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, March 11, 2011

I am here.

I got the call.
Dr. Barnes called on Tuesday & gave us the good news and there is NO cancer in my spleen.  It was the best news we had heard all year.  It took them a whole week to slice and dice the thing, but it turned up negative.  Even better news is that it will be a close follow up of CAT scans & blood work for 2 years.  I feel like I have hit another milestone in this journey.  Survivorship.

I am here.

This latest experience has me reflecting on my past - working with the American Cancer Society - and the amazing volunteers that were "cancer survivors" to now truly discovering what it means to be a "survivor".  

I remember specifically in my early years working as an Area Director for 5 counties in the state of New Hampshire.  I called it the "West".  :)  5 powerful small counties with so much potential.  I replaced this staffer (I think her name was Kate) that the volunteers held in high regard and respect.  They were tough shoes to fill.  So there I was in my early 20's... working with professional volunteers to support the mission of the American Cancer Society.  It was the Gail As & the Bob M's  & the sweet Suki's that I "cut my teeth" on to develop my skills in working with volunteers to support the mission of the ACS and it is those early experiences working in the "field" that I remember the most .

Gail A. was a strong woman in the Peterborough area.  I remember her not wanting to be called a "survivor" because it was truly something personal to her.  She didn't want to be "jinxed" by the label.  I can see how she feels now that I have had cancer.  It is a beast.  Fast forward to the Chicago Marathon - Kristin McQueen, cancer survivor & marathoner & IRONWOMAN says it best - "Suck it cancer!"  She tapes those words on the back of her race shirt where ever she goes (raising more than $10K each year for ACS DetermiNation)..... It's true - it may be chasing you your whole life.  Now that I have had cancer I realize there is nothing that ever says you are done.   So many I have known have been "hit hard" multiple times.   Mary Beth Redell from American Airlines - who we lost this past year to her final battle with colon cancer - is an amazing strong example.  Others like sweet Suki from Peterborough would be the volunteers that lead that tiny town into making tens of thousands of dollars at Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.  Her passion along with the passion of Betty Borry I got to know as the staff person at the Breast Cancer Survivor Adventure Weekend back in the mid 90's- where myself and cancer survivors (all ages and all stages) were given the opportunity to get away for the weekend and work through a ropes course, writing, kayaking and reflecting.  It was an amazing experience for me I will never forget. Hearing about what it meant for each of those women to be surviving cancer face to face in that setting was one of the most inspiring things I have done in my life.  

 I remember in July when I was first diagnosed.  I was scared, but decided to look the beast in the eye.  I laughed as I told my friend Judy I couldn't wait to wear that purple tshirt, the sash and walk that lap!  Being a survivor is a celebration.  A celebration of life.  My life, the lives of others who have faced the beast and lived another day.  More birthdays - for more survivors - a mission you can relate to especially if you are someone like me who just loves their birthday!  But this second time that I thought it could be more cancer, that scared me - I couldn't write about it. I had had enough.  I had finished my chemo treatments, I fought hard, lost my hair, eyelashes & eyebrows, felt like crap, exhausted & beat up.  My hair was just barely starting to come back so I didn't have to wear that crazy blonde wig.  I kept my positive outlook, kept running to stay strong (mentally & physically)... to now hear this news of "Sorry we 'saw something' in your PET scan".  EEK.  Spleen removal?  Major surgery?  Whatever it takes is all that I could think or say.  We had the best docs taking care of me and we put all our trust in them.  Now, with the results in hand - no cancer - it is time to go back to living a normal life - wow - but I will never be "normal" after this experience.  

I am here. 

This was on the back of the Relay For Life Tshirt in Boulder Colorado when I moved out west (the REAL west).  :)  Kristin Sheldon was an artist I met on Pearl Street.  On the weekends it was always a fair, vendors with their "carts" - and I loved her cards!  I introduced myself to her that day and by chance it was the 1 year anniversary of a dear friend of hers that she lost to breast cancer.  A true calling - me asking her to design a card & a bookmark to give to luminaria donors and the words in her font on the back of the survivor tshirt.  The words meant so much to me at that time, but mean so much more to me now.  I am here - PERIOD.  I am here to do what it takes to share, to inspire, to encourage and to care about making a difference - a REAL difference.  I don't quite yet know what that means yet.  But I know there is more to come for me.  I am alive due to the research and where we are with cancer treatments right now, because of amazing organizations like the American Cancer Society.  I am here to do what it takes.

There are so many cancer survivors - so many stories of strength.  I want to share my story to give others strength, but it isn't really about my story, I want to hear everyone else's story, it is a collection of all of the stories out there - because in every story there is inspiration, hope and a celebration of a life.

Be strong.  Stay strong.  Celebrate every day, because each day is a blessing.    

 I would like to share this card that Kristin developed for us at the American Cancer Society. 
"With a trail of light, there is no night" 

We celebrate the lives of the cancer survivors by honoring them at the Relay For Life luminaria ceremonies and paying tribute to the memories of those we have lost to cancer - "the beast"....  we light a trail of luminaries to celebrate those lives.  Remember at your Relay this year to celebrate those you love, those you care about and those in your community that bring strength to our world.  

I am truly blessed to have such an amazing support system.... my family, my friends, my colleagues at the American Cancer Society - my doctors, Dr. Sean Mullally and Dr. Jeffery Barnes.  ALL of the nurses and people that have smiled when I needed a smile, prayed when I needed strength & sent their love when I needed a boost!  

Thanks for reading, stopping by - please leave a comment - I love to hear from everyone. 


CT LAW said...

Such great news. So happy for you. Prayers answered.

edita said...

I'm at wally's in Killington reading your post... What a relief for you and your family. I have quietly been following your journey/struggle and am in awe of your positive and amazingly strong person. You are a true inspiration to all of us who you so gracefully have allowed to share in your journey. Enjoy your new " lease" on life. You ROCK!
Love from VT,

Shelley said...

Oh, Nancy! I sit here with tears running down my face and they are pure tears of JOY! I am over-the-moon happy! You've been in my thoughts, were added to the prayer chain at my church, I've talked to you on my runs, I've thought about you as I contemplate the White Rock Marathon on 12/4/11. You push me, inspire me, want me to want more for myself, put smiles on my face, and just make me excited to be able to have such a wellspring of hope and motivation in our friendship. I'll never be able to give you what you've given me, but damn, I'll try. I'm so happy we're friends. You are an amazing lady and proof-positive to stay confident, stay positive, and do what you can to see the glass half-full. Have a FABULOUS WEEKEND!

Jessica said...

Fantastic news! Another reason to celebrate at the party this weekend!

Love Letters To China said...

So happy to hear the great news! Prayers have definitely been answered.

Sasha said...

There are so many adjectives that could be used to describe how incredibly happy I am to hear this news!
I have been following your fight with "the beast" and I have shared your story with others around me including a one very dear to me. You are a source of light and inspiration to myself, and I am sure that anyone who know you will say the same thing.

Thank you for sharing your ups and downs with all of us on this journey......I am sure at times your questioned your strength....but it was always evident to me how strong you truly are!

Much love and peace to you.....


Kathi said...

Hooray! Hooray! So seriously happy to get this news, Nancy. Have a wonderful carefree weekend.

riddlebiddle said...

This is such wonderful news, Nancy. Thanks for sharing it. Congrats on your journey so far, and keep truckin'!

Sarah said...

WOOT WOOT!!! What incredible news. Thank you for sharing your story. It is courageous and inspiring. CHEERS!!!