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"!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

RCHOP #5 - Angels in White

I realize that I needed to do a post about my #5 treatment,  but it all has been such a challenge lately that I haven't even finished sharing all that i wanted to share about the marathon.  We worked the schedule with Doc Mullally that I could delay #5 treatment because we were flying home on Monday.  On Tuesday I needed to get to Northampton for my blood tests and doctor visit before treatment begins on Wednesday.  I was truly on a high from the marathon and smiling ear to ear as I walked into the blood draw office, where our friend (who I still don't know her name) greeted us in her New England way ( a non-greeting, non smiling, let's get to it greeting).  I can't 'remember now what I said, but I was doing my best to make her smile that afternoon and was successful!  Or at least I got half a grin - which is HUGE here in New England, if you know the type, you know what i am talking about.  I was looking for her name on her lab coat and the only thing embroidered there was the hospital name "Cooley Dickinson Hospital" - so now we call her "Cooley".  She is the best draw in the East!  She never makes a mistake, always "gets" the vein - does a quick draw and we are done!  Gotta love it.  :)

Then off to see Doc Mullally..... he was all smiles as usual and the girls soon showed us to the exam room.  It is such a warm and inviting office with all the photos and the artwork on the walls.  As much as I hate to go to treatment because of the after affect - I really love it there (as far as oncologists offices go - LOL).  I had made him an 8x10 enlargement of me in the Chicago marathon alongside BatGirl (which is now my header of this blog).   I "autographed" it and put the times and date on there too- perfect for framing!  He commented "If that doesn't inspire you - I don't know what will!" as he walked to his office looking for a prominent place to put it.  He had asked us to call from Chicago when I finished so that he would know I was ok.  We text him my results when we were there and he was happy -- (not sure how I could tell that in his text - but I could.  :)) So now in the office we told him the story of the race and how it went - it was so fun to share and he was truly impressed with my performance - AMAZED actually.  He is an athlete (past ski racer, etc.) in his own right  -- dedicated to his fitness and family's fitness and it shows.  His support of me has been there and true.  We have appreciated that more than he knows..... in the office it was like going home to the team and sharing the results to all of them as they huddled around to see the photo and feel my energy.  I still was feeling the endorphins and the excitement of finishing the marathon and sharing the story made it all come back.  : )

The next day was treatment and we are finally in a routine, although when we are running late we miss those RoadHouse Breakfast sandwiches!  ;(  There always seems to be traffic across the bridge as we peek toward the river and wave to our boat at the Sportsman's Marina.  Barely making it there "on time" to sit and wait in the waiting room, Trista greets us with a smile and off we go with all our gear for the day (snacks, books, computers, nano, Ipad, MacBook and my IBM for work too) - finding our favorite chairs right by the nurses station.   
Angels in white above  -- these nurses have been a part of my treatment since the beginning.  They both make me smile.  They are my angels in white - the unsung heroes of the journey of so many cancer patients.  Funny I am wearing white today too and this photo is just real warming to me, knowing how I am on the last "leg" of this marathon! :)

My inspirational tech shirt of the day was my new 2010 Chicago marathon shirt which I LOVE (not only because of the accomplishment it stands for, but because it is Schuyler's birthday too! 10-10) I wore my new track jacket from the marathon too - which I love and thanks to Judy's recommendation I was able to get one of the last ones they had on the rack!  Once all comfy - the nurse came over set me up finding the perfect vein (which they still admire! :)) and the drip of drugs began.  This time was a little different in that the Benedryl HIT ME HARD -- stopped me in mid sentence where I couldn't keep typing.  I then passed out and slept until 1 pm.  Seriously it was crazy -- I vaguely remember the doc floating by and the nurses milling around, and Steve checking on me, but I was OUT.  So much for getting any work done.  I had my nano playing a playlist and it must have just kept me in that trance.  That and maybe I needed the rest?  So needless to say the treatment FLEW by and before I knew it, it was time to go ---

Earlier that week Alison from the National DetermiNation Team had asked me if I would speak on the nationwide Webex for staff at the American Cancer Society as the inspirational speaker.  I let her know I was in treatment and would do my best.  Well -- here it was time for that webex.....  and the room was empty of patients.  I asked Steve if he thought i could do it -- feeling like I had just slept for days..... and still a little fuzzy.... he said sure, if I wanted to I should.  So I called in.  I shared my story.  I shared my Chicago marathon experience and I shared a bit of my DetermiNation experience.  Half asleep, I hoped I was inspiring -- it was crazy though because the IV was still in my arm as I pulled the setup around the room to a small spot and the doc and nurses walked by...  The one thing I remember from that call was Ann McNamara from Illinois chiming in - saying hi -- she has been a friend for such a long time in my career at the Society.  Her strength and care and passion for the mission of the Society shines through every time she speaks.  She said through DetermiNation we (the ACS ) are "changing the way we look at cancer patients" - She is right.  survivors are strong - strong and determined.   Determined to survive, determined to finish and determined to made a difference in the fight against cancer.   I can relate.  Once you are put in the position that your life may be taken away from you by this disease and you get beyond that - you want to fight - you want to show "cancer" and others that it can't take you, can't take your spirit, and can't take your strength.   As hard as "IT"has tried --  --- I am "one touch chick" and "Super Vixen" and "Wonder Woman" and all those other great things that the cards portray sent from people from all over the country. -- My support group is immense.  My "team" of supporters are as strong and dedicated as I could only wish for -- they all want to see this disease eradicated.  The strength of all their prayers is heartfelt and true.

Above my latest self portrait taken right before leaving for Chicago when I was looking strong and still had some color in my face.  I guess it depends on the day.  Lately I have been avoiding the mirror unless I have that silly blonde wig on. :)

Thanks for stopping by -- it has taken me a while to write this as the treatments have been harder and harder to recover from.  It took a 2 full weeks this time! The symptoms get worse, my nausea is looming.  I feel & look sick.  My emotions have been going crazy and I have been pretty down and out and moody.  I am done with being bald - and can't wait for my hair to grow back.  My energy level is low, I am exhausted and need extra sleep, the heartburn is nasty and I don't have much of an appetite because my mouth feels burnt and my throat is a bit sore.  Don't worry - I manage to eat and have not lost any weight. :)  I think finally after 2 weeks I feel almost back to normal (or at least "during treatment" normal).  I can run this week again and that feels great despite the tingling in my hands and feet getting a little worse.  I still need to write about the DetermiNation experience at Chicago -- so stay tuned.  :)  And RCHOP #6 is NEXT WEEK!  My last treatment!  I can't believe it is finally here -- I think I am buying balloons!  :)  Yay!

Please leave a comment - I love to read the comments as they really give me strength & hope.  You are all my support group and cheering squad.  I love and appreciate you all!  :)


Jessica said...

You're almost there! Praying that the chemo continues to destroy the cancer cells. Hang in there - you can do it!

Jess said...

Nancy you are so so very amazing!

You must have needed that sleep! Hang in there, you're almost done with this stuff. If that chemo is kicking your butt you know it's also doing what it needs to do.

Joyce Pemberton said...

I LOVE the new picture on your know Nancy, when I think of you i think about your entire journey...the unlikeliness of your diagnosis, the initial hoops you jumped through to determine treatment and get going...the acceptance...the endurance of is all...your hair loss and all the physical crap...and I think that of all the people i've known in my life, I've never known anyone quite like Nancy Cook. You have always been to me, a pure, sweet soul, always ready with a smile, encouragement, a kind word. So how does this experience make a good person even better? What are we supposed to get out of this? what are you supposed to get out of this? Where is the lesson and what does the final chapter of this journey teach us and what will the final line be before you write "The end" when you write your last blog? I used to wonder why Bob had to be the one with cancer ...he never asked that. When people would say "Why you?" he would say "why not me?"....God places warmer places of acceptance and peace in the hearts of cancer patients. That I know. That I have seen, just as Steve is seeing it in you. Love you so much and think of you so very, very often.

Wendy J. Matthews said...

Nancy.....Finish this RACE....this toughest marathon race...almost will finish strong, I have NO doubt.
:)) keep smiling....

Adrian Call said...

Nancy - Someone sent me a link to your blog. I've been trying to find someone who ran a marathon on chemo. I loved reading your blog. I am scheduled to run Boston next week, and have my final chemo treatment two days later. I'm very anemic with my chemo, so at best I'll be jogging it. If you have any thoughts, I'd be most greatful. Adrian