It’s been one year to the day since I heard some pesky nurses whispering about me as I sat in the waiting room at Dr. Krevitt’s office. One year since Charlotte assured me they were just whispering about my awesome vest. One year since I was seated in the doctors office to hear the fateful words – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I think I could tell you every single thing that happened to me on March 8th, 2011 except perhaps for the feeling I had the exact moment that the doctor told me my diagnosis.
After perhaps 30 seconds of what I guess was pure and complete shock, even having a moment of not knowing what Hodgkin’s was, I obviously burst into tears. My next thought was “Oh shit, I’m leaving the country on Thursday!” I think this might have actually been the first thing I said to Dr. Krevitt after I calmed down from my initial outburst of tears. He assured me not to worry and that I could probably still go as it didn’t seem I would have to start treatment right away. In retrospect, it was pretty pathetic that all I could think about in that moment was my ski trip to France and not the fact that I had just been diagnosed with cancer. But alas, clearly my mind works in strange ways.
By a stroke of luck, my Uncle Peter happened to be at a meeting in the neighborhood and was by my side in 20 minutes. Charlotte met me within the hour and by that evening, my dad had flown in from North Carolina to be with me. Another defining moment of that day – seeing perhaps one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life – The Adjustment Bureau. Even though I was clearly in a state of shock that day, I think I was lucid enough to recognize what an awful movie that was. Matt Damon, really? I thought you were better than that.
To say that it was a whirlwind week would be an understatement. Perhaps what I remember most about that week is that after being diagnosed on Tuesday afternoon, I had a surgical biopsy neck on Thursday morning and by Thursday evening I was on a plane to Geneva. I was so lucky to be able to go on my planned spring break, even though I was battling a stomach bug and the side-effects of the post-surgery drugs. Going to the Winter X Games in Europe for a few days erased any remnant of the fact that I was headed back to New York to start chemotherapy.
These past few days and weeks I have been thinking a lot about those initial weeks after my diagnosis. The scans, the doctors, the hospitals, the thought that I might have a ulceror or a hernia, the incessant questioning as to whether I was pregnant or not (no joke, I was tested more time than I can count!), the chopping off of 15 inches of hair, the surgical cleaning of our apartment to rid it all of germs, and most especially, the people who stood beside me the whole time. There are so many things that happened it’s hard to remember them all, but I do know that I couldn’t have done a single one of those things by myself.
Throughout the past year, I had 12 rounds of chemo, 3 surgeries, 4 PET/CT scans, 80 thousand viles of blood drawn and throughout it all, I always had someone with me. My dad, Charlotte, my uncles, my goofy roommates, my brothers, my step-mom, my friends from near and far, my aunts and cousins, etc… I am so thankful to all the people I had in my life. They helped me through all my fears, all my worries, all my sleepless nights and all my chemo cravings. Most especially to my best friend Charlotte, who was at more chemo treatments, doctors visits, and scans than anyone else. The few times that I showed up to see Dr. Moskowitz without her, he would always inquire as to where she was. I think she heard me complain about my hot flashes and red pee more than most people would like to know. Yes, if you must know, after each chemo treatment, you pee red from the adryamicin in the cocktail of drugs. I myself was always giddy at the prospect of knowing I would pee red 😉
So what’s changed since last year? Well, quite honestly, so much and not so much all at the same time. I still got to go to France, although a semester late. I couldn’t eat sushi for 6 months, but now I can eat it anytime I want. I got to see Daniel Radcliffe in the flesh, not once but TWICE! I had more than my fair share of chemo brain moments, not even remembering what I’d had for dinner the night before. I can really only laugh at people who complain about nausea now because they really have no idea what true nausea is really like. I was radioactive a few times – ya, no big deal – and somehow managed not to turn green. I still have scar on my chest from where my port was that I like to play off as a shark bite sometimes.
I still try to live my life like I would have 366 days ago, but I will always have had this experience in my life now. Would I have wished it to have never happened? Obviously. But now that is has, I can’t imagine life any other way. It’s kind of this love hate relationship. On the outside I absolutely hated being a cancer patient, but I learned to accept it and now realize it will always be part of me, even if not outwardly visible. Sure, pulling the cancer card every now and then was nice (I always got the front seat) and somehow people tend to give you nice things when you’re sick (iPad anyone?), but it’s pretty nice to remember that right now, I’m really no different than anyone else. Maybe a few less lymph nodes in my body and this awful baby hair that is to damn soft, but then again, can one really complain about having soft hair?
PS – In case you were wondering, yes, everything from last year was blogged in great detail. Where you might ask? HERE! Check it out if you feel like it 🙂