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 30, 2010

UTC East Hartford Relay For Life - "I am a survivor!"

Steve and I traveled to East Hartford on Saturday for the United Technologies East Hartford Relay For Life.  This is the second corporate Relay that UTC has hosted, sponsored and provided support in volunteers, location & overall support.  We were able to attend last year's event and take photos & attend the dinner for the survivors and caregivers.  It was an amazing and beautiful celebration.

This year, I have been having a couple slow weeks, recovering from treatment and new side effects with Methatrexate that have just been making me so tired and unmotivated.  I got the great news from Wendy last week that UTC Relay was above goal and raised more than $100K.  Their team numbers are up and we were expecting a great weekend.  Terry, Carson & Turner came to visit to go to a Motocross National Competition in Southwick, MA -- so we headed to the UTC event in the morning as they traveled to the event.

First when we got there I brought Steve over to the Survivor Registration tent.  It was with pride that I filled out the registration and got the huge smiles and congratulations from the volunteers.  I got my first PURPLE tshirt with the word "survivor" on it.  Steve said "we aren't done with chemo yet"....  my reply "I lived another day..... I am a survivor"  :)  And YOU are my Caregiver -- the best one ever!  I helped him on with his sash, and he helped me with mine.  Pretty special moment, hard to explain the feeling but it was truly such an honor.  Then at the Opening Ceremonies I do my usual with the camera, catching as many faces and emotions of the event as possible.  :)  But now with my survivor sash -- people were smiling at me with warmth and care.  It was "different" than before, they were all connecting with me.  If they were a survivor, caregiver and all those around because that is why they are here, to celebrate survivorship and to honor those they may have lost.  It was amazing.

So we walked the "Lap" -- I took photos of people SMILING - HAPPY - CELEBRATING!  I took photos and walked on the outside to the front and then back on the outside on the other side of the track.  People must have thought I was crazy with my fancy camera bouncing all around the lap!  :)  It makes me laugh thinking about it.  Watching Steve's smile and love always fuels me, like I am not crazy, but just that I am me, and I continue to be me.  The one thing that I noticed more than ever was the support of the caregivers around their survivor.  The 2 girls in pink were so cute --- they laughed and smiled -- "SHE is my caregiver!"  :)  It was all around you - the love and caring people have for eachother.  And I can relate to them in my own way of being a cancer survivor, although all cancers and treatments are different, it is an experience that all these people have faced, and won, or are still fighting.  It truly made me proud.


From the lap all the survivors and caregivers got on air conditioned transit buses and were driven to the top executive level where you can overlook the football field at Rentschler Field.

 It was a beautiful setting with lots of windows.  It was a catered yummy luncheon with strawberry shortcake for dessert.  :)
The survivor speaker recently had moved to this area and was a friend of one of the committee members.  She had participated in the Virginia Beach Relay (One of our top Relay events in the country!) and she was so excited to be invited because she wouldn't miss a Relay.  Her speech was short and sweet, poignant and clear.  She is a SURVIVOR.  She celebrates because SHE IS HERE.  She fights because the gene she has for breast cancer could be passed down to her beautiful daughters and potentially her son's children.   I wish I could remember all her words, because it was so well said --- and it meant so much to me.  I don't know if I hear all these words differently because I have cancer, or she was just so great (I think it is for BOTH reasons)--- She encouraged us all to talk to eachother, share our stories, offer support and be strong.   I have a great photo of her and her family below.  Such a sweet woman and a great family.  I felt truly blessed to hear her speak that day.

  So great to see friends and colleagues.  I had the opportunity to speak with Don Gudaitis, the NE Division CEO - he has been so supportive since my diagnosis, offering any assistance...  and we also were able to stop by their table and speak to the CFO of UTC -- it was so nice to hear Steve tell the story from the beginning with pride to Don and the CFO.  I really enjoyed talking to the CFO's wife (so sorry I forgot their names --- can I blame chemo brain? :)) She was so caring and just really great to talk to....  It was a very special experience all around.  


We gave hugs to all those we met at the luncheon - "real hugs" of care and concern and hope.  It was truly HOPE full to be in that room with all that inspiration all around.  I walked up to the woman speaker and asked her if she had wrote her speech down, it was that good -- told her she really needs to write it.  I was inspired by her words.  I can make a difference.  She is making a difference, and all those there will go out and make a difference too.  We got a beautiful purple flower centerpiece from the center of the table and walked out smiling ear to ear.  

When we went back to the Relay, we decorated my luminaria bag, played a little football, entered a raffle (or 2 or 3..... :)) One was for these handmade wooden replica helicopters, so beautiful!  It was a fantastic event and it was so great outside rather than inside to enjoy the fresh air and get some really great photos of the participants walking the track, (although being in the airplane hanger last year was awesome too).  


 We got to spend some time with Wendy and her beautiful family (I got some great impromptu family portraits) and wish Schuyler was there with us to experience it all - because he LOVES Relay and all the fun and happy people that are there.  I am sharing a link to all the photos I took from Saturday -- hope you enjoy them.  I will remember this Relay in my heart as my first Relay as a survivor --- it will truly be a special one for me --- as all 5000 plus Relays mean something to all those that participate.  If you haven't been to a Relay, please consider finding a Relay in your area and sign up, join or start a team...  it is something you can do to make a difference, to so many of those of us with cancer and for our future of finding a cure.  


We will have our Cub Scout team again this year --- already working on promoting it early and planning our fundraising for the year!  At that time it will be one full year of cancer survivorship for me and I will definitely be celebrating!



Link on the photo below for the whole set of photos that I took that day.  All proceeds go to the American Cancer Society.


Thank you for stopping by --- Please please please leave a comment if you can.  Thanks for thinking of me and supporting me through this journey.  Remember to celebrate life everyday..... 


2 comments:

Sarah Shafir said...

Nancy,
I was bummed that I missed this truly amazing event, but reading your post had me feeling like I was there. Renata and Greg Hayes(UTC CFO and his wife - my family!) were over on Sunday and they shared with me your conversation. Both enjoyed meeting Steve and you and were truly inspired by your story. Beautiful pictures, too.
Sarah

Joyce Pemberton said...

Wow...I mean...WOW. I remember that feeling..the first time I was a caregiver - after years of investing in Relay as our job, now it was so much more. You humble me Nancy. I love how you craft these words. Love you.