Call me crazy, but in the last month, I have been pleasantly surprised to uncover the many positive aspects of getting cancer. Yes, I've had to tweak, bend, and re-align my one-sided point of view to gain a better perspective of the benefits that can arise from such a diagnosis. However, the results have been astounding and life-changing for me. Despite popular opinion, here is a list of 20 reasons that cancer doesn't suck:
1) I am gaining mental strength because I am being faced with obstacles that few 20-year-olds have to encounter.
2) I have a guinea pig. Turns out you should take advantage of every possible opportunity when your oncologist tells your parents that pets promote healing.
3) My room is always clean. The phrase "a clean room = a clean mind" has never resonated with me more than it has in the last month.
4) I am able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Ice-cream? Yup. For breakfast? You bet.
5) I've learned that it's ok to be vulnerable. It's ok to ask for help.
6) I've wiped away my disordered eating tendencies. I now understand the benefit of eating intuitively and purposefully. My body needs fuel and energy in order to fight the bad cells and protect the good ones.
7) I exercise to make myself feel good. Walks around the neighborhood have become my best friend.
8) I'm learning, more than ever before, that I don't need a lot to make me happy.
9) I am less quick to judge people or react angrily. I'm more at peace with myself and the ambience of my surroundings.
10) I appreciate my life more. Once this is a thing from my past, I will be able to take away this new-found sense of gratitude and run with it.
11) Because my diagnosis has cleared my schedule, I have a free summer. I've been able to reconnect with old friends and make new friends. I can soak up the sun at the beach or be a hermit and watch Netflix all day.
12) I've become closer to my family, immediate and extended. I have a larger support system than I ever could have thought up.
13) My Brooklyn "family" is back in my life.
14) I'm receiving a notably substantial amount of attention. Now, as I previously mentioned, I am not an attention seeker. Nonetheless, I can't complain when I tear open a care package filled with freshly made cookies.
15) I'm growing more compassionate for others and their unique struggles.
16) I've been welcomed to the world of mindfulness meditation, Reiki, and yoga with open arms.
17) Free foot massages. Thanks, Mom. Just gonna leave it at that.
18) I believe, with every bone in my body, that this experience is reinforcing my decision to major in psychology. I have never been more proud to be studying such a progressive, useful, and forthcoming science.
19) I have a free pass for many things. You may be surprised to know that "I can't move because I have cancer" can get you the remote that is a mere few feet from your face.
20) I will be a guiding, helping force for future people wallowing in a pit of destructive emotions following a cancer diagnosis. With the new skills and wisdom that I learn every single day, I will be able to help people.
Every day my fate is being shaped. I am going to turn this horrible ordeal into a supportive foundation for my future. I am going to learn from these challenges and grow from them. Who knows-- maybe these trials and tribulations will guide me in my career path. I can only hope.
And that's a wrap on my second chemotherapy treatment. Woohoo. 2 down, many to go!
As previously mentioned, I have been looking forward to this day for the last two weeks, and I am remarkably happy that it is over with. However, I'm already starting to feel the ill effects of the chemo. I just spent two hours curled up in a fetal position. I feel fatigued, weak, and my head hurts. Although I am physically drained, I am not mentally drained. I want to write. Before I continue, I want to give a shout out to some very important people:
1) After re-reading my first blog post, to my dismay, I realized that I forgot to mention one of the most important aspects of my journey: my incredible doctors. I am being treated at two of the most well-known & medically advanced cancer centers in the country, and I am fortunate enough to have two of the best, brightest, and compassionate oncologists working together on my team. These doctors are providing me with the best care in the world, and they were able to get me an accurate diagnosis in record speed. I don't know what I did to get so lucky, but I am not taking my exceptional care for granted.
2) I also want to give a shout out to these lovely humans who accompanied me today:
Instead of getting my chemo treatment in the hospital's bustling cancer center, I was stationed at another, quieter building. I was the only patient in the room. It took only 2.5 hours to get all of the drugs pumped into me because the nurse only had one charming patient. Here are some pictures from today. Enjoy. Yes, I know I should pursue modeling. And yes, my shirt does say "technical difficulties."
I learned today that I prefer to be in a busy chemo room with other patients undergoing treatment. It is more entertaining to hear other patients gossip and brag about how their grand kids just won the second grade spelling bee (true story). So, mark your calendars because in two weeks I'll have a more exciting chemo treatment update filled with the latest elderly scandals and chatter. Riveting.
After today's chemo treatment, before the drugs started to take a toll on me, we headed to Panera. Besides the fact that Panera is heavenly, I'm only mentioning it because it's a good segue into my next topic: overt staring. For most of my life I've lived under the radar. I've never been one to draw attention to myself, and I've never felt like an outcast before, until now. Whenever I leave my house in a brightly colored head wrap, people go out of their way to crane their necks to get a good look at me. The worst is when strangers give me sympathetic looks as if I'm a helpless puppy. For the first time in my life I am able to discern how and why cancer has the capacity to make people less sociable. I, however, am not going to let this stop me from going out in public. One of the steps in my journey to self love is overcoming the obstacle of being in public. Every day I'm stepping out of my comfort zone in order to build up my confidence. Cancer has given me this opportunity.
This is real. This is me. I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. Peace out. Until next time.
All my love,
P.S. I've read every single one of your blog comments. They make my day. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
On Memorial Day weekend, I have disproved the prevailing stereotype: cancer = all work, no play.
It's pretty ironic because I've been more social in these last few weeks than I have in the last few years. Friendships have been rekindled, and I've been making further efforts to hang out with my friends because it really does feel good. This weekend I have had the pleasure of spending time with some of the people I love the most in this world.
Because I temporarily have my appetite back, my fatigue is gone, and my back pain has drastically lessened since my last chemo treatment, I have taken advantage of my good health and have spent a couple of days in upstate NJ with my crazy, wonderful family.
There isn't a place in the world that I would have rather been than in the great outdoors chasing my cute, energetic, young cousins around. I caught a toad. I played Kan Jam with my brothers and Brian. I spent quality time with my cousins, aunt, uncle and parents. My team dominated the Catch Phrase tournament (thank you Colleen for holding the team together). I ate yummy BBQ and shrimp salad. I went for long walks around the village and by the lake. There's something so comforting about spending time in the place that provided me with some of my best childhood memories.
I can't stress enough how uplifting it is for me to spend time with my family. They have made this challenge in my life easier for me, and I am forever grateful. Moving on, after our Vernon trek Brian and I spent the evening with our friends at a BBQ. Good food. Great company. Lots of laughs. Puppy cuddles. What could be better?
This weekend has marked the first time I have sported my head wraps in front of my friends and extended family. It's weird not having hair. Being without something that has been a marker of my physical beauty for most of my life is certainly a challenge, but every day I'm beginning to embrace the new me. I look forward to speaking about my new beauty standards in a later blog post.
Anyways, I want to remind you all that my second chemotherapy cycle is this Tuesday. I have been anxiously awaiting this day, and I am very excited to destroy more cancer cells! Because I kept a detailed record of my symptoms from the last chemo cycle, I generally know what to expect for this next one. Yes, for a few days I'll be tired, groggy, and without an appetite, but I'll be one step closer to beating this horrible disease.
Look out for my next blog post on May 28th. I'll be writing from the hospital in my comfy recliner.
All my love,
For those of you who don't know or for those of you who do, I was recently diagnosed with Stage 4 nodular sclerosis Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Is this a joke!?!"
"I'm only 20 are you kidding me."
"There's absolutely no way."
These were some of the many thoughts that were bouncing through my mind when I found out. There is no way to prepare for this. Never in a trillion years did I think that I would be faced with this hurdle at 20.
It all started three months ago when I woke up with debilitating lower back pains. After 2 months of unsuccessful chiropractic treatment, my chiropractor (who turned out to be my savior) urged me to get an MRI. Then the fun began. After the highly abnormal MRI came the bloodwork, the CT scan, the PET scan, the bone marrow biopsy, the EKG, the Lung Function Test, the surgical lymph node biopsy with overnight hospital stay, the surgical port procedure, and finally my first chemo treatment. This all happened within 3 weeks. 3 weeks of non-stop appointments, procedures, and biopsies. 3 weeks was all it took to change everything.
Before I continue, I think it's important to learn a little about Hodgkin's lymphoma. The American Cancer Society breaks it down perfectly.
Here's a wonderful summary:
To help ease your mind, it's also important for you to understand that I fall into the favorable category of Stage 4. This is because I am a woman (girl power), I have no previous medical history, I am VERY healthy, I have good protein levels, etc.
Now that you hopefully have a basic grasp about my diagnosis, I want to share some information about my treatment. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for most people with Hodgkin's. Chemo drugs enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body to reach and destroy cancer cells. Chemo for classic Hodgkin's lymphoma combines several drugs because different drugs kill cancer cells in different ways.
ABVD is the most common regimen used in the United States, and it is my chemotherapy drug concoction. My treatments take place once every 2 weeks. After 4 treatments of chemo, I will get another PET scan that will determine the following 4 months of my treatment. My first round of chemo started on Monday, May 13th, and (I know I sound crazy) but I loved every minute of it. The nurses were so nice. I was relaxed in a recliner. It was oddly comforting being surrounded by others getting treatment. I was also excited to get the ball rolling. I welcomed the ABVD into my body with open arms because I need it to start working its magic. Like now.
Although I was excited for my chemo treatment, I was not excited for what was to follow. The chemo definitely took a toll on me. Unfortunately, chemo kills good cells in order to destroy the bad ones, so many people suffer from a variety of side effects. The next 3 days following treatment were marked with fatigue, complete appetite loss, and minimal nausea. However, I am happy to report that after a few days my appetite came back, and my fatigue slowly lessened. Physically, I've been feeling better every day. Mentally, I've been improving as well. Yes, some days are bumpier than others, but overall I'm getting stronger every day.
If you're still reading this, I'm very impressed. You must really love me. Because it is hard for me to frequently update everyone individually, I've decided that I'm going to post daily on this site. I'll post updates on both my physical and mental health, as well as anything that pleases me. I hope you find comfort in these blog posts, as they are a fun way for me to vent my thoughts in an organized manner.
Again, I love you all so much. Your love and support means the world to me. The more people on my team saying 'FU' to Hodgkin's, the better.
I'm going to get through this one day at a time. One lame blog post at a time.
All my love,
Hi, I'm Lia. I have Hodgkin's lymphoma, but Hodgkin's lymphoma does not have me.