A friend sent me one of Debbie's Lymphoma updates. She was so straightforward; I knew readers would connect with her story. Right before writing this story, not only was she finishing her last round of chemo, but she was rushed back to the hospital for a terrible blood clot. The next week she was rear ended while driving home from a lecture on Lymphoma. Despite all her hardships, we spoke about turning her day around through finding some positive inspiration. It's so easy to give up and succumb to a disease, especially when everything seems to be going wrong. It takes courage and fortitude to fight towards healing. I'm honored to share Debbie's story.
My Lymphoma Life
By Debbie K.
Starting with today, my last day at the oncologists', this is my chance to tell my onco-tale. I never knew I was sick; this all started innocently last spring. My work as a real estate broker had me at the computer. That led me to carpal tunnel syndrome. From a sore hand to a nerve test, to an internist, to a gastroenterologist, a diagnosis. Next step on the hit parade (as in what can they hit me with next?) was a trip to the thoracic surgeon. A biopsy led to a diagnosis: nodular sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma. I was referred to a wonderful oncologist who specializes in lymphoma.
I started chemo at the beginning of September. Chemo was every two weeks, and followed the next day by hydration and a shot of a white cell-building drug, Nulastin. My chemo mixture was ABVD. That's Adriamycin, Bleomycin, Vinblastine and Dacarbazine. The A is responsible for hair loss, and makes your pee-pee pink! What a combination!
I was very lucky, no egregious side effects. I could drive to the appointment, and after the 2.5 hours of chemo, drive home with stops at the bakery for my favorite cookies, or the market. I felt fine. I attribute this to my years of exercise and good eating. After two months of treatment and some tests, my site had shrunk from 20 cc to 7. I felt like I was the poster child for Lymphoma. I was still holding off on shaving my hair off. At the chemo center, a volunteer brought a cart by with goodies to snack on. They were on the top shelf, and wigs on the bottom, all donated. I have 3 very beautiful wigs, one even in my hair style, two more adventurous! I have only worn them twice. I prefer ski hats, scarves or stylish (albeit old) hats. I have an antique hat rack with 10 hats on it, and now I am wearing them. Here I am, having finished chemo just yesterday, with a little hair left. It's enough to peek out from under my hat.
My doctor gave me next month off, and then in February, I will start radiation. I can certainly use the time off; my 60th birthday is in January, and I plan on celebrating big time!
Through all, I have met the most wonderful people. The oncology group had the kindest nurses, the best lab techs, great receptionists, and free valet parking. Most chemo times, I had a friend with whom I played Scrabble or who took me to lunch after chemo. My friends have been super-supportive and they have helped me keep my chin up throughout these past months. I have a new friend who was introduced to me just a few weeks ago. She was recently diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and will start chemo soon. I am glad I met her, she's so upbeat. I hope I can be of some help to her.
My mother had metastatic breast cancer 30 years ago. Her doctor is in one of the oncologists in the group I go to. Small world… I always feared going for my mammogram. My mother had been diagnosed when she was 55. I thought that was my destiny. I never expected Lymphoma. Apparently, this disease is on the rise. The doctor said it is tied to stress. I can understand.
My advice would be to get regular checkups, get a blood test, eat healthy, be active, and have friends. Friends to have lunch with, to go on trips with, to go to medical appointments with, to plan parties with. Friends to support you through thick and thin.