Brett and I celebrated our 2nd biopsy-versary on Valentine’s day this year. On February 14, 2011 I had surgery to remove a lymph node directly above the right half of my collarbone. The nodes on that side of my neck had been very swollen for months and seemed to be getting bigger so after a 3rd visit with an ENT in Champaign (who agreed with everyone else medically trained whom I had talked into feeling my neck that I probably just had a sinus infection) we scheduled that Valentine’s day surgery. I remember wishing everyone I could find a Happy Valentine’s day as we went about getting ready for surgery. My dad and brother came into town for support and we all went out to breakfast afterwards….by the way, don’t order oatmeal at Mary Ann’s here in Champaign..though most of their diner food *is* worth it, the oatmeal is not. 😉
Two days later I was diagnosed with Stage II Hodgkins Lymphoma (or Hodgkins disease). Brett and myself, along with both our parents and medically trained close family friends spent the next month deliberating on where to seek treatment. Hodgkins is the kind of cancer to get (if one is going to get cancer) and the survival and cure rate are very, VERY high. For this reason I initially leaned towards treatment here in Champaign. Though in the middle of the corn fields, Champaign-Urbana is the place in Central Illinois to receive cancer care. I was also adamant when we traveled to St. Louis for our second opinion appointment with an oncologist, that I did *not* want to do a clinical trial….then we decided to do a clinical trial. Traditional treatment for Hodgkins Lymphoma requires chemotherapy treatments as well as radiation therapy. Its that awful radiation therapy that also has long term side effects, sometimes causing much more serious cancers later on down the road. For this reason, when a clinical trial was brought up that used already standard chemo treatments but also the possibility of *not* needing radiation, we went for it. Through the rest of that meeting with the Oncologist in St. Louis I continued to hear about all of the horrible side effects of chemo (both the chemo that I had 4 months of and the type of chemo that I would have needed to switch to if the initial one wasn’t working). I finally (and literally) asked what would happen if we did nothing, if we didn’t do treatment at all. The oncologist assured me that I would die if left untreated. Highly treatable cancer or not, the cancer needed to be treated. So, one month after diagnosis, on March 16, 2011, I started my first round of chemotherapy.
Brett and I traveled to St. Louis every two weeks to have blood tests, meet with the doctor and nurses, and receive chemo. I was so nervous during the first chemo session! I thought I would burst into tears just sitting in the chair waiting (all of that horrible waiting). All of my chemo was injected directly into veins and some of it burned, some of it turned my pee red, I could taste some of it in the back of my mouth. After the second round of chemo, when the burning sensation had been so horrible and I had actually had a mild reaction to one of the treatments, I had a port placed surgically into my chest. It ran a direct line into an artery in my neck for faster dispersal of the drugs into my body and didn’t require the sacrifice of the small veins in my arms to take the horrible and caustic chemo drugs. (I even have permanent damage in one of the veins in my arm).
Brett and I found ways of keeping ourselves busy during the 8 hours of chemo treatments every 2 weeks. We played games, watched internet clips, movies, or television. We read books and chatted with the nurses…ok so maybe I did more of the chatting to nurses than Brett did. 😉 We had a lot of support during those times too. Friends of mine would come over and sit with me when I didn’t feel well in the evenings. When I started losing my hair from the chemo, Brett, Fredrik, Raj, and I all had a hair cutting party where we all buzzed our heads. Brett’s mom put together a kit of stuff we would need during chemo as well as a packet of info that she had found. My dad and brother housed us most of those days we spent in St. Louis. Friends of mine and of my mom’s sent monthly cards and care packages. A friend of my dad’s from work had a little present ready for me for each of the chemo sessions that I completed. Brett and I have felt very loved.
Now, almost a year and a half since treatments ended in July 2012, I am still cancer free with my next scan set for April. For our biopsy-versary, Brett got me silk flowers just like the ones in our wedding (minus the beautiful greener ones in the picture). Just like the forever flowers, Brett and I are forever in love and devoted to one another….in sickness and in health. Forever and ever Amen. Praise Allah. May He grant you many camels. 🙂 I love you Brett Jones.