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Monday, March 22, 2010

My mother is amazing

And I knew she was before, but this became even more apparent to me over the last few days. She has been my caretaker, my nurse, my friend, my confidante. This past week was my first round of the new chemo and it has been the absolute worst time of my entire life, so I thank God that my mom was here every step of the way to take care of me in any little way possible. She always anticipated my every need, encouraged me to drink or eat when I didn't want to, held my hand when I needed it, and gave me the soothing words I needed to hear. Ross was able to come to town for a couple of days during my treatment and he said that moms just know how to make things better and I'd have to agree.

My new treatment plan consists of 2 rounds of ICE chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. The ICE chemo is 3 different drugs : Ifosfamide, Carboplatin and Etoposide that are given once a day, 3 days in a row. It's a stronger, more aggressive chemo to fight my lymphoma and it's as bad as it sounds. I was hospitalized for 4 days while I was treated and I felt like I was in a whirlwind, I was barely awake and out of it from all the drugs I was given and when I was awake I was nauseous and sick. But the real trouble started when I cam home. I had one good day when I thought things were getting better but then I took a turn for the worse and couldn't get past the nausea and vomiting. My energy level and strength are gone. At those moments you feel so low, so sad, so upset that this is happening to you, there are no words to describe it.

So you can imagine how upset I was when my mom finally had to leave to go back to Charlotte on Monday morning. I didn't want her to see me cry, however I wanted nothing more than to beg her to stay. I just didn't know how I could face feeling like complete crap alone. Ross had to go back to school and I didn't want to bother my friends who all had places to be during the day. Thankfully my mother (typically organized!) reached out to some of her friends who were able to take time off and scheduled someone to be with me everyday at my apartment and take me to the doctor.

I'm still reeling with the side effects of the ICE chemotherapy and this experience has made all the other treatments I went through feel like a cake walk. My sense of smell is ridiculous, I feel like I can smell the sickness in my room and it makes me more sick. I'm incredibly terrified of going through this all again for the 2nd round of ICE and I'm deeply saddened that this is my lot in life, but I know there's a positive light at the end of the tunnel.. I spoke to a survivor of a stem cell transplant today and she gave me the hope that I can get through this. Plus I have my family and friends by my side.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where is the love?

Apparently it's all around me! There is something special about realizing how much you are loved and cared for. Pre-cancer I always cherished my family and friends, but it was more of that unspoken, "you know how I feel about you, no reason to say it." I was never a really mushy, lovey-dovey sort of person. But once I was diagnosed, there is nothing that has touched my heart more than receiving love and support from everyone around me...from close friends to coworkers to friends of friends to members of my parents' church to Ross's family and friends to people I've never even's been incredible to be so loved.

I must admit fighting cancer can be a lonely process, at times you feel like no one understands how it feels, the pain you feel physically and emotionally, the scary thoughts that run through your head at the most inopportune moments, the times when you just want to be anyone other then yourself. It can be extremely overwhelming. And when it happened for the 2nd time, it was extremely heartbreaking. So just to know that people are out there thinking about me, caring for me and praying for me, is very comforting for me and my parents. I know this process has been hard for my parents and I hate seeing them have to go through this as much as I hate that I have to go through it. They can't make my cancer go away and fix it like they want to, yet they've done everything possible to be here for me and help me get through it. And I'm so grateful to their close friends who have supported them as they have been strong for me. I know that for my parents and Ross, it's hard to be in the "caretaker" role, so they need support just as much as I do.

The texts, emails, voice mails, cards, flowers, hugs, smiles...I can never get enough and it really does help my spirit. I have to stay positive and there's nothing more positive than love!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

M.D in training

If I didn't hate biology and chemistry so much, I swear I would want to pursue a Medical Degree after all of this is over. Actually I feel like I deserve an honorary one--shoot, I've put in enough hours in the hospital!

Throughout this process I have tried my best to understand all the medical terms that are thrown around by my doctors and what I see on my charts. I've re-read my scan reports and google'd words on the Internet to try and get a better grasp of what's going on. Even though my doctors have explained the situation to me, I just want to make sure I have all the details. My thirst for medical understanding became a little too apparent when I was trying to eavesdrop on my surgeon and anesthesiologist before my last surgery---they both glanced over at me smiling as they noticed how I almost fell off the bed trying to hear what they were saying about me.

The biggest thing that I've learned is that I was never in remission. From what I understand, remission is something that is achieved once you have been cancer-free for at least 30 days. In fact, I wasn't ever completely cancer free. My scan in November showed that the chemo was working. It was killing the cancer cells in my body and a lot of them had significantly shrunk in size. They weren't totally gone, but they were on their way to being gone. The remaining 2 rounds of chemo were supposed to completely kill the rest but that didn't happen. Thus, I have what is called "Recurrent Hodgkin's Lymphoma", so I had a recurrence, not a relapse. As in any scary, dark situation, I try to find the sliver lining and in this case, I'm glad it happened now. I'm still in the world of hospitals and needles and doctors, so emotionally I think I can deal with staying in that world longer. But if I had been away from it for months, or even years, I think it would be that much more devastating to find myself at the beginning again.

However, I'm not gonna lie, this is hard. I have to embark upon a whole new treatment, a whole new process and it's scary. Basically I will have to receive an aggressive chemo called ICE (sounds scary right?) and then an even more aggressive chemo called BEAM (not as scary sounding) and then a stem cell transplant. A stem cell transplant is where they take out your own blood cells, pluck off the stem cells, freeze them and then give them back to you after you're done with chemo. The whole process should take about 3 months which (silver lining again!) is less than the last time which took 6 months. I have to believe that it's only good news from here on out; only good scan reports, only good blood tests, only good looks on doctor's faces. And I'm sure I will learn even more medical stuff along the way.

So I'm ready to get started because the sooner I start the sooner I finish. I'm trying to believe that if it had to come back, this was the best time for it to come back. So in my mind a recurrence is better than a relapse. But what do I know? As my mom and I joke, we got our MD's at Kmart :)