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, December 7, 2010

All Staff Briefing - My notes! :)

Thank you
It was a year ago that I stood on this stage to celebrate my 15th year with the acs and shook the hands of Dr sefrin and his cabinet - you may not recognize me cause I was a brunette.  Little did I know at that time what my year had in store.

You see, I am a top ranked master runner having competed in 25 marathons, that's 26.2 miles a pop... Including 4 ironman triathlons.  I placed 7th master in Boston and last year won my age group at Marine Corps marathon racing with 40K people around DC.  In my 40s I am in the best shape of my life.

I too love to celebrate my birthday but I didn't realize that impact until just after my 46th birthday in June.  It was around the same time as our local Relay where I am a team captain with our Cub Scouts that while running in training for the Chicago marathon I felt a lump in my stomach.  After feeling it grow my husband urged me to go to the doctor who ordered a cat scan and we waited days for the results.  I remember sitting in the doctors office when she told us "we think you have lymphoma"- what?  Cancer?  I could see the tears in my husbands eyes, and my ACS experience has shown me this could go many ways - so without hesitation we started to make some more appointments - I just wanted this thing gone.  

What felt like months was weeks of tests, waiting to get in to see the oncologist, more tests and working with the insurance to make sure it was all pre approved.  Once we had a diagnosis of diffuse large b cell lymphoma we needed to be sure that it was indeed the whole story.  Finally with approval of a local oncologist we were off to mass general to see a lymphoma specialist - dr barnes -a biopsy and more tests.  We then had the right diagnosis in hand and were able to get connected with a oncologist locally we liked - one that fit, one who we could trust, which so important.  Dr Mullally understood my drive as an athlete ... Because I was going to do the Chicago marathon, 2/3 of the way through my treatment even if I had to walk.

I realize this will be the toughest marathon of my life and just like a marathon I need a plan.  When I would share with my friends, family and colleagues - they would remark "are you kidding? You are the healthiest person know!". Like everyone I was in denial, but when I lost my hair it all became real... I am bald, I have cancer. See? (take off hair)

My plan?  Stay strong, be positive.  I needed a symbol of strength and Wonder Woman was a natural fit!  My sister made our costumes and my friend Cara was going to support me as Batgirl.  Here we go!  (put on cap and cape). Amazing what a costume can do to fuel your efforts!  

Mile 1-15 
Just like treatment, I was still strong, feeling fast enjoying all the conversations along the way sharing my story with all would listen.  Stay hydrated and pace yourself!

Mile 16-20
The tough need to get tougher -medical is key and you need to listen to your body.  Have hope, share hope along the way.  Halfway through treatment al the symptoms are starting to amplify.

Mile 21-24
They say at a marathon starts at mile 21, you may need to readjust your goal but keep that finish line in sight and don't give up!  Even though this may be the last visit to the doctor the accumulative effect of chemotherapy is more exhausting than ever.

Mile 25-26.2
Yes or no?  Choose your attitude, do your best, smile - you are a symbol of hope.
I remember the cheers from the city of Chicago rooting for wonder woman and batgirl all the way!  And I remember my tears of joy crossing that finish line.
I beat my goal and ran a 3 hr 57 min marathon thanks to the support of my loving husband and Batgirl (car and Steve stand up)

But recovery is a challenge, give your body and mind a break - rest is so important to getting back on the road.  

What's next?  I have some more tests and PET scan next week to see that my treatment was successful ...
And my 5th acs Determination marathon will be Boston in April with my 6 member ACS Dream Team in force!

Just remember that no one can hold you back from doing all the things you want to do.  Keep you goals in sight, 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."  


Here is the photo "movie" that I put together for this event.  What was shared was 10 photos, but this gives you even better picture of the journey.  Enjoy.  

All Staff Briefing - Survivor Speaker

I recently was honored to be asked to be the American Cancer Society staff survivor speaker at our National All Staff briefing in Atlanta, Georgia.  I worked with Laurie Entriken from our national office Talent Strategy team and shared my blog and experience with her before getting to work on putting together a presentation for Friday, December 3.  Steve took the time off from work to fly down and support me - which truly thrilled me as he had not been to our National Home Office.  I was so proud to share our organization with him on the trip.  :)

It was a few reiterations, drafts and practices of the presentation in front of Steve that got me to the final.  I had not practiced a speech so much before the day as I am pretty good at "winging it" but it paid off.  :)
  There was about 200 people there in the audience and another 200 across the country tuning in to the All Staff Briefing and my speech at the end of the program.  Cara - aka: BatGirl came to see me speak that morning, taking time off from work as well --- (she is such a busy girl - it meant the world to have her there too!).

I felt pretty shaky, although listening to it now I can't feel the shakiness like I could on stage.  My mouth was so dry and it got worse through the presentation so next time I am going to drink a ton of water to prepare.... :)  I didn't have enough strength to open up that bottle of water, but that would have helped too.  : )

It has been great to look at all the pieces of my story that will make a difference to someone that will hear it and I think the marathon analogy was a good one.  I will also post my notes / speech  in a separate post for you to see as well.

Here is the presentation - enjoy!  Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!  :)

I want to share the photos that were displayed as well - it took me going through 35 favorites to get to the 10 final pics to share as part of the slide show.  I referred to them through my presentation so they will be posted with my notes from the presentation.

Thanks for stopping by - I know it has been a while. 
I get my PET scan tomorrow and see the Doc on Friday - Wish me luck!  :)


Posting a link to my presentation at the New England Relay U from September --- now with 2 speaking engagements under my belt, I think I am getting better at sharing this personal experience!  :)
"Bald Appearance brings standing O at the NEDIV Relay U!"