June 20, 2011
“Stand up straight!,” my mini-sized mother would yell at me when I was a kid. She always followed with a slap to the lower back and some supplemental instructions, “chest out, shoulders back!” At 4’ 10”, she knew every trick in the book to gaining an edge in the height department. Of course, I ignored all these lessons, but these past four weeks have been nothing but posturing. I’ve been carrying the burden of a tumor and all the baggage that comes along with it. Weighing heavy on my shoulders, I’ve had no choice but to be strong – stand up straight.
I had a follow up meeting with my oncologist. This will be a routine meeting every week after my treatment to check on my symptoms and progress. I will have 6-8 chemo cycles, depending on their effectiveness. After my third treatment, I will have a CT scan of my chest to see if we’re making any progress. After my sixth treatment, I will get a full body PET scan. If the tumor’s still there, the doctor will opt for radiation or more chemo. I will have blood tests every week to check my white blood cell count. Chemo pretty much just kills everything – even my disease fighting white blood cells. If they go below a minimum level, I will have to miss chemo until they return to a safe level. She also explained that she doesn’t feel surgery would be necessary. I should see results right away, maybe even as soon as after my first treatment. The fluid around my lungs and heart should begin to subside. Only a few days after my first treatment and I’ve already noticed significant improvements in my breathing. The chest pains have eased up too. Maybe this stuff actually does more than fry the hair off your head. No more tests and guessing. We now have the map of my journey.
Ever since this journey began, I’ve never had the Nancy Kerrigan taking a pipe to the knee reaction. There are things in life you can control. I recognized that this wasn’t one of them. No one gave me the Dummy’s Guide to Avoiding Tumors in the Chest, so I don’t know how I could’ve prevented this from happening. I’ve never felt sorry for myself. I was 11 years old when my parents got divorced. I understood from a young age that life can be cruel. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Maybe this was another life-lesson that prepared me for the challenge I face today.
Sure this has been an unfortunate turn of events in my life, but I felt I had plenty to be thankful for. Whenever I look at my situation, I always think it pales in comparison to what others are dealing with. Sure it’s cancer, but it isn’t in my lungs, kidneys, pancreas, etc. I don’t have to have any body parts surgically removed. I can’t begin to imagine what emotional trauma a woman would go through after a mastectomy or a hysterectomy. I have my age on my side. I would much rather battle this at 34 than at 64. I may have fast food tendencies, but for the most part I’m healthy. I have a great support system – I have a lot of people I can bitch at when all else fails. Plus, all my test results proved to be more good news. We were only dealing with the tumor in my chest. Non-Hodgkins is supposed to be very treatable. All of these factors had me thinking this was going to be a piece of cake. Then I had my first treatment and it all came crashing down on me. As the chemo was running its course through my body, it may have poisoned my mind more than anything. The thought of having to go through all these treatments and taking all these pills was overwhelming. Train of good thought – derailed.
Read this next part in Morgan Freeman’s voice:
Jeff looked up at the road to recovery and became dwarfed by the mountain of treatments, doctor appointments and pills that piled up in front of him. Unable to look past this obstacle, he asked himself, “Would this ever be over?” All he wanted to do was burry himself in a hole, only to crawl out and return to the rest of the world when he was healthy. Unfortunately, his PPO didn’t cover this kind of treatment. There was no detour around this mountain. He had to face this challenge head on. It was then he realized his attitude was the only variable that he could control. This was possibly the most important moment of his journey. It was time to get busy living or get busy dying.
Ok, that last line was to see if you were still using Morgan Freeman’s voice.
I had an epiphany, a moment of clarity, the skies parted and angels sang. I hate to sound cliché, but it finally made more sense than ever, “attitude is everything.” Getting past this is going to take some manning-up. I put my feelings and emotions in check. More importantly, I accepted it. There’s no magical flute that can warp me past this level. Yes, I’m going to be pumped full of chemicals till I’m sick. Many people have gone on to live fulfilling lives without eyebrows. I told myself another old cliché, “this is gonna suck ass,” but it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even a whole year. I’ve stayed with girlfriends that are possibly worse than cancer, for longer than this. I trusted my healthcare team has me on the best plan to beat this. I now knew exactly what my treatment schedule looked like. I started making plans for when I was going to be healthy again. Like, filming that Eye of the Tiger montage of me running on the beach I’ve always wanted. This new outlook gave me clarity and confidence. All of a sudden, that mountain became nothing but a speed bump on my road to recovery. Chest out, shoulders back, stand up straight – I was ready to kick cancer’s ass.
Coming Soon! Special edition: “Quit Being A Little Bitch” Be Heald bracelets.