My journey - battling lymphoma

Recently I celebrated my 46th birthday. I love celebrating birthdays! Then I participated as a co-captain for our local "Quabog" Relay For Life and the Pack 57 Rocks! Cub Scout Team. This was the time frame that I had discovered an uneasiness in my stomach and growth in my spleen and stomach. After weeks of monitoring, my husband Steve took me to the doctor who felt the lumps and ordered a CT scan. The CT scan showed a massive area, my spleen enlarged to twice its size and an additional growth lower in my stomach. Next was the localized CT guided biopsy and subsequent PET scan. The biopsy showed positive for lymphoma and most likely Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma.

This is my online journal sharing my experience through battling this cancer that has abruptly entered my life for no apparent reason. The story is documented here if you want to start from the beginning, you can check the archives on the side bar.

As a top competitive master athlete this year winning my age group at the Marine Corps Marathon and placing 3rd in the New England Trail Running Championship I have been truly excited with my results of late and am a truly driven athlete. Driven by goals.... my goal right now.... to beat this "thing"!

Monday, August 23, 2010

ACS - the power of my colleagues & friends

"Where do you work?", I am often asked. Now in the midst of meeting new people, new nurses and doctors my answer is all that much more passionate.  Although to me my work is more of a passion, I answer, " I work for the American Cancer Society"

There is no question of what we do, who we are in this audience. The oncologists, the oncology nurses and health professionals are keenly aware and are very impressed with my affiliation and work with the Society. The American Cancer Society is the largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting cancer.
As the largest voluntary health organizations in the United States, the American Cancer Society is passionately committed to saving lives from cancer. We’re working to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays – a world where cancer never steals another year from anyone’s life. We combine our relentless passion with the wisdom of nearly a century of experience to make this vision a reality, and we get results. We save lives by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures, and fighting back. Thanks to this work, 11 million cancer survivors and countless others who have avoided the disease will celebrate a birthday this year. Read more here about the ACS.

I am so proud of all that I have done in my 15 years plus with the Society and making the trip to Atlanta last December and being recognized on stage for my years of service was one of my proudest moments.  To shake the hands of Dr. John Sefrin our CEO, Greg Bontrager, Terry Music, Otis Brawley and Joe Calhoun -- all the top leaders in our organization was truly an honor.   I boast quite often that it was the COO of the New England Division, Peg Camp, who hired me in my early twenties and who has mentored me through the years -- I value her passion, compassion and leadership and dedication to fighting cancer.  I love this photo of Sue Ann, Peg & I from a New England Relay University.  :)
When I was first diagnosed I reached out to tell Peg of my fate and even though she was on vacation she immediately offered her support and assistance and love.  She was the first to say that she really wished we all that commit to the Society would have a protective shield around us, but it isn't possible.  She has known me for these 16 years and knows how hard I will fight.  Her support means the world to me.

Sue Ann and I met and lead the "Cancer Control at Relay Catalyst" Workgroup back in my days with the New England Division.  We became best friends pretty quick and she has been through a lot of craziness in my life as one of my top supporters.  I don't know what I would do without her friendship.  She is Schuyler's god mother and always there for our family.


Judy Reichling was with Marty on the interview when I was hired for the National Relay Business Unit as a website coordinator and editor of the Relay Tracking.  We have run in every meeting location across the country back in the days I used to travel more.  She is a fellow runner and is always a great motivation!  Her friendship is true and has always been there for me.  Along with Sue Ann, Judy was one of the first people I told about my cancer and she calls me every day just to hear my voice and make sure I am ok :).  You can't ask for a better friend.  This self portrait photo above is her and I in the ER in Kansas City when I was so dehydrated after Boston Marathon 2007 (when I ran a 3:05).   I was peeing blood and she got me into a cab and off to the ER within minutes.  I had a plane to catch later that day to Utah and we had them all jumping to clear me and get me out of there!  :)  We have some crazy stories to tell about all our adventures!

I have some amazing supportive colleagues, the cards keep flowing in my mailbox, flowers to the door and an occaisional Itunes certificate from those who know my addiction to music. :)  I appreciate every singe bit of support --- it strengthens me daily.  Thank you all.

Last year at the All Staff Briefing in Atlanta I was honored to be with 3 of my Employer Initiative colleagues.  Amanda LaKier, Kevin Brunk and Shelley McAllister.  Kevin told his story of surviving cancer, overcoming the odds and a story of strength and success of 25 years of survivorship.  His Relay team this year's goal was to raise 25K because of his incredible milestone.  He is an inspiration to me.  A happy, loving father and dedicated American Cancer Society leader.
Photo:  Shelley, Amanda, ME and Kevin

Shelley MacAllister - colleague from the American Cancer Society -- she has run the QuitLine and is now running her first 1/2 marathon in my honor! In November she is running the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in San Antonio, TX.   It is so amazing to watch her training on daily mile and so happy to be an inspiration to her, knowing all the challenges she herself has faced.  She is incredible and I am so lucky to have met such amazing people through my work with the Society.  Check out the link to her page.  She and her daughter are making friendship bracelets with my favorite color for a small donation if you are interested --- please email her at smacalli@yahoo.com.  

Here is her write up from her fundraising page:

In July, Nancy  was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma.  Watching her process the diagnosis and begin treatment with the grace of a lady and the heart of a champion has been an amazing life lesson for me and everyone around her.  Nancy ’s spirit is just incredible.  She’s still training for the Chicago Marathon in October and is running more than I run right now – in the middle of her chemo treatments!  I’m constantly impressed with her tenacity and confidence.  A mere mortal might curl up in a ball and just wait out the treatment in a fetal position, but not our Wonder Woman!!! 
I’m dedicating my half-marathon in November to Nancy and to every other mom out there right now fighting cancer.  Thank you for your support! 
p.s.  My daughter and I are making friendship bracelets using Nancy 's favorite colors (pink, purple, and black.)  If you'd like one, please email me at smacalli@yahoo.com.  I know so many of us have Nancy  in the forefront of minds right now so I thought it would be nice to have a momento we could wear or hang up near our workspaces as a reminder. 


Along with Jane, Shawn, Kyla, Naomi, Kelli, and many, many others all across the country--- my ACS family rocks! I cherish all of them and am so lucky to have this kind of support.  And this is just the beginning....  as a true ACS staff person --- you are only as successful as your volunteers are strong and the volunteers I work with are number one!  I am truly blessed!

Thanks for stopping by -- please leave a comment! 






3 comments:

Joyce Pemberton said...

Hey Nancy
Love that you shared your support system...you do have some pretty amazing friends! I continue to think of you so very often...at various and odd times during the day and night. The other morning I woke up early and just laid there thinking about you and praying for your continued strength and positive attitude. I look forward to the day I can give you a real hug again!
Joyce

Jane said...

Your ACS family loves you, Nancy, and we will always be there for you! Definitely to celebrate your victory over this toughest marathon of your life!
XO, Jane

Shelley said...

Hey, Nancy -
I'm more than happy to run the half in your honor in November. I don't comment on every post, but I think about you at least once every day. Tomorrow I'll be going on my longest run yet and when I feel like it's getting too hard, you will be in the forefront of my mind. I'll give you all 6 miles tomorrow, okay? Hang in there...

Shelley