I realize it’s cliché, but I never ever, ever thought cancer would happen to me. Maybe it’s part magical thinking, part optimism bias, but cancer was suppose to touch only the lives of people I know, not my own. Right? Wrong.
For months I’ve been experiencing trouble swallowing; food, spit, liquids, you name it. I have some itchiness and random rashes, but just attributed it to my dry skin. I craved sugar and milk. I started belching uncontrollably. Alcohol did not appeal to me and actually repulsed me to the point where I couldn’t even be around the smell without wanting to wretch. I am just plain exhausted all the time, but what mom isn’t? Overall I’ve had mild discomfort, but nothing terribly alarming. I finally had my symptoms checked out by my primary physician on April 1, 2018. She felt swelling in my neck and ordered basic blood work and an ultrasound of my thyroid. The more I researched thyroid conditions, the more I was convinced that’s what was wrong with me due to the prevalence of hormone imbalances in women my age. I was pretty worried, and sure hoped I wouldn’t have to put synthetic hormones into my body. Hind sight is always 20/20.
The ultrasound findings from my thyroid came back abnormal and also noted some abnormal lymph nodes. I had some more blood work done, and as always it all came back in the normal range. The next step was a fine needle aspiration where cells were pulled from my thyroid and lymph nodes. It hurt like hell and the results came back inconclusive. During this time my neck became so swollen that the lump “nodules” were now noticeable from the outside. Food was nearly impossible to swallow and I lost 10lbs from not being able to eat. I took oral steroids to temporarily reduce inflammation and antibiotics to eliminate the possibility of infection. Finally on June 15, I had an open biopsy where cells were surgically removed from my thyroid. While I was under anesthesia, my surgeon met with Kaveh and told him they had found lymphoma. I get sad imagining strong Kaveh receiving this news with nobody there to comfort him.
—side note, also while I was under anesthesia, I was injected with a longer lasting IV steroid which allows me to eat somewhat normally again. To gain weight and ensure nutrition during treatment, I’ve started eating meat. If you know me, you know this is huge. So far, lamb ribs from the restaurant Tusk have been my favorite. I can’t wait to try great grandmas world famous koobideh kabob that Kaveh and Kasra both love. I still have a very ravenous appetite, which I am so thankful for.
On June 28, 2018 I was officially diagnosed with stage two Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, nodular sclerosis type, a cancer of the blood. I’m going to be really honest here, I don’t know much about the disease other than what I’m hear during my oncology appointments. I often can’t process the doctors words and just black out from information overload, or just plain fear. I’ve given myself permission to not educate myself. For once, I will not refer to the internet for immediate answers. Knowledge is power, but accidentally reading devastating stories associated with this disease is not. I truly believe I will get thru this experience riding on the coattails of positive support and encouragement. My fire is already fueled by the outpour of love and prayers I’ve received thus far. And also of course the pitter patter sounds of those tiny feet that constantly remind me of the reason for my fight.
Currently I’m sitting alone on an Amtrak train heading back to Portland after a few fabulous days in Seattle. Kaveh had a conference and I tagged along for a few days of rest and solace before returning to begin my inevitable treatment. On Monday I will take a lung function test to ensure my lungs can handle chemo and have a port surgically put in just below my right collarbone. Another scar. Another battle wound. Another lasting mark to remind me just how damn strong I am.
“Scars are beautiful” -Kaveh
I have so much to be grateful for. I wake everyday with a new outlook on life. Another cliché statement, but you truly can’t appreciate life until you’re faced with the possibility of imminent death. I feel grateful that I have a very high prognosis, that it is possible to completely treat and cure Hodgkin’s. I have access to amazing medical care, and doctors who I like so much it makes choosing a primary oncologist hard. I wasn’t told I have a terminal illness as many patients sitting in the same chairs before me are told. I am grateful for the people who’ve fought this disease for research and to find a cure. My mom has basically moved in with us and cares for our kids with the utmost love. She must be tired but she never complains and cleans our kitchen, amongst everything else, each night. And Kaveh who never misses an appointment, is my hand to hold, and always my voice of reason.
In a likely naive way, I’m excited (also terrified) to receive the chemo as it’s the thing that will get me to the other side of cancer. When faced with it, it’s hard to erase the negative stigma of chemo so I’m trying to adjust my thinking to view chemo as the helping medicine that is just what my body needs to shrink this cancer away forever.
If you see me, hug me. Likely I am clenching my jaw trying to fight back the flood gates of tears from fear of the unknown. It feels good to talk about it, and cry about it, and in a way makes it more real. I am certainly living in denial that this is just a bad dream or mixup. I’ve got my mind so steadily focused on my big post cancer party, vacation, new bold hair do’s, and EVERY LAST ONE of my kids milestones. I can see it all and I can’t wait to touch and revel in every joyous moment ahead, I just have to tread through the shit first.
I got this!