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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cancerversary


One year ago today I was diagnosed with cancer. It was the worst day of my life, until the day that I found out the cancer didn't go away and I would have to undergo further treatment and a transplant. The picture to the right was taken one week before my diagnosis, I feel so sad when I think about how carefree and happy I was then, and I how I had no idea cancer was growing in my chest.

I've replayed the moment that my life changed so many times in my head, I remember the night before my doctor's appt, praying that I was ok and healthy. I remember what I wore that day...I figured if I dressed up like everything was ok, I couldn't possibly get bad news. I remember going to work that day, trying to pretend like it was a normal day and I was going to be just fine. I remember walking to my doctor's office that afternoon, begging God to save me and give me good news...I remember thinking I couldn't possibly have cancer, that's too crazy. I remember when the words came out of my doctor's mouth that yes, it was Hodgkin's Lymphoma, yes I did have cancer. And I remember crying as I called my parents and Ross from the doctor's office and had to explain to them that I had a life-threatning disease. I remember hearing the pain in my parents' voices as they tried to assure me from thousands of miles away that I would be ok. The pain I felt that day as I struggled to understand what was happening to me is just as real now one year later as it was that day. Although I looked perfectly healthy on the outside, inside I had a horrible disease. And I could have never guessed what this last year would have brought me. So much pain, fear, worry, sleeplessness and introspection. And it's not over. Everyday I learn just how long and hard this process will be.

So I guess it's fitting that today a nurse called me and said, "Don't be alarmed, but....". My heart almost stopped. I've been having problems breathing the last 2 weeks, feeling very short of breath when I walk short or long distances. I went through a myriad of tests this past week to determine what was going on because my doctors weren't sure. They listened to my lungs and didn't hear any fluid but a CT scan I had today showed that there was something abnormal in my lungs. So I have to go back to the hospital tomorrow to have a biopsy so they can see if I have an infection or if its just scarring from the chemotherapy. It's hard not to feel defeated when something like this happens. I would love to be writing that one year later I am rebuilding my body, my mind, my spirit, but I feel like I'm not there yet. Frankly I'm tired. I'm tired of being poked and prodded and giving blood and feeling and looking like a cancer patient. And the irony is that I was supposed to fly home this evening to meet with my wedding planner Heather and start looking at vendors for my wedding. Instead I'm headed back to the hospital. I know there can be a lot of complications with stem cell transplants and I was lucky to not have any big issues while I was hospitalized. Still it's incredibly frustrating to try and find myself again after this process, only to find out that something else is wrong.

I have to have faith that this is part of the larger plan and once again I am grateful that I spoke up to my doctors and told them something was wrong so I can be treated. I did that last year when I had a swollen lymph node on my neck and I thank God everyday that I didn't simply dismiss it, instead I saw a doctor. As bad as it's been, it could have been so much worse if I had ignored it. So I'll continue to be aware of my body and in-tune with what's going on.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Struggling...

I haven't written in a month because I've been in a weird place. I'm beyond thrilled that I'm out of the hospital...I can't even really recollect my hospital experience because at times it makes me feel sick to my stomach. But now that I'm back in the real world, I've found myself struggling. My mind has become a dark place and I'm more scared than ever about the future. As the anniversary of my diagnosis approaches this month, I think about how I felt in the beginning. I was very scared, but the stats and doctors told me that I was going to be ok. But when the first line of treatment didn't cure me, all bets were off. Throughout the 2nd round of treatment, there were certain steps to be taken and my mind was focused on that. Now that I'm done, its watch and wait and this is so hard.

It takes a lot for me to get myself together and go out in the world everyday...and I mean a lot. I try to be my personal cheerleader and put on a normal face but inside I feel like I'm crumbling because my body has gone through so much and my mind has gone through so much yet everyone else's life seems to have stayed the same. Its a hard, long recovery process and I feel like I'm just at the beginning, both physically and mentally. At this point I thought I would feel better but I'm still really tired and don't feel or look like myself. I miss her, the girl who I used to see in the mirror and I'd give anything to get her back. Looking at old pictures is so bittersweet because I look so happy and carefree. I used to run towards a camera because I loved taking pictures, now I run from the camera because I don't want to capture an image of this person I've become who I don't recognize.

Unfortunately this is a process that is hard to understand unless you've been through it yourself, I feel bad for Ross because he has to comfort me almost every other day when I burst into tears out of the blue. Just when I'm off focusing on something else, cancer comes back into the picture, whether its a commercial on TV, an article in a magazine or slipped into a conversation. I marvel at the causal way people mention cancer, but then again I used to do the same thing! Before cancer you know it involves chemo and you lose your hair and you get sick, but you really have no concept of the amount of time spent in the doctors office, the physical pain and the emotional torture unless its happened to you or someone you love. It's a lonely club to belong to, frankly I wish I had never been selected for membership.

I'm hoping to get my "mojo" back soon and get through this hard time in my life. I think once I start to feel better, my mind will follow. But its frustrating because all the side effects from treatment take like a day to happen to you but months for them to go away. And that's the reality.