Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Face Unafraid

For the last 24 hours I’ve been hanging on for the ride.

Today was just supposed to be my MUGA heart scan. I had planned to spend my two hours at the hospital getting my scan, and then having a quiet working afternoon at home. But late last night, the oncologist’s office called and wanted me to come in today to talk about my PET Scan results. And since he wanted to see me so soon, I’d need to come to his Lenoir office where he’d be working today (about 35 minutes away). My imagination got the best of me, and within about ten minutes I had convinced myself that it was the worst case scenario. Why did he need to see me so soon – three days before my scheduled appointment? What could it be? What had the PET Scan revealed?

I arrived home from work last night in a panic. I walked in and Robbie was meeting with a contractor about getting a filter and humidifier installed in our central heat/air system. I had already called to tell him about the phone call so I think he knew I was on the verge of a meltdown. About five minutes before the clean-cut and perky BMW driving contractor leaves, Meadow (one of our beagles) starts puking. And not just once or twice, but huge piles all over the house. Robbie and I are both sopping up puke and he’s still trying to finish up with the contractor. The dog continues to puke the most noxious concoction on the planet. It felt like a surreal very dark sitcom. And I felt like I was going to literally explode from the stress of the situation.

The guy finally leaves, and I break down in tears about the call from the oncologist. Robbie said to me that he probably has everything he needs and just wants to get me moving forward. I am convinced that the lymphoma has seeped into every pore of my being and that the end is nigh.

Through the distraction of the Very Glee Christmas Special, red wine, dark chocolate, and a very positive husband that will not tolerate negative thinking I eventually calmed down.

Robbie again took a day off to parade me through the Hickory medical community. Note to self: bake cookies for his co-workers and boss who have been very flexible and supportive. We started our day with a quick breakfast at Panera and then I went for my first hospital procedure ever since I was born. Granted it was just a scan, but it’s the first time I had a hospital bracelet snapped on. It was a nifty procedure. They remove your own blood via an IV, mix it with radioactive tracer, and put it back. Then your heart is photographed with four gamma cameras to literally watch it travel in and out of all the chambers of your heart.

Once that was done, we headed to Lenoir to find out my fate. The Hickory oncology center is warm and inviting and new. Unfortunately, the Lenoir oncology center is small and crowded and old. I’m glad that this was a rare visit to the Lenoir center. The nurse checking me in today was the same nurse that I freaked out with about the bone marrow biopsy. I apologized to her and promised no freak outs today.

Finally, the long-awaited oncologist comes in to chat. He matter-of-factly states that he’s received the PET Scan results and that the tumor is really pressing on my trachea and wanted to know how I was feeling and breathing. I said that I was fabulous since he prescribed the steroids. He stated that because of the way it’s pushing on my trachea, that he’d like to start treatment sooner rather than later. He asked when I might be willing to start. I responded with “What time is it?” We asked what Stage the PET Scan showed, and he said it’s Stage II. The only place that it really showed up was in my neck and some of the lymph nodes in my chest. Additionally, my bone marrow came back clean. That was the part where I literally wanted to start dancing in the office. I was most terrified about the bone marrow.

He also said that this is a potentially curable form of cancer. That when I get through this, I have a chance for a cancer free existence! Seriously, it felt like Christmas. So many people don’t get such a hope-filled diagnosis.

I spent the next half hour making more appointments. Tomorrow I go to meet the radiation team. If I have radiation after the chemotherapy is finished; they like to be able to get a baseline prior to any treatment. I also have an appointment tomorrow for training on chemotherapy. A nurse will explain the process in detail, and I will get an opportunity to ask questions.

Friday I will go “live” with regards to treatment. I will head to the oncology center for my first dose of chemotherapy. For those familiar with treatment or interested in the drugs I will be receiving, the bundle is called R-CHOP. It’s an abbreviation for a bunch of drugs, but if you Google it in relationship to lymphoma you can get the skinny. Bottom line: it’s highly effective and kicks lymphoma butt! I have also been given drugs for nausea and anxiety. For the next three weeks I’ll have blood draws once a week as well to monitor progression. I will be getting chemotherapy once every 21 days. I don’t know how many courses yet.

I feel a bit high on life right now. I’m moving forward with my treatment, and that is step one to returning to a normal life. You can all remind me of this when I have no hair and I’m curled up trying not to throw up. I E-mailed a friend the other day that in light of this diagnosis – I feel the magic of the Holiday Season more than I ever have. I am overwhelmed by hope and human kindness.

I could write for hours – my mind is spinning. But it would be a ramble so I’ll spare the masses. For tonight, I’m making homemade marshmallows and relaxing with my BHE. Go hug a loved one!


  1. Oh Kel such good news! I'm so happy!

  2. Congratulations on the great news so far!

    Here's something to think about when you're bald and nauseated. My Aunt Marlene was bald and nauseated 4 years ago, while my mother was cancer free (or at least hadn't been diagnosed).

    My Aunt Marlene helped me with cleaning out my Mom's house last week, and is doing quite well.

    Enduring chemo will not be fun, but the results are usually great!

  3. Great news. =) And thank you Kelly for keeping up with your blog. I hope it proves as therapeutic for you as it is helpful to me to feel more connected to you. I hope you guys have a happy Christmas and I really look forward to seeing you in May! =)

  4. Super news! Can I go wig shopping with you? My hair is falling out too! I assume you won't make it to Strike City but rest assured I will raise a glass to you:)

  5. I have been wig shopping online the last few days (I estimate I have about 2-4 weeks before I start losing my hair). I've never had great hair, so I'm sort of excited about the wig thing! I'm thinking of becoming a spicy red head!

  6. 'is bald' is the new 'has hair' ... ;)