I sat in Doctor Kumar’s examining room as he pulled up my biopsy results in 2014.
This appointment followed an appointment with my General Practitioner, an MRI, a needle biopsy and a surgical biopsy. However when he said, “You have cancer”, I was still in complete denial. “Nah”, I replied, “Maybe it’s my thyroid or something, I have a flight to Italy in 4 days.” Like my plans were somehow going to make a difference. His response finally broke through, “Jennifer, cancel your trip and live to do it another day, you have cancer.”
What is it they say, “Man plans, God laughs”.
I cancelled the trip and had my first chemo session two days later.
That began a journey full of twists and turns, which isn’t finished yet.
Now, it is 2018. I have been through two rounds of chemotherapy, three different Lymphoma based cancers and countless CT scans, PET scans and infusions. In August, based on a new CT scan, tumors were in my abdomen, again. My husband and I decided to go to Portugal, a trip we had been planning for almost a year and deal with it upon our return. What a trip! We had a great time.
Upon our return, another CT scan showed that the cancer had grown and moved into the colon, bummer. It was time to do a biopsy. A mesentery tumor is in the abdomen and a little hard to reach, but if you punch three holes, you can get one out, sheesh. Honestly, surgery is a lot easier to endure and recover from than Chemo.
The cytometry report showed that the Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma has returned and now you are all caught up.
I have been asked repeatedly what I have learned from this journey and I can offer what sounds like platitudes. “Life is a gift, treat it accordingly.” ” “Never hang up the telephone without saying “I love you”.” The list goes on but someone facing death and the challenges of a health crises is just like you, the reel is just running a little faster.
October 29, 2018…
When your oncologist comes into the examining room, sits next to you and takes your hand, plug your ears and refuse to listen for as long as necessary. Hum a tune, a simple Lalala, or tears work pretty nicely When you are calm, unplug your ears and listen. Just sayin’
Without treatment I will be dead in less than a year, with treatment , 40% are alive at the end of a year. WOW!
PS, you will be so sick, your brain will swell (most likely), your bone marrow may or may not be destroyed, you will spend weeks in the hospital (oh just shoot me now), and it will cost you a bloody fortune (all those years of being frugal have paid off, but this was not how I expected to spend my retirement dollars).
I am waiting for the cloud (the big black one raining on a bright sunny day) to pass, so that I can think more rationally about the choices. Part of me wants to go without a fight. I have had a most marvelous life, been educated, have children, have friends, traveled the world…seriously traveled the world, own a company, live in two resorts with fabulous views that are inspiring, found love, enjoyed helping others and have nothing to complain about. I won the life lottery, except for Cancer. It is a small part of me that wants to go without the fight, but it should be each person’s decision. I would no more insist that a person go through what I have gone through and consider doing more, than fly to the moon.
In my opinion, we should allow assisted suicide in all 50 States. It slays me that we force life upon those who would choose death and yet my family pulls me from that particular brink and asks me to consider immunotherapy and be that 40% that is alive 1 year later….hmmmmm.
Lymphoma is a disease that saps energy stores. Seriously hard to do when I eat a Haagen Dazs ice cream bar once a day and have 2 cups of coffee in the morning. Naps have extended to 1 1/2 hours, bedtime is at 9:30PM, if I can make it until then.
However, here is some advice, if you want to keep moving…then keep moving. I still hike at least 3 miles a day. Many people are not active when they begin therapy and I understand that getting outdoors and hiking is not an option. However, if you can only walk to the mailbox, then walk to the mailbox, 8 times. Tomorrow make it 8 1/2 and the following week, make it 9. The outdoors, even in foul weather is your juice, fills your soul, and expands your mind. Have at it and take friends along.
Nov 1, 2018
My oncologist is a wunderkind of communication. If she wants it done, she gets on the telephone and makes it happen! I have an appointment at LDS Hospital, authorized to administer Yescarta – a CAR T immunotherpy – for November 7th. They have sent paperwork, three pages of side effects and if I die it is like, totally not their fault, signatures. Also directions to their facility and some of the procedures I can expect. An ecocardiogram, easy peasy, then a 10 day wait while they attempt to line up insurance. Oh thank God they do that, because I would be lost!
I am still hiking 3-5 miles a day and plan to continue until I cannot. I sit and fight with my computer for at least 2 hours trying to blog or work Instagram……soooo frustrating. I knit, watch football, talk to friends and family and run my packaging brokerage business. ANYTHING, to keep me from spending too much time thinking about what is to come and simultaneously trying to be introspective and spend time contemplating world peace. Last night I dreamed I found a cure for Cancer! Admittedly that is a little odd. I have given up alcohol…. please, temporarily….. and will continue my pescatarian diet.
Diet…I have eaten healthily for the last 20-30 years. Vegetarian except for fish, mostly salmon, lots of vitamins and supplements, organic fruits and vegetable, very little sugar and yet here I am. My point is that I may have delayed being sick, but the fact remains, I am really sick. If you lined up 100 people and asked someone to chose the 1 person who did not have Cancer, I might be the choice. Don’t ignore symptoms, lumps and bumps, unexplained pain. We all know if you turf is on your run, you knee and elbow are going to hurt, but if you press on your tummy and it hurts, just see someone and don’t take a flippant explanation as the last word. Sometimes they are wrong……