To say that I was shocked by my stage IV cancer diagnosis is the understatement of the year. For someone that is hardly ever sick, tries to do everything right in terms of health, and who is constantly on a diet, this was devastating news. This is how my story began:
On October 12, 2012, I first got sick. I remember this date because I hardly ever get sick, remember? (Insert eye roll). I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible chills, night sweats, headache, and a fever of 103. Like most people, I assumed that I had flu. After three days of being unable to get out of bed, I went to the local Urgent Care center. Although they were unable to provide a diagnosis, they drew some blood, and noted some abnormal results. My liver enzymes were slightly elevated and my white blood cell platelets were low. The urgent care physician thought perhaps it was due to dehydration because of my fevers, and sent me to the ER for a “metabolic work-up”(technical term for ask someone else what’s wrong with me after drawing some more blood), and some fluids. The ER doctor confirmed the same blood test results, and after taking a chest X-ray, diagnosed me with pneumonia, even though I had NO upper respiratory symptoms!! Weird!–at least that’s what I thought. Apparently the doctor saw a small spot on my lung which he thought was fluid. He gave me one of those Z-packs that you get when you have a bad cold, and sent me on my way. A few days later, while on the Z-pack, I started to get the fevers again! Something wasn’t right, so I scheduled an appointment with an internal medicine specialist. Still no cough or signs of a cold at this point. I saw the doctor who did not believe I had pneumonia after viewing my X-rays. My blood results showed that my white blood cell platelets had dropped a little, and liver enzymes were still elevated. Again, she could not provide a diagnosis after doing all kinds of blood cultures. She assumed it must be some type of infection and put me on another antibiotic. A few days after taking the new antibiotic, my fevers had no gone away, I now started getting migraines, and I developed a pretty deep cough. Back into the doctor I went. This doctor decided I had bronchitis after taking another Chest X-ray, gave me another Z pack, and sent me on my way….again.
Then…just as quickly as it started, BAM! All symptoms went away, and I felt better. This was November 2012. It was during this month that I discovered I was pregnant after trying to conceive for over a year. This pregnancy felt a little different than normal. I was actually LOSING weight, and had very little appetite. I felt full and bloated all the time and my normal temperature seemed to range between99 and 100 degrees. I chalked all this up to the hormones you develop with pregnancy, and morning sickness! Who wouldn’t?! At 5 weeks pregnant, just after I found out I was pregnant; I developed the deep cough again. I went back to my internist who prescribed me another Z-pack since it seemed to work the last time, and is safe to take when you’re pregnant. On December 16, 2012, I started bleeding. I went to the doctor the next day and discovered that I had a miscarriage. We were so upset. The next morning I woke up with a fever of nearly 104 degrees and pain in my upper abdomen. I assumed that I had an infection due to the miscarriage and needed a D&C I called my OB who told me to go head straight to the ER. The ER doctor informed me that my uterus was fine, but I had basically no white blood cells/platelets and my liver enzymes were really high. (Note: I mean I love to drink a glass of wine or two as much as the next person, but I certainly hadn’t drunk in months due to the antibiotics and pregnancy, and for sure not enough to give myself liver disease)! That was when the doctor referred me to an oncologist/hematologist, and we knew something wasn’t right.
After a series of tests, scans, ultra sounds etc., they discovered that my spleen and liver were HUGE, and filled with cancer. There was cancer in my bones and lymph nodes. On December 26th, they gave me my diagnosis of stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. STAGE 4?!!!Merry F*ckin Xmas! I don’t think I’ve ever been that scared in all my life. Because I knew a little something about Hodgkin’s disease because my sister had it twice, I knew that it was a treatable cancer, with a pretty high cure rate. Knowing this is what drives me every day. FAILURE IS NOT OPTION. I WILL BEAT THIS!
….It should also be noted that I use humor as a way to mask my emotions. There. I admitted it. Thus, I typically look for positive (or sarcastically positive) outlooks for most situations. Below are my 3 positives:
1. WEIGHT LOSS. Ok. Granted this is NOT the way I NORMALLY would have gone about it, but my friend Abby and I would skip lunch and work out every day at lunch and then some. I was kind of a freak about it. I had a TON of trouble shedding the 60 lbs. (yup you read that right!) That I gained when i was pregnant. I still ate, don’t you worry about that…which was the majority of my problem!!! Anyway, since I’m still not close to what is considered “normal” weight for my 5 foot frame, I can still say that I’m happy to shed a few Lbs. Don’t judge me. You wouldn’t want to be fat AND have cancer now would you?!
2. HAIR COLOR. Although I’ll be bald for a while, I don’t really care much about losing my hair. I care about beating this cancer’s ass. The positive though is that after YEARS of dying my hair, I can FINALLY find out what my natural hair color is!! Not to mention, I probably won’t be highlighting it like a fool after it grows back. Oh what a tangled web highlights are. Such maintenance! What an expense!!
3. I HAVE HODGKINS. Ok so super unlucky, no doubt. Only 1 in 7,000 people each year get it, and both my sister and I have had it, but still…I totally consider this a positive even in its advanced stage. There has been lots of research done on this disease, and even in stage 3/4 there is a 60% cure rate. Yes I know, clearly I’m unlucky, but hopefully I will still fall into that 60 category! I plan to fight it tooth and nail, no matter how much it sucks along the way!!!!
And so begins my journey….stay tuned for some major over sharing and sarcastic remarks. You can’t get through life without a sense of humor.