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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Freezing Time

My apartment looks amazing on TV! Lighting is everything 
Thursday, November 1st marks my 30th birthday. And as I approach this milestone birthday, I can't help but feel the same way I have felt for the last three birthdays...shocked and disappointed that I'm celebrating another birthday with cancer. I've been dealing Hodgkin's Lymphoma for so long now, it almost feels normal...except it's totally NOT normal! When I was diagnosed at 26, I expected that by the time I turned 30, this cancer mess would be nothing but a nasty memory. But instead as each year has rolled by I've realized that life (or maybe just my life!) just isn't that simple.

Some people may say that I'm lucky to see 30, considering that I was diagnosed with cancer more than three years ago. And while that is very true, it's also heartbreaking to feel like you will never get away from cancer. I. Am. So. Over. It. All of it! It makes me sick to my stomach to think of how many times I thought, "by this time next year I'll be in remission!" only to reach next year and still be fighting. I know what the alternative is, so of course I'd rather have cancer for 20 years than not be here at all, but with every birthday, every anniversary, every holiday, every New Year's Eve, I always wonder where I will be in my life the following year.

Even though I have done my best to live a positive (and of course fabulous) life despite cancer, some days I can't help wishing that I could go back to 26 and freeze time right before my diagnosis, right before my life was turned upside down and changed forever. So it's ironic that "Freezing Time" is the name of the story that I was featured in tonight on NBC's Nightly News. The story is on ovarian tissue cyropreservation and how this amazing procedure is offering female cancer patients options for having a family after cancer treatment.

I met with Dr. Kutluk Oktay, one of the pioneers in the procedure, in Feb 2010 right after my first relapse. He performed the ovarian tissue cryopreservation surgery in an effort to save my ovarian tissue before my autologous stem cell transplant. In the midst of everything else I was dealing with, removing one ovary for the future seemed pretty simple. Save an ovary, put it on ice, go kill cancer. Done and done. Dr. Oktay said I actually woke up from the surgery smiling! I tend to be very happy after anesthesia, go figure.

I didn't think about my fertility that much for the first two years of cancer treatment. But now, on the cusp of 30, I think about it all the time. More and more I find myself thinking about babies and how/if/when we can start a family. While I am in no rush to have a child right at this moment (and frankly neither is Ross!), it's scary to not know if it's even possible...especially when everyone in the world (or at least on Facebook!) is pregnant. And getting older is only a reminder that I don't have forever. The ovarian tissue procedure is still very new and nothing is guaranteed, so my ovarian tissue may or may not result in a live birth, and in fact I don't even know if I can carry a baby myself, so there are a lot of variables here. But regardless, I'm glad I did it because no matter what happens, it gave me a little spark of hope.

Watch the segment below (Dr. Nancy Synderman said my name! I love her!!):

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Stronger

This video was shared on Facebook and makes me smile (and cry a little bit). A young cancer patient named Megan Kowalewski made this video after she relapsed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and it was shared over 15,000 times on Facebook.

I always loved Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger" but the song becomes even more poignant when the lyrics are applied to the cancer journey. I watched this video at least five times and loved it every time. I love her strength and spirit, and wish I could have been there dancing with her! The only problem is that when my spin instructor plays "Stronger" during spin class, I always think of this video and then tear up a little bit.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Is the Breast the best?

Save the Ta-tas!
Gotta love the branding


Ahhh, it's October AKA Breast Cancer Awareness Month. 

This is the time of year where men and women alike proudly don pink ribbons, pink t-shirts, pink socks and more. Beauty companies roll out their exclusive pink products, NFL players sport pink cleats and wristbands, and the White House is illuminated in pink light for an entire month. Walks and runs are organized, celebrity galas are scheduled, and companies hock products where a small percentage of the revenue goes to breast cancer research. On one hand it's amazing to see the entire country focused on one disease, more information about self breast exams, and increased coverage on survivors. And on the other hand—perhaps I'm just cynical—I can't help wondering where the love will be come November. Will everyone put away their pink ribbons until next year? For the cancer patients who are dealing with the disease everyday it's more than an excuse to dye your hair pink "for the cause," it's the fight for your life and you need support the entire year. 

One thing about me—I'm ultra sensitive when I see or hear the big C-word—which is why I can't watch the Showtime series with the same name and refuse to watch "Breaking Bad" even though I've had the following conversation with several of my friends:

Friend: "It's such a great show! You should definitely watch it!" 
Me: "I can't watch that show, the chemistry teacher has cancer! I get enough of that in real life, that's why I watch 'Real Housewives,' mindless, ridiculous reality TV. No cancer." 
Friend: "Oh, that's right. I totally forgot he has cancer. I think he might be cured now." 
Me: "Grrr, how nice for you that you can forget about cancer."

So October always makes me feel sad because cancer is everywhere. Everywhere

I've found that if I mention offhand to a stranger that I have cancer, automatically they ask, "breast cancer?"  "No," I say back, offended that just because I'm a woman, I have to have breast cancer? I know it's not their fault, breast cancer awareness is a staple in our society…other cancers just don't get the same amount of attention. September is actually Blood Cancer Awareness Month and I had to google that to be sure! What ribbon should I be rocking in September? Ummm….I had to google that too! Because although red is the color of blood (nice image), HIV/AIDS owns the red ribbon, so lymphoma's official color is…wait for it…lime green. Random. I've still seen red and even orange (again, random) ribbons associated with the disease as well. So maybe I'm just bitter that "my disease" doesn't have the same great PR campaign as breast cancer.

But is breast cancer better because it gets more attention, and as a result more money? Let's face it, awareness equals money, money equals research (hopefully, unless you are Susan G. Komen) and research equals drugs, treatment plans and cures. It's hard not to feel overshadowed by breast cancer (I can only imagine how people with very rare cancers feel) and yet, as a woman, I still fear getting the disease myself. As if I don't have enough to worry about…women who receive radiation in the chest (which I haven't received yet, but may in the future) technically have a higher risk of breast cancer. So even though October isn't "my" month, when you have cancer, every month feels like cancer awareness month!