Tag Archive: NHL


Today is the last day of my twenties; tomorrow I turn 30.  I used to dread growing old, but in life post-cancer, growing old is a goal.  I thought the urge to reminisce would catch me off guard last minute; threatening to enact some hint of regret, but instead I feel content and satisfied in reaching my thirties.  

I’m also very glad to be in Michigan at this time in my life.  Two years ago on my birthday we took a trip to Mackinac Island.  I looked out over the bow of the boat at rainbows forming in the freshwater spray.  The wind whipped through our hair and out over the straits of Mackinac, the iron bridge took on a soft look in the bright sunlight.  It was a moment so well-engrained that while my body was secretly host to a silent mutation, I dreamed of my good-byes to family.  Each time I said goodbye in dreams, I walked into the spray and knew then I was passing into a new realm, though at the time I didn’t even believe in Santa Clause.  I discovered the lump two days later and my life was forever changed.  

In a way, being up here feels like the closing of some loop.  Like I’ve been here before, but my path has changed.  Left untreated, NHL kills within two-years.  Most recurrences take place within the first two years into remission.  Whatever the significance, this experience has completed a two-year cycle.  At a time when I believed I would regret the turning of a decade, I am elated to put my twenties behind me; to embark full-throttle on a new adventure; to leap into the next phase of my life uninhibited; to count rainbows on the spray and to take on the softer look wisdom grants us as we age.

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Imperfection

For about a week now, I’ve been feeling this lump just beneath the hinge of my jaw. It’s movable, painless, and more solid than I would like, but it’s also small enough that I’m going to wait until my next appointment with the new oncologist to have it checked.

I haven’t mentioned it to anyone, not even Erick, until last night when he saw it and asked about it. It worried me that he could see it. He said it made my jawline look pointy.

Last night I had a dream about the cancer returning, but this morning the lump seems smaller, so I’m less concerned. I remember Dr. K telling me that from this point on, I’ll likely be hyper-sensitive to any lumps, bumps, bruises or node-swelling. He’s absolutely correct. This time around, however, I feel a bit of denial for if the cancer did return, my treatment options are limited and grueling.

I don’t think the cancer has returned, but the worries occasionally resurface.

Gratitude

I was just re-reading some past entries and the encouraging comments readers made. It brought tears to my eyes to remember that battle, but more so to feel the love from friends, family and even strangers who are united in the same cause: To survive and beat this disease. The wisdom in the messages left by fellow bloggers was simple, yet profound: Snuggle your babies or do whatever reminds you of why your fighting so hard; take a break and let others help; take in each moment with gratitude; and my personal favorite, “FUCK CANCER.”

Not only did these words of comfort and advice resonate then, they resonate still. Your support crossed miles and is timeless. I am forever grateful for the courage our friends and family put forth, the research they did on their own to better understand blood cancers, the gentle hand in helping with our girls or preparing food to feed our family when Erick was working hard to step in where I left off. And my gratitude to my husband and children who did their best to make life “normal.” As I’ve often said, normal never felt so good!

There was a moment, after my first treatment, when I considered letting the disease take its course. The first treatment was horrible. I developed blisters inside my mouth and throat and was too weak to move or eat much. I hated myself for feeling so weak. Erick sat with me and tried to give me the next dose of Prednisone, but I told him “No more.” I was certain death would be a welcome reprieve to this misery. My husband persisted and we wrapped the pills in peanut butter and bread so they would go down easier. Reflecting on this moment, it was definitely my weakest, but with Erick’s help, it was also courageous. Everyone battling cancer learns early on that strength in this fight does not come from muscle, but from somewhere deeper. It emerges when we think we cannot move forward and carries us until we can stand on our own. We learn early on, we are stronger than we ever before imagined. And when we emerge outside our treatments, the challenges we face daily pale in comparison to our darker battles.

The things that stay with me today are not the difficulties of the treatments, but instead the kindness, the love and support; the greater journey that extends out before me.

With gratitude,  Samantha

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For those of you who don’t know me well, I spent a year working on an Honor’s project for college on the topic of increased incidence of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and agricultural practices in Northern Michigan in 2005.  The project, More than Cherries, was inspired by the story of a young woman who died in early 2005 of diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, an aggressive form of NHL.

One year after the publication of my paper, I was diagnosed with the same form of lymphoma.  And weeks into my diagnosis, I was introduced to Lauren’s family for
the first time.  After our introduction, we were amazed at the strange coincidences that seemed always, something more than just coincidence.  It was as if Lauren was looking out for all of us on our journey through cancer.

The more I learned about Lauren, the more I felt like I had known her and at times, I had to remind myself that we had never met.  And yet, there was no doubt she was influencing my life.

Lauren’s mom shared a wonderful story about an eagle that kept appearing after Lauren’s death.  People said eagles had never been sighted near her house, and yet every time Dawn thought about Lauren, there was the eagle.  It even made an appearance at Lauren’s memorial service in town, where other people witnessed it.

A few days ago, I was driving out to Elk Rapids, passing along the open stretch of East Bay, when I saw two eagles each perched atop a rock along the shore.  Immediately I thought of Lauren and her mom and pulled over to allow the girls a better view.  I kept thinking, “These are Lauren’s birds, why am I seeing them right now.”  As one of the large birds lifted off, it seemed to disappear into the sky.

The following morning, I emailed Lauren’s mom and told her about the eagles.  She emailed back immediately and reminded me, “Yesterday was the anniversary of Lauren’s death!  The “coincidence” is not lost on me.”

I’ve always been cyncial, certainly agnostic and I’m likely better described as atheist, but when it comes to Lauren, I can’t help but feel she is real and present in our lives.  And so when I see Lauren’s bird, I see a sign of hope, of peace, of a reality that stretches into the spiritual experience.

Yesterday I met with Dr. K, my oncologist. He’s my hero for not only was he mindful of my treatments and care, but he was always careful to remember things about me as a person first, patient second. His honesty could be brutal at times, but this I value still for it allowed me to forgo unnecessary worry.

After my blood-work, in which they found a vein successfully the first poke (and in my arm)! I talked with Dr. K about how I’ve been feeling and what lay ahead. I told him I’ve been well and he checked me for the usual lumps and bumps and listened to my heart and lungs and then smiled his broad smile and said everything looks as good as I feel. We talked about my plan of action once I move down to NC and then he shook my hand and said, “Goodbye and good luck to you.”

I thanked him, but it didn’t seem enough just to say thank-you when the person standing across from you has saved your life. And yet, I know he knows how grateful I am for all he has done. When he asked about my heart, I retorted, “Have you considered cardiology as a side career?”

Yesterday was about more than Dr. K. It was about walking away without scheduling another scan. It was the certainty with which Dr. K said “No” when the nurse inquired about a CT scan for January. It was like I had been set free and my life lay ahead of me in long beautiful years that stretched out infinitely. For a moment, I forgot about vulnerability and disease.

Yesterday I said things like, “I feel good.” “I’m well.” “No night sweats, no fatigue.” “I can run and it feels great.” And when Dr. K asked whether I “felt like I had returned to all normal day to day activities,” I happily answered YES! And then some.

I know I’ll never completely let go of this experience. There is a scar still visible to the naked eye and medication I now rely on to some degree and there are times when I must just let myself cry. Along this path, I’ve met and loved some remarkable people who unfortunately succumbed to this disease and even a part of me and who I was fell away as I continued on along my own path. So, in that sense, I still grieve. At the same time, I celebrate each small victory in my return to normalcy.

I will always remember the kindness others bestowed upon me, often by strangers united by the same cause; to beat this disease not with drugs, but with love, compassion, patience and attitude. No matter what happens moving forward, I/We have won over cancer.

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Photo by Dianna McPhail 

Shop Your Community Day

If you’re in Traverse City, the LLS is holding a fund-raising event to benefit the society (and patients battling blood cancers):

Please join us on Saturday, November 10, 2007 for “Shop Your Community Day” in downtown Traverse City!

More than 35 retail stores and shops are participating and for every purchase you make, 15% will be donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

What a great way to get a jump on holiday shopping and help out a local charity!  And it’s EASY – when making purchases, mention to the sales associate that you want 15% to go to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  It’s that simple!

 For more details, please visit: www.downtowntc.com

Thank-you!