The three words no one wants to hear. “You have cancer.” The three words that change your life forever. Nothing causes life to go into a complete tailspin faster than receiving a diagnosis that you have cancer.
Six weeks after the birth of my third child, Ashley, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Like so many others who hear those dreaded words, my life flashed before me the moment my doctor said the word cancer. My heart started racing and I didn’t know what to do next-except cry. I remember asking the doctor if I was going to die, and her reply was, “I don’t think so.” Not something you want to hear- ever.
I knew at that moment that I had the fight of my life in front of me and that there was no way I was going to let this beat me. After I returned home from the doctor’s office, and after telling my family, I think I held up better than they did considering; I did the only thing I knew how to do…fight. I didn’t have time to sit and wallow, I was going to find out as much as I could and find a way to get past this. I remember telling my friends, and they didn’t believe me. I was always so healthy. I ate what I thought was healthy; after all, I am a nutritionist. I exercised and took good care of myself. How did this happen to me? As if the diagnosis wasn’t bad enough, the testing was almost as bad. It’s tough having a physical exam being post-partum. I was nursing, although I had to give that up once I had all of my nuclear tests done as I didn’t want poor Ashley glowing in the dark from all of the radiation I was receiving. It was a little embarrassing however when my doctor examined my breasts and breast milk squirted him in the face!
Within a week of receiving the diagnosis I had surgery to remove one of the tumors in my neck, had all of my testing and started chemotherapy. My father and my aunt Hilary were both there for my first treatment. It was an experience I will never forget and we were all in tears when the needle for the IV went into my arm. It was a horrible experience. I received one drug that was red, it was Adriamycin. I still get nauseous to this day when I say it, hear it or write it. I remember going to the bathroom and my urine was the same red color. “That’s the poison that’s going to cure me” I remember saying to myself.
I didn’t really believe that I was really sick until my hair started falling out. THAT was my turning point. I always loved my hair. As a woman I think it often “defines” who we are in some way. When it started coming out in clumps I knew it was time to shave it off. Luckily my kids were young enough that they didn’t really understand what was happening. I would take on and off my wigs and we’d make it a game. Though I must admit, my son Jason, who I am convinced has a six sense, knew that mommy wasn’t herself. Inevitably each Tuesday when I’d come home from chemo feeling nauseous and tired, he would come over to me, grab my hand that was bandaged from where my IV was, and would just sit by me. For no reason in particular, he’d just sit.
I was so very blessed to be surrounded by family and friends who love me. Each week either a friend or a family member would drive me into NY to take me to treatment. I think in some cases it was harder for them to watch the process than it was for me to receive it. Some weeks were harder than others, as chemo is cumulative. Just when I started feeling a little bit better, I’d have to go for treatment again. Those 12 weeks just seemed to drag on forever. I tried to put up a good front, which I think I did pretty well, but I always felt like I was in a funk. I would call it my “chemo cloud.” Somehow you just never feel quite right while you’re on chemo. I did push through and I was determined to continue exercising. I had just finished reading Lance Armstrong’s book and was inspired by him. If I could exercise I thought, I’d be ok. Though radiation was not as bad, I remember crying many times when I was laying on that table. Five minutes never lasted so long. It was during radiation treatments that I found out that my mother had breast cancer, and my grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer a couple of months later.
I don’t know if I could ever thank those people around me; my family and my friends, enough for the love, support and tenderness they provided me during that time. My good friend Amy Farbstein even ran a marathon in Alaska in my honor. How do you thank someone for that?
I am clearly not the same person that I was before I had the cancer. It not only changed me personally but professionally as well. You can read about that journey on my website.
I am one of the lucky ones because I get to write about my experience and get to boast about my success.
I am participating in this relay for life, for those who have not been so lucky.
I relay for those who have succumb to this disease. My friends and my family who were not as lucky as I have been.
I relay for the cure not yet found.
I relay for those who cannot.
Please help me support this cause. Please join my team.
If you cannot participate at the event, please consider a donation. Any amount is appreciated.
Remember I relay so you won’t EVER have to hear those three words—EVER.
I don’t think that I have ever written in such detail the experience that I went through. I talk about it, but somehow writing it down brings back the memories much clearer.