2 Years, 2 Lives


On February 3, I celebrated the two year anniversary of my first day of chemotherapy. I spent the entire day celebrating, both inwardly and outwardly: Celebrating the fact that my mind was clear and not foggy from chemo and that I was able to successfully make it through a stressful work day. Celebrating the fact that my body is strong enough to enjoy sweating through  a HIIT class. Celebrating the life I’ve had in the past two years and the people who have  helped me get here and shared it with me. And finally, celebrating the hope for more life and the chance to use it to promote good and fight for others. It was a day where deep in my heart and every fiber of my being, I was fully aware of how fortunate I am to be alive and the responsibility and opportunity that comes with each moment I have to live.

Left: First day of chemotherapy February 3, 2015 Right: February 3, 2017

Jason and I spent the night celebrating with champagne and dinner at the Art of the Table with the surprise of gigantic snowflakes. It seemed like a magical end to a day that brought so many vivid memories. I can easily recall walking into the hospital for my first round of chemotherapy, holding my breath at every point. Being scared in registration receiving the paper that numbered my journey from blood work on the 2nd floor to the infusion on the 3rd floor not knowing what the 3rd floor would hold for me. Being afraid of having my port accessed. Being afraid of the pills I was given first to ward off nasty side effects. Being absolutely terrified as I watched the two nurses draped in extra protective coats and gloves bring the first bag of chemotherapy and then watching the monitor. listening to the beeps, and watching the toxic liquid as it dripped down the IV line and into my chest, hoping I wouldn’t have a reaction. Being afraid to show emotion as I looked to my right and saw my husband and brother (two people I love most in the world) sitting devotedly by my side, inspiring me to be strong. Being drowsy, hot, jittery, cold, anxious, and finally exhausted as we left the hospital at dinner time after a full, successful day of chemotherapy.

February 17, 2015

Over the past six months, I had numerous days vividly remembering where I was two years ago. I recounted the start and end of each round of chemotherapy. I stopped on February 17 and made comparisons from that day in  2015, looking back on the day I shaved my head and what it meant to symbolically shed the hair and life I had before cancer, and this year pausing to admire the new hair and life I have in 2017.

February 17, 2017

On March 11, I rode in my fifth Cycle for Survival event in New York, which was wonderfully emotional and celebratory, because two years ago, I was in the depths of chemotherapy, too sick to fly to New York and ride. This year, I was healthy and rode for two hours with our team that raised over $50,000 in 2017 alone and $230,000 since 2012 for rare cancer research. In late March 2015, I was nearing the end of my third round of chemo, and impatiently waiting to find out if my treatment was successful and unaware of my imminently impending hospitalization during early April 2015.

Cycle for Survival – New York 2017

Hospitalization during April 2015 at NC Cancer Hospital

On March 26 of this year, Jason and I climbed 1,311 steps (69 stories) with 114 other blood cancer patients and survivors in the Columbia Center in Seattle for The Big Climb benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

In April 2015, I was declared NED before finishing chemotherapy in May 2015 and beginning my journey into remission and back to health.

Ringing the bell – April 20, 2015

Last day of chemo – May 2015

 This May, I had the appointment with my oncologist where he smiled and got to happily pronounce that my blood counts are all perfect and that he was glad to see me turning the corner into being two years in remission, which is a big milestone for lymphoma fighters. Not all of my days in the past six months were celebratory or strong or easy. I had and have moments of fear of relapsing and nights filled with sleeplessness and of nightmares about dying. It’s only been in the past several months that I’ve started to feel secure as a cancer survivor and not live with the mindset that I would certainly relapse. I live in a state of awareness of how fortunate I am to be in remission, healthy, strong, happy, and most simply, alive. Although I think the memories of what I battled will be ever-present memories, the scary and painful memories are not the ones that dominate my thoughts as much any more. The battle changed my mind and heart for the better. Through battling cancer, I’ve been forced to face my truest and most vulnerable self. It forced me to find out who I am at my core without pretenses or definitions through positions, relationships, or obligations. I learned to prioritize the people, values, and experiences that are most important to me and to constantly strive to be the best version of myself and to be a light into a world showing kindness and compassion and promoting good and love. I finally know what it means to recognize and understand that those who have experienced a traumatic event have had two lives. I fortunately have found a place where my mind is present in my current life and hopeful and my heart is peaceful.

 

 


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