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"!

Friday, September 10, 2010

NEDIV Speaking Notes: "I am a Survivor"


When it comes to the fight against cancer not all of us have been hit directly by cancer; however, we all have taken the stand that we will rise above cancer until it is defeated.

In the words of Vince Lombardi, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up.”

And now someone who has done just that …Nancy Cook... a team captain from the Quabog Relay in Western MASS, National Director of the National Corporate Team Program, whose 16 year career with the Society began in New Hampshire.

Thank you everyone.

As a top competitive master athlete in the New England area being on the top of my game is something I am very proud of…. I am poised to fight back. I pride myself on listening to my body in training. When I found a lump in my stomach in mid June my body fat was right around 16% and you can feel everything! My amazing husband Steve pushed me to go to the doctor and by the time I went in for the biopsy my spleen had doubled in size and at that time we were told that I had cancer. It was crazy. I had just placed 3rd in my age at the USAT New England Trail Running Championships, and was racing every weekend. Before that in in 2007 I was 7th master at the Boston marathon finishing in 3 hours and 5 minutes. And in 2009 I won my age group at the Marine Corps Marathon. I was the healthiest person I know. You don’t want to piss me off! My family, my friends, my co-workers were all floored when I told them the news – it was stage 4 Lymphoma. And me – I was in denial ---- with my daily routine of running long miles, balancing my family life, my work and all our sporting activities, there is no time for cancer.

I am a survivor.

It hit me hard and I was full of questions – Is it curable? What did I do wrong? Will I die? What is chemotherapy anyway? Can I work? How long before the cancer is out of my body & how long before I am bald? How will my eight year old son Schuyler react and cope with a sick bald mother? I did know one thing - I don’t like being sick.

You may wonder what is like not having hair. I sure did. It was scary and I had tears in my eyes as my husband shaved my head right around the 2nd chemo treatment - after pulling out clumps of hair it was definitely time. But I am now sporting the Olympic swimmer look as I water-ski and appreciate the aerodynamics when I run. I just hope it doesn’t come back gray! And fun times ahead if it comes back blonde!  My colleagues asked that I have photos taken of me at the “wig salon” with all the different styles of hair so they all could vote! We all had many laughs looking at the Nancy show! I miss the sweat absorption properties of hair and the extra padding. One day while trail running I hit and bruised my head on a tree branch... came up with some great quotes that day, but OUCH!

I am a survivor.

Now in the middle of it all I am in the midst of fighting back. I am ½ way through my chemotherapy treatment. OK – almost ½ way there…. But I am counting the days! Fighting back through inspiration, hope and humor…. I look for hope everywhere – after facing that moment that my life could have been taken away & having to share that scary feeling with my family – it IS all about HOPE. And once you have HOPE you can share hope and if you inspire others, they can in turn inspire you. The doctors gave me HOPE that I could still “run” the Chicago marathon, which will be my 27th marathon. I had signed up and am raising money for ACS through DetermiNation. Doc Mullally did say it is a little freakish – but seeing my fitness level and drive, he says it is possible – of course that was right after he called me a “beast” (in a nice way of course).. So now it keeps me going – keeps me pushing – and in my intense way of doing things – keeps me fighting back - strong. I am running in a Wonder Woman costume, alongside a friend who will be dressed as Batgirl – if not just to make a statement, but for inspiration and crowd appeal. I will run that marathon. I will finish.

I am a survivor.

I recently attended the UTC East Hartford Relay For Life and had the opportunity to walk in my first survivor lap – and wear my first sash & purple shirt! It was more amazing than I ever imagined. Needless to say I love Relay more than ever.. My husband Steve in his caregiver sash remarked that “we” have not finished chemotherapy, so are you a survivor yet?” My response? I lived to see another day right?

Yes – I am a survivor!

So just remember:

No one can hold you back from doing all the things you want to do. Just keep your goals in sight, listen to your body and take one day at a time. Some days will be better than others, but every day is a blessing – so make each day the best it can be.

I am a survivor.
I am fighting back.

1 comment:

shelley said...

So awesome!! I wish I could hear it in person, but I am at the Mid South Summit this weekend! Be great!! :)