Sorry for the one month hiatus. I’ve been busy watching Top Chef: Just Desserts and looking for my slippers.
For those of you who didn’t see my obnoxious facebook status, I am happy to say that I am in remission!! I have seven more weeks of chemotherapy, a few more scans and minor surgeries and then I’m home free. I will be officially “cured” after five years, because the greatest chance of recurrence is the few years after remission.
A little background on how I found out about the remission status. When I was initially diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, they showed me PET scans and CT scans of the affected areas. What I saw was multiple tumors in my neck and around my trachea, which was very surreal. So when I went to University of Chicago two weeks ago, I was getting more of these scans to see how the tumors were. I had to fast before the scans and then once I was there, I was injected with all this nasty radioactive fluids. So by the time my doctor showed me the clear (!!) new scans with no tumors in sight, I was already feeling pretty ill. Coupled with the fact that I had just received very emotional, life-changing news, I don’t think it was that weird that my first reaction upon hearing the news was to ask to go to the bathroom so I could vomit.
So I walked out of the room and headed to the bathroom, which was being blocked by a huge group of nurses. While I was discreetly making my way through them, my nurse liaison came running out shouting that she had heard the good news. She then proceeded to wrap me into her rather large bosom and jump up and down, while all the nurses congratulated me and I tried not to vom all over Kathy, who is a really nice woman.
Fast forward ten days and here I am sitting at my desk (laying in my bed) after finishing some theatre homework (googling Rupert Grint). I really feel so blessed to be where I am today. This blog isn’t a completely accurate description of my experience, because I try to keep it as positive as possible. I’ve definitely had some low points, but I’ve always been able to bounce back from them. For example, the other day I had finished working out, and I was upset because my lungs hurt from the chemo and I hated how my short hair looks in a ponytail and I just wanted to be people watching at the Plex!! But then as I was walking past the Zumba room, I stopped to watch a children’s dance class that was going on. In the class, there was a very happy little girl with her head shaven in a pink tutu. I can’t really describe how that made me feel, seeing a girl fifteen years younger than me who, at the moment, was handling cancer much better than I was. I did burst into tears which was really embarrassing and probably alarmed the kids. But it did snap me out of my wallowing. I started to count my blessings and it made me feel better. Then I got home and saw that we were out of Smart Start and I almost fell into a deep depression.
I’m sure I’ll continue to have many more self-pitying moments, but I hope I get better at it, because dramatically poetic signs like that don’t happen every day.
Anyway, I’m still dominating my theatre class (not really, I got a B+ on my last paper) (but we can revise it for a better grade) and waiting for a new pair of boots to arrive. For some reason, I haven’t lost my hair yet. So every morning I check to make sure it’s still there.
Fall break brought many visitors. Here are some pics of what me and my great friends did during their short visits.
We did homework!
We went to Germanfest!
We hung out in backyards!
We went to a Dudasik party!
We had theme parties!
Whoops that’s a picture of me and Lady Gaga.
My mom and I always joke about how this experience has provided us with many unique encounters with people that it is almost like an anthropology experiment. When I run into an acquaintance who doesn’t know that I’m sick, the same conversation will always transpire. They brightly ask if I’m home for the weekend and I get shifty-eyed and mention something about medical leave. There’s an awkward pause when they try to decide if they should ask what’s wrong with me. But since they think that would be rude, they don’t ask and make a quick exit with a “Hope everything works out!”
To further illustrate the scene, I have to tell you that I haven’t lost my hair yet and have maintained a svelte physique that can only be attained through a rigorous routine of walking from the couch downstairs to my bed upstairs. For the most part, I look as healthy as usual. So basically I’m pretty sure that many of those people think that I’m pregnant, which is more than a little embarrassing.
Jokes aside, I have been truly touched and astounded by all the support and love I’ve felt from so many people. When I received my diagnosis, I think I told four of my friends and asked that they tell the rest of my friends. Besides those four friends, it wasn’t really required of, or expected of, anyone else to reach out to me at all. Maybe that it a cynical mindset, but I know from personal experience that is easy to avoid uncomfortable situations. If one of my friends were to be diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma right now, I would probably still struggle to figure out what to say. For this reason, I have been so taken aback by the many people in my life that have been able to find the words and reach out to me. We might be at that awkward point in our relationship where we aren’t sure if we still wish each other happy birthday on Facebook, but when the going got rough, so many of people made that choice to reach out to me and I think that is super cool. So to say that I’m humbled by the affection I’ve received sounds so trite, but it really is true. This is my long-winded way of saying thank you to everyone, because honestly even if it was just a short text or instant message (JKJK), it meant a lot.
Speaking of unselfish friends, two of the best visited this weekend! BFF Lizzie and Liz eschewed U of I’s homecoming for a weekend of merriment in the ‘burbs. We trolled downtown Glen Ellyn looking for some junior high suitors, but to no avail. I blame it on the fact that we were wearing hoodies, which automatically ages you -5 years. We also had a delicious dinner at Liz’s, where Millie held court per usual:
In Hodgkin’s news, I had a minor surgery to get my port put in last Thursday. The “twilight” anesthesia state that I was under provided for a very realistic Harry Potter dream which was a variation of when the gang uses the dragon to escape from Gringotts. But the catch was I lost my wand before I got to the dragon. What a twist!!!
With respect to the treatment, my last chemo session went okay. I had delayed nausea accompanied with mouth and throat sores.
I hope you all had great weekends filled with above average carousing!
I’m sure everyone’s been wondering what a fashion-forward, Hispanic Studies major* does on her off week from chemo. We all know that if I were at BC this weekend, for example, I would have been posted up by the cheese and crackers at the Tarca Tailgate while marveling at Kristin’s ability to start shotgunning competitions with complete strangers. But alas, I am at home during this football season so I have had to find other ways to amuse myself. During the week, I usually battle with my mom about whether Entourage is too inappropriate for me to be able to watch it on the TV in front of Ben. My argument is that he has an iTouch, an e-mail address, and sometimes plays up in the 6th grade football game, so he’s pretty adult.
I have taken up hanging out with my friends’ moms, which has been a lot of fun. In some ways, they’re even better than my friends because they always offer food when I arrive and don’t expect me to raid the pantry on my own. I have to apologize to my friends though, because I make you guys look so bad during my visits. Here I am, battling cancer, writing blogs, and becoming a rising star in the North Central theater department, while you’re in Croatia doing God knows what in a two-piece.
This weekend was especially fun though, as there was a guest star in the ‘burbs known to both my Benet and BC peers.
BFF Val Mattaliano managed to get a concussion during practice. She blacked out for fifteen minutes, but when she came to, her first request was a flight back to visit me. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is. The two of us, along with BFF Megan Condon and BFFs Muffinz Mattaliano, painted the town red in our usual fashion, eating and laying on couches. Highlights of the weekend include an eggplant parmesan by Mrs. Mattaliano, raspberry hot chocolate from Egg Harbor, and pineapple pizza from Barone’s.
In health news, post chemo days are the pits. I felt pretty badly the five days after my treatment, and then only relatively badly after that. Some interesting side effects of the treatment were developing neuropathy in my fingers (losing the sensation of touch in my nerve endings) and having a decreased sense of balance, so I’m not able to do my usual puddle jumping.
I hope everything is going well with my friends at BC, abroad, and elsewhere. I miss you guys so much!
*I am also an Econ major with a Finance concentration. I know what the job market is like.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m spending the fall semester of my junior year at home on medical leave in Wheaton, Illinois. I was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma a few weeks before I was supposed to study abroad in Granada, Spain. I’m very fortunate that the cancer was caught early, and if all goes well, I should only have to go through four cycles of chemotherapy which equates to one session of chemo every other week for four months.
The purpose of this blog is not only to keep my friends and family updated on my condition, but also to allow myself to make light of my semester. Please don’t feel that I am taking my situation too casually. Hopefully this blog will be a creative release for me during a not-so-great period of my life. This blog is also not intended to be egotistical, but someone has to compete with the blogs of our friends who are abroad. I mean, Wheaton has cobblestone streets too, but you don’t see me taking an inordinate amount of drunk pics on them.
I had my first chemo session yesterday. It went pretty well. There’s a lot of waiting around during these six hour stints at the hospital, but luckily Sarah Jessica Parker was on the cover of Marie Claire, and I’m always looking for new tips on how to balance work, kids, and Matthew Broderick.
The chemo room is lined with patient stations divided by curtains with a big nursing station in the middle. I’m receiving my treatment at the University of Chicago. It’s a world renowned hospital in hematology/oncology, but also serves as the local hospital to the city’s impoverished South Side. I was the youngest patient in there by about 30 years. My mom was with me the whole time, but there were some patients who didn’t have anyone with them. My nurse told me that she didn’t know how some of the patients were even able to pay for parking during the day. As I pulled out my refrigerator quantity of Trader Joe’s snacks, I realized that despite the crumminess of my situation, I am so lucky to have not only a very curable cancer, but the means to go about treatment without worrying about if I will be able to afford it.
The worst part of the actual chemo session was trying to find a vein for the IV. I have rolling veins, which means they moved every time the nurse tried to stick one. My veins are also really small (which I attribute to my delicate nature), so I was poked and prodded for about fifteen minutes before they were able to find a good one. For this reason, I’m going to go through a procedure to get a port put into my neck, which is like a valve to my vein, so the nurse won’t have to try for a vein each time. It’s not an actual surgery, they said that they would put me in a “twilight” state, which is good for me because I don’t like being put under and because it allowed me to make a very stupid Robert Pattinson joke to the nurse, which she didn’t get, and then I felt like an idiot.
I spent about 3 hours in the chair getting my drug cocktail, then on my way out received a chemo blanket from the kind ladies of the North Shore Senior Center. It’s really pretty white with pink and orange crocheted sides. Little did they know I spilled chocolate ice cream on it two hours later. When I got home, Ben was there and told me how awesome he did at football, but wouldn’t be able to hang because he had a lot of math and english homework. Stuntin’ is a habit, I guess. I fell asleep watching Friends but unfortunately they were from the earlier seasons, which I don’t enjoy as much because I don’t think the characters are developed enough.
In other news, I will be taking one class at North Central College to fulfill my fine arts core at BC. It shouldn’t be a big deal, it’s “Intro to the Theater Arts”, and I’ll probably just bring a DVD of my groundbreaking performance as Tzeitel in St. Michael’s School’s 2005 ”Fiddler on the Roof”.
Thanks to all my friends and family for their love and support! I’m so truly blessed to have such great people in my life. Especially the ones who post good albums on Facebook that I can look at.
Jen requested a blanket. I think we all know who the chemo-diva is in this family.