Friday, October 3, 2014

Just Breathe.

When you get diagnosed with cancer, life feels like one big waiting game: Wait for the doctors. Wait for the results. Wait for the cancer to come back…

For three years I’ve waited for the moment I can breathe. For three years I’ve waited for today. 

Today is my two year anniversary of being in remission.

Cancer limbo is a strange place to be. You no longer have cancer but you can’t say you’re a survivor. You have to wait for year five for that declaration.

But two years and three months ago I had to choose my cancer path. Two years and three months ago I had to decide between high dose chemotherapy coupled with a full bone marrow transplant for a 60% cure rate or radiation for a 10% chance. Two years and three months ago I once again went against the advice of my doctor. Two years and three months ago I chose the 10% chance.

Two years, I was told. I would have to make it to two years of clean scans and then I could breathe.

And every day for the last two years I’ve held my breath and waited. For two years I’ve “lived” without really living. I’ve moved on, I told people. I’m no longer worried, I said. But those were lies. Or maybe those were hopes. Either way, every day, for two years I thought about today.

Today, I hit the jackpot.

Today, I can breathe.

Today, I will live.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

6 Months Free and Clear

Yesterday I received a phone call from my grandma informing me that I needed to update my blog with the results of my scan for all my "fans." Sometimes I forget that there are people out there who rely on other means of communication besides Facebook (my grandma, ironically is on Facebook. My 31 year old brother, however, is not).

So for all my fans out there who don't follow my every Facebook move, you should get on Facebook.

Also, my 6 month scan is all clear!

Although I expected (and hoped with every ounce of my being) that the scan would be clean, it's only been 6 months and there's always that little bit of "what if" that creeps in. I don't have any lumps in my neck (my go to cancer symptom), but I have suffered some fatigue and a dry cough -- both of which accompanied my initial diagnosis.

Scanxiety is common in the cancer world. Almost as common as a recurrence it seems. Blogs I read, people I know, once they've been handed the dreaded "C" card, they have a tough time giving it back. Whether you like it or not, for most people, the cancer card is harder to get rid of than an overbearing mother (kidding, kidding).

Momma Bear would say to let go of the fear and choose love (actually, she did say that. You can read all about it here).

But me, I say embrace the fear.

The reality is, I'll never completely let go. I can ignore it. I can acknowledge it. I can accept it. But I can't let go.

So again, I say embrace it.

That fear - the fear of getting sick, the fear of dying - helps me make better decisions for my life.

The first time I got a clean scan, I let go of the fear. I tried to ignore what I had been through and went back to my old life, bad habits and all. And as you know, Little Hodge came back.

This time, I  use that fear as a motivator to eat better, stress less, and live more. I certainly still make mistakes, but it's the fear that gets me back on track.

Rather than feeling guilty for being anxious or afraid, I say embrace it. Because anyone whose been sick will tell you, that the scanxiety - or anxiety - will never disappear.

Even with a clean scan. Which I have.

also kidding. mostly.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Everyday I'm Hustlin'

Normally, I write long, thoughtful posts, telling you my dark inner feelings and all that mush. I try and be witty and smart and make you all laugh and cry within a single post. But it's early and I'm tired and I don't have much news other than the fact that today is my 6 month scan. Don't worry, despite my shortage of words this morning, I plan on rocking it.

(But just in case, cross your fingers for me).


Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 9

Today, is a bittersweet day for me.

I woke up to a calendar alert with the message "CANCER FREE" written in all caps and followed by an unnecessary amount of exclamation points.

A year ago I put this in my calendar as a recurring event (end date: Never.) - after receiving my first clean scan during treatments - as a reminder to celebrate the day I became cancer free (like I would actually need a reminder for this day…).

But as most of you know, that elation was short lived. Two months later, the cancer was back.

So now, today - on my first anniversary of being "cancer free" for the first time - is a day of mixed emotions. I'll always remember that day. Standing in the clinic alone (Momma Bear was on the phone in the car on, what felt like, the longest conversation of my life), I faced the nurses solo.

The one line summary of my scan: "No Evidence of Disease."

I'll always remember the excitement and relief I felt that day. After going through physical and emotional hell, I was strong enough to beat cancer.

For two months I was sure that was it. I temporarily lived free of fear as someone who had superhero powers. I honestly (and naively?) didn't think the cancer would come back. But as we know, the cancer did come back. And as someone who has now experienced relapse, I should have cherished those two worry-free months a little more. Because once you've experienced a recurrence, I don't know if you ever completely let go of the fear of the possibility that the cancer may return again.

So now today is a day that is supposed to be about joy and celebration but is instead a reminder of failure and pain. Little Hodgy stole this day, and my thunder, with a relapse.

But maybe a reminder of failure isn't a bad thing. It's a reminder that nothing in life is guaranteed. A reminder to cherish our good days. To live better and love harder. A reminder to celebrate our victories, even if they're short lived.

A reminder that in a world full of disappointment and fear, to let joy win.

So today, because of that reminder, I won't be bitter.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

2012: It's Been Bitchin'

A couple months ago, in the midst of holiday madness, I made a very important decision.

I decided, with conviction and zeal, that 2013 is going to be my year.

I was tired of the cancer crap and everything that comes with it: the fatigue, the worry, the fear. So I made a decision. That next year, 2013, was going to be mine.

I was going to own it.

But before making 2013 my bitch, I had to get through my fist post-remission PET Scan since my recurrence last summer. It's hard to start the year off in warrior mode with a looming scan on the horizon. I tried not to fret too much about this one. After all, it's routine by now. I've done these scans so regularly for the last 14 months, it seems like my new norm.

But this scan is a big deal.

In the last year, I've been diagnosed and in remission, then diagnosed and again in remission. If the pattern were to hold true, it means it was time to be diagnosed again. The fact is, since first being told "you have cancer" I've never received two clean scans in a row.

And as much of a warrior as I pretend to be, that is a worrisome fact.

So yesterday, I went in for my first scan of the year. Trying to be more warrior than worrier, I took inspiration from one of cinema's greatest films: Cool Runnings. In an attempt to empower myself and spend more time wishing for the best rather than worrying about the worst, I took strength in repeatedly  replaying this scene in my head:

But even Cool Runnings can't completely get rid of the worry.

Luckily an email from my doctor can. Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of my fretting and only hours after my scan, my worrying was interrupted with this one line from my radiologist:

"PET scan is perfect!"


And while I'm sure the worrying won't be gone forever, last night I got a pass. I got a bonus night where I got to sleep free of the "what ifs" regarding today's appointment. Thank you, doc for rescuing me from the stress of the unknown for an extra 24 hours.

Must be because I am a bad-ass mother who don't take no crap from nobody. 2013, don't mess with me.

This year is mine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Go Team Thunder!

Ten months ago, in this post, I announced that I had signed up to run a half marathon in this year's Detroit Free Press Marathon.

A lot has changed in 10 months: I rejected conventional treatment, accepted alternative treatment, got rid of cancer, turned 29, got cancer again, rejected a bone marrow transplant, accepted radiation, celebrated my fourth (!) wedding anniversary, got rid of cancer again.


So here we are, just days away from marathon day and no closer to being able to run 13.1 miles than I was in January.

It's not that I didn't try. I really did. I set up a training schedule. I woke up early most mornings to get my runs in. I ran. A lot. But in the middle of this training, I started going through radiation, which in itself takes a toll on the body.

But I was determined.

So most mornings (with the help of friends), I would wake up and run before my 8am daily radiation treatments. The warrior came out. There was no way I was letting Cancer take this away from me.

But about two weeks in, I started to notice a shortness of breath. Not only did running become harder, breathing became harder (a common side effect of having radiation so close to my chest and lungs).

So I stopped running. I told myself it was temporary. That as soon as I was done with treatment, my lungs would improve and I would start up again.

My condition didn't improve. Here I am, two months later, still unable to take a true full breath and expected to run 13 miles on Sunday.

But, this will not be another thing cancer tries to take away from me. On Sunday, even if it takes me all day and I have to crawl across the finish line, I will complete my 13.1 miles. And luckily for me, I don't have to do it alone. Not only is The Hubby "running" with me, but my sister and a great friend are joining as well. We also have a team of friends coming to cheer us on throughout the day, decked out in Team Thunder shirts. It's pretty incredible to have friends that are willing to stand all day in a crowd of people, waiting to catch a glimpse of me as I walk a half marathon. That's love.

Even though cancer may have slowed me down (literally), it will not stop me from finishing the race. After all, it's not just my ego on the line. As I mentioned before, I am also running in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. And any foundation that strives to make a kid's experience with cancer a little brighter deserves our support and money. If any of you would like to support me by supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation, please go to my fundraising page and give whatever you are able to.

Again, thank you all for your constant support throughout my journey.

See you at the finish line.

Go Team Thunder!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Breathe Easy

Last week I got good news. Really good news. Last week, after 23 radiation treatments, I got a clean scan. This officially puts me (for the second time this year) in remission.

But this time was different. I didn't run around yelling, "Suck it cancer!" This time, Mama Bear didn't cry when she heard the news. The Hubby, although ecstatic at the outcome, seemed more relieved than anything else.

This time we understood that this news, although reason to celebrate, is only the first of many hurdles.

Last time I got good news - the "you're cancer free" news - within a few months, it was back. And being told "you relapsed" is a prognosis that was, in some ways, worse than the initial diagnosis.

Right now I am extremely grateful, thankful, and excited with the news, but also cautious. 

I was told by my oncologist that it was expected to get a clean first scan, but it is the next several that really matter. His exact words, "After two years, then you can breathe."

Great. Thanks Doc.

In the meantime, besides holding my breath, I'm trying to stay focused on living a healthy lifestyle by juicing, eating right, and doing regular yoga. I'm trying to not let the fears of my oncologist's words flood my thoughts. I'm more focused on the optimism of my radiologist who believes in the success of my treatment path.

And most importantly, I'm trying to keep things in perspective. Rather than focusing on the uncertainty of the next scan, I'm constantly reminding myself that this holiday season (unlike last year) will be minus one Little Hodgy. I am constantly reminding myself that I am in remission.

And even though the future is uncertain at the moment, I'm looking forward to the day when I'm allowed to breathe. Then, I'll take it all in and finally tell Cancer to "Suck It" for good.