells in your body and your mouth contains many of these, hence the hurting. I have this weird feeling in my mouth that I can only describe as "spicy" and I am NOT a fan of spiciness (I have a very bland palate) so this isnt fun for me. So on Sunday I kept it low-key, I hung out with my Mommie and Daddy (yes I'm 26 years old and I still call my parents that...I tried to stop in high school but to no avail, they're even listed in my phone under those names) and I admit I didnt want them to leave the next day because at a time like this you really just want your Mommie and Daddy right? But I sucked it up and tried to go about my normal routine because I think thats the one thing that will bring me through this whole ordeal...normalness. I need to feel like I haven't succumbed to this disease and I didnt let it get the best of me. Monday was bad, Tuesday was better and today I'm maybe at 85%.

I think one thing that has helped me get through this process is the love and support I have received from so many people. On Monday night when I was feeling especially sorry for myself (pity party for one please!) I got about 4 cards in the mail and it was so good to know that people were out there praying for me and wishing me the best. What I have to keep in mind is that it could always be worse. I've read of people literally disabled by the side effects of chemo and unable to go to work, walk down the street or do anything. I do know that I am lucky and reality is I don't have a choice so I have to do my best to get through it. So I've decided I need a new theme song, hmm...something by Beyonce perhaps?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Keep 'em coming

As I mentally prepare for Chemo Treatment #2, I think about all the other times I've been to the hospital recently. Up until my initial lymph node surgery, I think I had been in a hospital like 3 times and the only time I was actually the patient was when I was being born. Honestly, hospitals kind of freaked me out, they smell funny and I swear they don't seem clean. I know, I know, it's a hospital and it's supposed to be completely sterile but they just seem scary and lets be honest, there are sick people there! But now that I'm one of those sick people, I have to change my perception and think of the hospital as my gateway to a cure. It must become a happy place for me, although I must admit my happiest moments are when I'm walking out, putting on my sunglasses, turning on my ipod and pretending like it never happened. One of the scariest parts of chemo is just walking to the hospital and taking the elevator to the oncology floor...I always want to go to the Birthing Center instead which happens to be on the same floor. Screaming newborns vs scary needles? I pick door number 1 please.

However, one thing that I do like about the hospital is that everyone is so complimentary there! I don't know if its a tactic that the nurses and doctors use to make patients feel better or they're being truthful, but I'll take it! The last few times I've been there, I was complimented on my shoes 3 times, my dress, my necklace, and one receptionist even told me that I look like a model! Who me? Noooo, stop it! I wonder if the compliments are a distraction technique so I don't notice the needle coming at my vein (hey it works!), but I've never turned down a compliment before, so I say, keep 'em coming people! Hey, further down the road I really might need some boosts to my self-esteem, so note to people with friends/family who have cancer...any compliment is definitely appreciated, whether it's about their smile, their shoes or their new engagement ring (wink wink).

So I've decided, from here on out, the hospital is my catwalk. Yes, Roosevelt Hospital, I am coming correct every time, head to toe with my best outfits. The last time I was getting a heart scan I was too busy thinking about how cute my new shoes look that I forgot to be scared (I could see them as I was laying down on the platform). I figure I can be sick (not for long!) on the inside but look good on the outside, so keep 'em coming!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Engaged!!



Yes! It happened on August 22nd in Martha's Vineyard, MA (how fabulous is that? lol). My fiance Ross (still so strange to say fiance as opposed to boyfriend) proposed to me at his parents' house in MV last weekend and it was wonderful. We've been together for 4 years and it's truly a dream come true! Our families have known each other for years since we used to live in New Jersey but Ross and I were introduced when I moved to NYC. Even before my diagnosis, Ross has always been my rock. He's there for me in every way possible--he really does complete me and he's my best friend :) Ok, going to start to cry now...

So here's the story: my parents were in Martha's Vineyard for the weekend as well and they came over to Ross' parents' house to take us out to breakfast on Sat morning. Ross and I walked over to say goodbye to his sister Becca (who runs a blog about life in Chicago's Oak Park, check it out here: http://www.livehereoakpark.com/) and her husband Russell and as we walked away from them Ross asked me what I wanted to do that day. Now I often accuse Ross of not listening to me when I'm talking to him (typical man!) so I had already told him that I wanted to go to the beach and I wanted to eat lobster that day, so when he asked me again I thought to myself, "I told you already!" So I said, "I want to go to the beach and I want to eat lobster" and kept my "I told you already" to myself. Thank goodness I did, because then he took my hand and told me that there was one more thing that we could do that would make this day complete. And then he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him! My vision was blurred at that moment because I started to cry (happy tears for once!) and I was blinded by my new shiny ring (he DOES listen to me...it was just what I wanted!) We hugged and kissed and then I heard a rustling in the woods and I see Russell with his camera taking pictures. The entire moment was captured on film but as soon as I saw the camera I tried to start posing (yes with mascara running down my face) because that's just what I do. The moment was beautiful and romantic and wonderful and I could just go on and on. And both of our families (except my lil bro Garrett--sorry buddy!) were there to witness it. Enjoy the pics above and here on Kodak Gallery. Of course me being me, I hate my hair because the MV humidity was not kind to it--kinda makes me think a wig isn't too bad now!

My friends have always teased me about the fact that I will be Bridezilla when I get engaged and I have to admit, the wheels are spinning. The wedding won't take place until June 2011, but I already have so many elements I've already thought about...note to my father: stop reading now....I want a chocolate fondue fountain, a 6-piece band, a photo booth station, etc....I have to have a fabulous wedding! So stay tuned.

One of the best things about being engaged is that for the last few days I've woken up thinking, "I'm engaged!", rather than, "Ugh, I have cancer". I feel like a fiancee' and not a cancer patient and that's amazing. I've often complained that this has been the worst summer ever because of everything from the mundane...the weather in NYC has been rainy and awful...to the devastating...my grandfather passed away in June and my cancer diagnosis in July. So the summer of 2009 has basically sucked. But now it has a whole new light, a whole new moment...it's the summer I got engaged! And that's what I'll always remember it as.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's a Wig Party!
















I wouldn't be fabulous if I didn't make an event out of buying a wig right? So I decided to invite several of my closest friends in New York join me at Invisiwig (thanks Anique for the recommendation!), the wig store that I choose, for an official wig party. What is a wig party you ask? Well it's something that I think every cancer patient should do to have fun with your friends while picking out that special hair prosthesis (as the insurance company calls it--thanks Oxford!). My original plan was to get a black wig cut shorter to mimic my natural hair, but my BFF Dani convinced me to switch it up and do something a little different, so I settled on one with natural brown highlights and bangs.

It's funny, when I started thinking about my wig purchase, I thought I wanted something that looked like my hair and was pretty natural looking. Meanwhile all my friends thought I would jump at the chance to get something long, blond and diva-ish (aka Beyonce-like), and while I love B, I don't want to look like her everyday. So the brown wig was perfect, it was a bit longer when I first tried it on and I admit, the Diva did come out. I felt like I needed a record deal and a headlining tour ASAP because the look was so dramatic. A ha! This is why people buy wigs, I thought. You instantly transform from regular girl to pop star...all I needed was some big shades and an entourage. I was definitely feeling myself.

However, a long wig was too much for everyday, so after the sales girl applied it to my head with a wig cap and tape, she trimmed it to shoulder-length and styled it. Meanwhile all my friends showed up to give their approval---what do ya know, I do have an entourage! There was even champagne :)

Afterwards, we all went to a nearby restaurant for drinks and dinner where I rocked the new wig and it was definitely a good time. I'm so blessed to have good friends who are supportive of me. Shout outs to Dani, Christa, Jen, Kristin, Mary, Renee, Terri and Tiffany (Chandra, Rose and Kamilla you were missed!) They're here for me in so many ways and what more could you ask for? Especially when they tell me that I look fabulous!

Friday, August 14, 2009

My First Chemo

My first step, my first word, my first job, and now my first chemo...it's crazy to add chemo to the list but like all my other firsts, its something that I will never forget. Surprisingly my first chemo was pretty anticlimactic. I went in at 1pm to start the process and they have to give you a test of the "B" drug (part of the ABVD combo) to make sure you don't have any bad reactions. So I'm sitting there eating M&Ms (yum!) b/c I heard you can get a weird, metallic taste in your mouth and I knew my beloved chocolate would help counter that, and I'm reading my fav tabloid magazines that give me all the celeb dirt I love, and I'm like, "hmmm I don't feel anything, chemo is great! whats all the fuss about?". Then the nurse comes by and I ask if I'm receiving the actual drugs yet and she's like, "no, that's just saline". Oh. Ok I guess I jumped the gun a little bit.

Luckily when she did start the "real stuff" I didn't feel anything then either. The trickiest part is that they tell you to tell them if you feel anything weird, painful, itchy or tingly. But then I get paranoid. Do I feel something? Wait, was that an itch? Ugh, I don't know. It did feel cold, so I told the nurse that and she said that was normal. The sucker was that she gave me the "A" drug next and I had read that was the one that makes your hair fall out. But I resisted the urge to say "oh no, no "A" drug for me" and accepted that this was all part of the treatment. So all went well and I didn't feel any pain or discomfort so that was a major plus. I was able to type on my computer, browse Perez Hilton.com and read some mags. My aunt came by to sit with me and even she was surprised that I seemed fine--there were some sicker looking people in the "infusion suite" (fancy right? they have comfy chairs, wi-fi, candy and TVs) and that was a little discouraging but gotta think positive! Oh, and the hospital has pet therapy where they bring by dogs so I got to sit with the cutest little Yorkie mix named Quincy and he really did make me feel better. So nice!

So when I was done after a few hrs (I tell you hospitals always keep you waiting! Glad I had nowhere to be) I was free to go. Took a cab back to my apt and then made myself a sandwich and chips while I watched an old episode of "The Game" (please BET bring back "The Game"--I love that show!). I did start to feel a twinge of nausea so I took one of the pills but so far so good, I keep telling myself, I'm strong and I can do this...without losing my hair (had to add that in there!). So we shall see!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's spelled H-O-D-G-K-I-N-S

Ok, so I'm the person that can't spell.  I consistently spell "Michael" wrong (does the "e" or the "a" come first?? I can never remember) and I always spell "decision" wrong, so its almost humorous to me that I can't seem to spell my own disease right.  Every single time I'm writing it, I want to leave out the "G"!  I don't know why, it doesn't make sense, but it does make me laugh each time...a little cancer humor, ya know? Spell check is my best friend, it prevents me from sending crazy emails to clients at work, but I think I should learn how to spell Hodgkin's if I want to continue to write about it. So it occurred to me that not everyone may know what HL (abbreviations are sooo much easier than worrying about spelling something) is.  Here's my definition, with help from the internet:

HL is one of two common forms of cancer of the body's lymphatic system.  The lymphatic system is a network of lymph nodes and interconnecting lymph vessels. Lymph nodes are small pea-shaped organs that make and store lymphocytes, a type of white blood cells that fight infection.  In HL, a cancerous tumor develops in a lymph node, usually in the neck or chest.  The disease is characterized by the presence of the Reed-Sternberg cells and as it progresses it may affect the body's ability to fight infection. The disease shows 2 peaks, the first in young adulthood (age 15-35) and the second in those over 55 years. The cause is unknown and its really just the luck of the draw.  Fortunately, it is one of the most treatable forms of cancer and most patients go on to live long, healthy lives. 

Ta da!  And there you go in a nutshell. I feel like I've learned so much in the 3 weeks since my diagnosis, I can only imagine what I'll knowledge I'll have when this is all done. I want to learn anything and everything about this disease and I even try and read my doctor's files when he puts them on the table....knowing I have no idea what half the stuff means!  But if you're more informed, you can make better decisions so thats what I'm aiming for.

You have such a pretty shaped head


My dad said this to me after my 10th million "I don't want to lose my hair" rant and I almost cried. "True, I do have a pretty shaped head" I thought (lol), but I don't want everyone else to see my bald pretty shaped head!! I start my first round of chemo tomorrow and I'm scared. I feel like I'm counting down to the end of my "normal" life and I know its not the right way to think but it really baffles me that for the rest of my life I will be associated with Cancer. Sure, "Cancer Survivor" sounds powerful, amazing and strong, but its never something I ever thought I would have to think about in association with myself. However, it is the hand that I was dealt, so I must attack it head-on.


And speaking of heads, my mission these next few weeks is to hold on to my hair. I have Hodgkin's Lymphoma-Nodular Sclerosing which is the most common and "popular" type (yea me!) and I will be taking the classic chemo cocktail of ABVD which according to Wikipedia is the gold standard for treatment of the disease. Unfortunately ABVD is usually associated with hair loss however I am holding on to the fine print that states, "not all patients will lose their hair, everyone reacts differently to the drugs" so I am hoping that all of my hair won't fall out. I can't kid myself and think that my hair won't be affected, but I do believe that a positive attitude breeds positive outcomes, so I'm going with it. I've done some research and Nioxin hair care creates shampoos and conditioners for thinning hair and has proved to help reduce hair loss during chemo for some people. So you betta believe I have a full box ready to go. I also have my boar bristle brush to reduce breakage when brushing and my Global Goddess oil to moisturize my ends--battle tools ready!! And when all fails I am planning on getting a human hair wig in which I will channel my inner Beyonce--not that I haven't done that before sans wig. Hmmm....actually I have channeled B with a wig as you'll see in the pic above from my 25th bday/Halloween party...I do love me some Beyonce!

So we shall see, I know the odds are against me (about 75% of people do lose their hair) but that means I can be a part of the lucky 25% right? Plus I got a pretty shaped head :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Yes, we have the results....it's Hodgkin's

July 29, 2009....I heard those words and at first I didn't cry. I'm not sure why, for some crazy reason I expected it, I imagined hearing it so many times, but it's never real until your doctor says it to you. Yet, still I wondered, how did this happen to me?? I felt a large swollen lymph node above my collarbone towards the end of May. I had recently been sick with a cold and I knew that your lymph nodes can swell when you're sick, but I still thought it was odd, so I did what you're supposed to do when you don't know something...I google'd it (my first of many googles unfortunately) and I found that swollen lymph nodes could be caused by a multitude of things: strep throat, measles, ear infections, Tuberculosis, Lupus, Leukemia, Lymphoma.

Wait, Wait, Wait, Leukemia and Lymphoma??? That's Cancer (yes with a capital C)!! And being the hypochondriac I am, I automatically assumed I had it. Then I told myself I was crazy, I'm healthy, I try to eat right, yes I probably have the occasional cocktail but I work out and I get a lot of sleep...I'm literally in the best shape of my life right now so I simply can't have Cancer. Yet when I continued to scour the Internet for more info on swollen lymph nodes, I saw that it was often one of the first signs of Hodgkin's and Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Good news...this type of cancer has 90-95% survival rate, bad news, uh its Cancer. So I immediately was freaked out.

I made an appt with a doctor and was told that I needed to have a lymph node biopsy to determine the cause of the swelling. While I waited for the results of the biopsy, I felt a range of emotions. I had moments when I was convinced I had cancer and other moments when I chanted that I was fine. After all I didn't have the other Lymphoma symptoms...fevers, appetite loss (I definitely had a cheeseburger and fries after my surgery), severe weight loss (uh no, see: cheeseburger and fries), and itching. I did however have a few night sweats and that was a cause for concern.

So when I got the actual diagnosis from my doctor, it wasn't completely shocking but it was certainly devastating. And one of the first things I thought of was, "I don't want to lose my hair." I'm not ashamed...I like to look good and I spend time each day "putting on my face" and doing my hair. I joke that I'm vain, but when it comes down to it, the idea of being bald AND without eyebrows AND without eyelashes really freaked me out...as it would most women. My appearance and my style is very much a part of me, sounds a bit shallow but I truly believe if you look good, you feel good so I try to put my best foot forward each day. I'm still trying to wrap my head around this whole thing, but I've determined one thing: I have to stay positive and I have to stay me, and that means beating cancer, while of course staying fabulous:)