September is Blood Cancer Awareness month. How appropriate that it also be my birthday month.
Not many people, especially woman, want to acknowledge their years once they are over 29, but let me burn the house down with forty-four candles!
As I reflect back on my fortieth birthday and how depressing it was and what a road I have traveled it is pretty miraculous. Allow me this trip down memory lane.
June 2009: Severe back pain that wasn't allowing me a good night's sleep and keeping me from enjoying the sunshine.
July 2009: Five weeks of visiting doctors, fighting with them, even getting a scan and loading my body full of pain killers and nothing to show for it but bags under my eyes and the beginning of a running career and NO ANSWERS!
August 2009: Finally a doctor who said, "Let's do x rays and scans." A week later I was sitting in "stark examination room" and was told I had a mass on T12. August 27th Dr. Song called to tell me I had cancer and August 28th Dr. Kraemer confirmed it. Somehow that date is like a death date to me. I will never forget August 28, 2009. My heart literally stopped that day. Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
September 2009: I turned 40--not sure I could be happy about that as I was in the middle of a three week deal with radiation and then that evening we got a phone call that Steve's dad passed away from a heart attack. That was a very dark day (week and month). Too many biopsies that month for my liking. Best thing about this month was all the service my family received at the hands of our friends and family. WOW! blessing pour down from heaven. A bone biopsy is very painful--just sayin'.
October 2009: Did great with radiation. Lost a lot of weight, pain level pretty high but lived happy through chemistry. Dr Kraemer said no CHEMO! I'm still running, but this time with a cause--Joined Team in Training. I have a new family and they understand.
November 2009: Cancer is back, but just a little bitty piece near T11. But first we have to solve my tummy/throat problems caused by the last round of radiation. More scans, more tests. Still running and raised $10,000 for TNT! Too skinny for treatments, have to pack on the pounds.
December 2009: Doctors continue talking to each other while they try to figure out my treatment plan. Christmas decorating and all that goes with it is VERY HARD this year. On a run I literally break down in sobs thinking about how everything could be "my last". Cancer is more painful mentally than physically at this point. Back under the beams for a second round of radiation.
January 2010: Seems like a month of treating side-effects from every treatment and pill I'm taking. Radiation done!
February 2010: Blood work and "watch and wait" is the treatment plan. Fatigue is still a big problem, but I'm still running (I have to).
March 2010: Scan time! Tumor is back! Chemo this time around, but first we have to go figure out what type of chemo I should have so lots of biospies. YUCK!
April 2010: Port placed in chest and chemo started. Life for the next four or five months will revolve around a 20 day cycle: ten bad days (right after chemo) followed by ten getting better days.
May 2010: I ran my first half marathon! WOW what a rush! I've signed myself up for a full in October. Hair fell out and Steve shaved me. WORST. DAY. EVER. I spent the day in tears.
June 2010: Somehow I manage a life--not a good one, but a life. I think I spend more time asleep than awake. I run when I can (during those good ten days) and the other times I'm asleep on my bed just praying my eyes will open.
July 2010: Chemo brain set in. Who remembers what happened here? Not me.
August 2010: Chemo is over and doc says "REMISSION". My date for remission is August 5, 2010. It's my second birthday.
September 2010: I turn 41 in style: BALD and HAPPY!
October 2010: Trying to live life as normal as possible. Run first full marathon with very little training behind me and turn in a respectable time.
November 2010: Thanksgiving and Christmas are way different this year.
December 2010: My doctor says my blood and scans are clean--still cancer free!
Spring 2011: Treatment plan is wait and watch, which means every six weeks a blood draw (numbers get better each month) and a scan every three to six months as needed. Worst part about the cancer community is getting those emails about a fellow patient who didn't make it. Said goodbye to two cancer buddies this spring. Family took a trip to Disney World and I had hair in the photos! I also ran the Vancouver full.
Summer 2011: A normal summer--how wonderful! Blood draws and scans. Celebrated ONE YEAR of remission. How wonderful!
Fall 2011: Blood counts go up and down and there are a few spots on the scans that the doc wants to "watch". But i'm still in REMISSION! Ran the Seattle full in pouring rain!
Winter 2012: Still in remission, continue with blood draws and scans as prescribed in the "wait and watch" treatment plan.
Spring 2012: Doc doesn't like a spot that lights up in the scans. It is near my thyroid. We will be watching this one spot closely. Scans are now closer together.
Summer 2012: Doc says we need to biopsy the thyroid, but it isn't a simple insert needle and pull out sample--this one is a surgery. End of August after celebrating my SECOND year in remission I have surgery. Biopsy shows NOTHING! It is just a mass of cells. We all have 'em but with me that mean something is up.
Fall 2012: Blood draws and scans are still my treatment plan.
Winter 2013: Blood draws and scans and my life is pretty normal. Funny how I can type that and yet, each morning and night as I dress and look in the mirror I'm reminded I have cancer when I see my two scars: my port and my thyroid biopsy. Cancer though on the back burner in my life is always near.
Spring 2013: Drop Jason off at the MTC, "Is this the last time I will ever see him again?" Run a half marathon (two in fact), PR and do it with a bouncy ponytail. Funny how a ponytail makes me smile. This ponytail can even come smack me in the face and a raise a smile from my lips.
Summer 2013: I hit four years from diagnosis, three years in remission. My scans from March weren't very clean and there was "something" there. I told very few people but the indication was that cancer was back. Luckily, I didn't pay too much attention to it, but then pain started to happen in my hip. Was it? Wasn't it? Blood and scans say no! It is a physical problem (maybe running, maybe old age, maybe a side effect from drugs). Doesn't matter I get to celebrate THREE YEARS IN REMISSION!
See how long my hair is!!! Now that's reason to celebrate being 44. Maybe I'll get to be 84!