Month: June 2016

When Things Go Wrong Part 2: Infection in my PICC

When Things Go Wrong Part 2: Infection in my PICC

After the Tylenol, fluids, and starting me on antibiotics, I felt much improved and they moved me up to my room on the 10th floor at a reasonable hour, and when they checked my vitals again my temperature was back down to normal and I […]

When Things Go Wrong Part 1: My First Ever Trip to the ER

When Things Go Wrong Part 1: My First Ever Trip to the ER

I was under no illusion that this process would be a picnic in the park. Sure, the first two rounds of treatment went smoothly and I was hopeful that things would continue on the same track, but I knew that this treatment process comes with […]

Detox Me: Chemo Round 2

Detox Me: Chemo Round 2

Chemo is poison. Literally, that’s what it is. Poison that kills the bad stuff – the cancer cells. So, it’s poison for a purpose. But poison is poison. It kills a lot of the good stuff too. And it’s disgusting and I long for the last day of my last round when I walk out of the hospital and never have to return for treatment.

It may sound as if I had a rough ride through Round 2, however that was largely not the case. There have definitely been some lows, but so many highs as well… The reality is, this journey was never going to be easy, but so far, knock on wood, I’ve been pretty darn lucky. All things considered, round two of both treatment and recovery (aka freedom) were more or less smooth sails and, for the most part, I felt great, yet I did encounter a couple minor bumps in the road, when I felt, well, disgusting, for a couple days…

‘Treatment: Round two,’ over Memorial Day weekend (what a way to spend a holiday), went swimmingly – privacy, quiet, calm – up until the last evening when they brought my anti-nausea medication an hour and a half late. When I’m receiving treatment they pre-medicate me with anti-nausea pills at the start of each new chemo bag, but because round two began without a hitch, again they sped up my last three bags of chemo. With the timing shifted up, and probably because it was evening on Memorial Day and the hospital was lower on staff, I got my meds well after the last bag had started. So I got my first taste of proper chemo nausea. I didn’t feel the need to run to the loo or anything, but I could not fathom the thought of ingesting anything. Even water was difficult. Finally the meds came, and a couple hours later (at about 9:30pm…) my appetite returned. I ate a bizarre dinner of oatmeal, almond butter, and a soft boiled egg that evening. I turned in for the night with a somewhat satisfied stomach yet disgruntled by the situation and desperate for morning and my impending release.

The next day brought my next round of freedom, yet not without a threat of postponement.. Needless to say I was less than pleased – I just wanted OUT. My blood work came back showing alarmingly high levels of creatinine, which typically indicates kidney damage/ disfunction. The oncologist and two PAs came to inform me and ordered more blood be drawn as well as an ultrasound, which would inevitably delay my release… no no no! On top of that, I was confused and concerned – what could have happened!? My potassium and magnesium levels had been low the day prior, but after an extra dozen pills or so they had returned to normal… What on earth!? I felt fine, I was on top of this whole side effect thing (for the most part)… and I don’t get seriously sick or have serious health issues! Well, I don’t, aside from this whole ‘malignancy of my lymphatic system’ thing. It had to be a false alarm.

In the meantime, my final chemo bag, which runs for just an hour in conjunction with the last bit of my 24 hour bag, was hooked up to my other PICC line. The chemo finished, I packed my things, and just before a quick shower to wash the hospital off of me, I received word that it was in fact a false alarm – there was an error in the analysis and my creatinine levels were absolutely fine – phew! Delay avoided, crisis averted.

Although the shower revived me, I must confess that by the time I arrived back home, the mild nausea/ lack of appetite set in again. I tried some magic potions (ginger tea and ginger candies) and overcame the nausea. I determined to make some Magic Mineral Broth the next day, and fortunately that morning I woke up feeling fantastic. I had breakfast and a light lunch and hopped in the car to get the necessary organic produce and a green juice. All good. But, literally as soon as I walked back through the door, I had to go straight to bed. I lay there for a while in steady discomfort, and then all of a sudden I had to jump up and run to the bathroom. I’ll skip the details, but, fortunately, that is the one and only time thus far that my stomach staged a revolt.

The following days my mild loss of appetite somewhat improved and I focused on healing through a mild yet detoxing diet. More than anything, though, I just felt disgusting. I felt like the chemo drugs were seeping from my every pore and with every inhale I could smell the hospital and the drugs. I felt foul. At first I thought it was the hospital smell that had infiltrated my belongings so I threw everything in the wash (which is a matter of course post-hospital anyway) but that did not solve the issue… I realized it was me.

Chemo, although it works quite wonderfully for my malignancy, is filthy and foul and I became desperate to get it out of my body. Diet wasn’t working quickly enough so I racked my brain and thought I’d try a detox bath – the ideal solution since I love baths and really wanted to take one anyway – and a quick google search revealed the perfect concoction: an apple cider vinegar and epsom salt bath with lavender essential oil to sooth the senses. Apparently, apple cider vinegar specifically draws uric acid from the body, and uric acid builds up as the cancer cells die off and create waste in the blood. I found epsom salts with lavender essence already infused, so there we go, detox bath sorted. I drew the bath as hot as I could stand and stayed in for a very, very long time. The hotter and longer the bath, the more effective the detox will be.

That day happened to be my mom’s birthday and my sister and I were taking her out for dinner, so I needed at the very least to not feel nauseous. Lo and behold… the bath worked! Completely. I felt cleansed from the inside out and I could breath without a wave of disgust washing over me. We first stopped at the bridal salon so my sister could try on her dress for the first time – wow it’s perfect – and had a delicious seafood dinner, which yes I could eat!! We had a lovely girls’ night and I had found my solution – detox bath immediately when I return home from each treatment! Fingers crossed it continues to work its magic.

The remainder of my ‘Freedom: Round Two’ flew by very quickly, between my endless medical to-dos, organizing, and planning for my sister’s bridal shower. But, in addition to the onerous paperwork and maddening phone calls with insurance, I did manage to fit in plenty of healing relaxation and fun projects… more on these later!

And, I did receive some excellent news – treatment is working tremendously well and I’ve responded very quickly: the growth shrank by 86%, and activity levels in the mass dwindled by 87%! Woohoo!!! Thrilled doesn’t begin to describe it. The good news, however, was tempered by the fact that I must go through all six rounds of treatment regardless… Ugh.

This journey comes with many frustrations, but I strive to remain focused on healing and the light at the end of the tunnel. And in the meantime, I am attempting to soak up all the lessons to be learned, the wisdom shared with me, the stories and fighting spirits of the wonderful cancer fighters and conquerors I meet, and the abundance of positivity and love that surrounds me…. As well as the sunshine, because summer is finally here!!!

Side Effects: Round One Wrap Up

Side Effects: Round One Wrap Up

Originally posted May 26, 2016 So tomorrow marks the official start of Round 2. I will be back in the hospital and hooked up to an IV for about 4 days straight. They may speed it up a bit, tbd. So, after I left the […]

Round One is Done!

Round One is Done!

Originally posted May 20, 2016 I had planned to write another update from the hospital. And then when I got home last Wednesday afternoon after my early discharge. And then the next day… and then over the weekend… and now nearly another full week has gone […]

And So It Begins…

And So It Begins…

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On my way to the office yesterday morning… wearing necklace one of my besties, Ana, sent me… words of strength and positivity for lymphoma awareness 🙂

Originally posted May 7, 2016

I am currently nearly 24 hours into my first round of treatment… here we go, and so far so good (fingers crossed…)! It was a long week of recovery from the retrieval procedure, but I started to feel a bit more like my normal ‘healthy’ self before admission yesterday late afternoon… just in the nick of time! Here’s the story from retrieval procedure onward…

Post-procedure on Sunday, I honestly felt a bit like Melisandre at the end of GoT season 6 ep 1… (second reference here…. seriously if you don’t already watch Game of Thrones I highly recommend 🙂 I still felt a bit sore the next morning, and bloated to the point where I looked about 4 months pregnant, but on the mend. Monday was a day of logistical follow ups, including with my oncologist to confirm start-date for my actual treatment. Friday. Yesterday. My oncologist wasn’t thrilled about me even waiting until then, but I was scheduled to lead a work training Friday morning and so I had the perfect excuse to delay… and in full honestly I WANTED to do the training – I love that part of my job – and to maintain some semblance of normalcy in the midst of the maelstrom was so helpful. A ‘last hurrah’ before treatment of sorts. I’m so glad I did.

Especially because recovery was rougher than anticipated. The fatigue and bloating were much more intense than any warnings suggested, my insomnia was still pretty bad (4-5 hours is a pretty good night for me), and then on Tuesday in my fatigue I forgot to take my Prednisone – the steroid that’s part of my treatment which they started me on right away – and I seriously think I went through withdrawal that day. The referred pain I experienced in my left shoulder at night (from nerve compression) was the worst it’s ever been. My oncologist started me on the steroid while I went through the egg freezing process and it was immediately beneficial. But without the Prednisone, that night the pain was so excruciating it reduced me to tears. I writhed in bed all night and could not sleep aside from some awkward moments when I dozed off sitting cross legged folded forward… talk about weird neck kinks. I took my prednisone at 6:15am, drank a bit of a thick smoothie, and managed to sleep 2 hours or so that morning. Between that and my meltdown in the recovery room that Sunday morning, and the general fatigue and bloating I experienced post-procedure, I was in absolutely no shape to begin treatment any earlier than yesterday. Apparently the more eggs they retrieve, the worse the bloating is, and my number was pretty high. But I had to monitor it closely because of a potentially dangerous condition call Ovarian HyperStimulation Syndrome, which can occur post-retrieval. I didn’t experience any of the more severe symptoms (super rapid weight gain, nausea, vomiting) so I was in the clear and I’m totally good now, but the bloating took longer than I anticipated to go down. Nobody warned me about that :/

With the treatment logistics in place, I spent the rest of the week figuring out what I’d need for a hospital stay (woah didn’t realize there would be so much to think about) and placing many online orders (thank you Amazon prime…) and making sure my treatment schedule won’t interfere with my sister’s wedding festivities. Beyond that, I attempted to rest and relax as much as possible. I had another appointment with my applied kinesiologist and an appointment at a local acupuncture school on Thursday literally 5 minutes from home to help with the stress and insomnia, and to give it a test run before treatment… I’ve heard it can really help mitigate the side effects of chemo so I plan to go back in my recovery weeks.

Thankfully the bloating subsided substantially by Thursday, I felt relatively normal and mostly functional, did a bit of work, organized my stay for the hospital, and was chipper and normal for the training yesterday morning. It went really well and my bosses surprised me with a perfect care package for the hospital in a cute tote bag – complete with plush lavender throw blanket, hulu gift card, and an adult coloring book amongst other hospital stay necessities 🙂 Then I hopped in a taxi with my new loot and headed uptown.

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Home sweet home through Wednesday!

My mom met me at Cornell with all my belongings: two pillows (with purple pillowcases of course), travel pillow, slippers, lots of pjs and comfy clothes, ‘IV friendly’ robe, lots of organic snacks, organic toiletries, books, laptop, more books, notebooks, meds and supplements sleep mask and ear plugs, organic alcohol free hand sanitizer so my hands don’t chap, and some personal items like a stuffed panda from my mom (Amanda panda) and an elephant picture I’ve had for ages. And then my sister showed up with another care package complete with new kindle paperwhite (lost my kindle a while back), Burts bees lotion and balm set, another lighter lavender plush throw blanket – two is perfect actually! – (and apparently people are quite clear on my favorite color :), another gorgeous, intense coloring book, more coloring pencils, and even a sharpener, which I had not thought about – so prepared! And my favorite: a little flag that says ‘You Got This’ which now hangs on my IV stand. And now I have coloring projects to keep me occupied for days. Actually more like weeks. My LA- based college roomie, Liz, is in town and she and my sister hung out with me all evening, helping me get settled, and then another surprise visit from another college roommate’s mother to drop off a gift since she’s overseas: a stuffed elephant (my favorite animal) that talks and moves… it’s hilarious and amazing. Sent with love from London – thanks Nish 🙂

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Me last night… the amazing talking moving stuffed elephant sent with love from London 🙂

Everything was a bit delayed last night so by the time the blood work was cleared and the drugs were ready to go, I didn’t start the first infusion until 10:15pm. My sister stayed with me through the first stage so I had my moral support in place. They started me on the Rutiximab first on its own, which is the immunotherapy, to ensure I didn’t have any adverse reactions. The nurse monitored me for the first 15 minutes, upped my dosage, then every 15 minutes for the first hour the machine beeped to up the dosage. Vitals, up the dosage, repeat 15 minutes later. Then for the remainder of the pack they upped me every 30 minutes. Until about 2am. Then finally they unhooked me and I was free to properly rest… until 5:30am when they came to check my vitals, and then 6:30 blood work, then 7:15 breakfast delivery… first night of sleep was a roaring success I’d say. Most importantly, though, I had no reaction to the Rutix… apparently about 50% of patients experience reactions of some kind, ranging from chills and fever to… they didn’t get into that. Nada! Phew. Aside from the fatigue, felt great today.

This morning once blood labs were cleared, and I was showered and had a breakfast they set me up to get my PICC inserted (semi-permanent IV which will stay in my upper arm through the remainder of the process and will eliminate the need for pricks every time they hook me up or need to take bloods! Woohoo! Minor procedure done on my bed to get my arm all set up (performed by the best in the unit so I heard from several nurses) then they hooked me up to my chemo cocktail at 12:30pm. 96 hours straight. I can take a quick shower every day at 12:30 when they change packs. So, I will wrap up the first round on Wednesday afternoon, then apparently will have to come back in on Thursday for an injection of white blood cells. Because the chemo will destroy mine. Crazy. Then two weeks off for recovery. Then the cycle starts again in exactly 21 days from yesterday. 6 rounds, then done. The first round is the most involved, but now that the PICC is in, it’s all easy breezy from here on (fingers crossed!). The beginning is a total mind-twisting whirlwind but after the chemo hookup it’s all rather anticlimactic. Just chillin here in the hospital… but not allowed to leave the floor. I don’t feel anything from the chemo going into my body, and didn’t feel a thing when they took blood from my PICC a couple hours ago… lovin it. Side effects… well I’m just gonna keep thinking positive thoughts on that front, and keep up the nutrition.

This week I’ve honestly experienced my some of darkest moments, yet in the midst of the pain and darkness there has been so much light coming to me from near and far. Even in those moments of darkness, I know this is temporary. I have been astounded by the love and generosity offered by so many people in my various networks and communities from my past and present, and as strong as I may be, I know the caring and support I receive from others is so necessary to my healing. I have been at the hospital just about 28 hours and I’ve had visitors with me for the majority of the waking time. Liz and her mom dropped off edible organic avocado toast from LPQ for lunch, dad and sister spent all afternoon and early evening with me (with more food deliveries of course), and future brother in law joined this evening. And the nurses, doctors, and PAs here have all been amazing. Everything – the book suggestions, the connections, the offers of food shopping and cooking and rides or just a person to talk to when I just need an ear, not to mention the overwhelming response thus far to my sister’s page – is so tremendously appreciated… words of gratitude don’t do justice to the good it has all done me while I’ve gone through this whirlwind. With all of you by my side, I will definitely get through this. I am so lucky.

My Golden Eggs are Frozen: Fertility Treatment Success

My Golden Eggs are Frozen: Fertility Treatment Success

[Originally published May 4, 2016] My Post-Diagnosis Reality Thank goodness I have a really good planner with a to-do list for every day as well as a daily agenda. And extra space for notes on this and that. It even has motivational quotes at the […]

The Cancer Whirlwind Continues

The Cancer Whirlwind Continues

[originally posted April 26, 2016] Reality Check: Fertility Treatment Since Saturday I’ve had to go to the fertility clinic every morning between 6:30-8:30am for bloodwork and, some days, ultrasounds and do three nightly injections. I had originally been told I would come in on Saturday morning then […]

The Story of my Cancer Diagnosis

The Story of my Cancer Diagnosis

… all the details

Hello everyone! Thanks for visiting 🙂 The support I’ve received from friends and family thus far has been incredible and for that I am tremendously grateful. In an effort to keep everyone updated as easily and efficiently as possible, I decided to create this page, so please check in as often as you’d like – I will do my best to keep you all updated on my progress!

Thursday, April 14, 2016, I received my official diagnosis: Primary Mediastinal B Cell Lymphoma. It is a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, classified as ‘Stage 2 Bulky’ due to the large ‘growth’ in the space in my chest between my lungs (called the mediastinum). The CT scan from March 22 measured the growth at 13.4×7.8×8.4cm – quite large. Anything over 10cm is classified as ‘bulky.’ It is compressing my breathing passageways and is located near my heart, left lung, and major arteries, so the doctors want to move quickly. The recommended treatment protocol is highly effective and this is one of the most treatable, curable forms of malignancy. It has a 100% response rate, and 90% complete response rate. Yes, it is chemo, but Silver linings, it works! Given the fact that it is in my lymph system, which circulates throughout my body, surgery is not an effective option. It is only in my chest and has not spread, but chemo is apparently the only way to ensure they will get it all. Fortunately, radiation is not typically involved. Interestingly, this particular form of lymphoma (there are over 80!) primarily affects females (mostly white) in their 30s. Welp.

So, here’s the backstory leading up to my diagnosis:

The Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend (end of November 2015) I started to experience pain in my upper chest when I breathed. I had just had a massage so I thought maybe something funny happened and I somehow got a bruise on my upper sternum, because that’s what the pain felt like: a bruise inside my upper chest. That Monday I got home from work and felt some minor chills but slept it off and felt fine the next morning, however again that evening I got chills and the pain was still there so I made an appointment to see my doctor the next day. My vitals were perfect and he diagnosed me with pleurisy – an inflammation of the lung lining that causes discomfort when breathing due to the membranes rubbing against one another, but nothing serious. He advised Advil and rest. I then came down with a sinus infection and returned the next week, and he prescribed antibiotics. By the holidays, I felt more or less recovered, however the slight discomfort in my chest lingered a bit and triggered a cough when I engaged in physically exerting activities, eg yoga. I had read that pleurisy can take some time to resolve itself so I chalked it up to the winter/ cold/ stress etc. At the end of February I came down with a horrible flu/ cold since everyone at work was sick, and I was up and down (mostly down) for weeks, through mid-March. My cough was awful and the pain was getting worse. By then I could only sleep on my right side due to the discomfort in my chest. I went on a second round of antibiotics and it helped, but something was still off. Then, on Monday, March 21, my Uncle Don, who had been battling cancer, passed. He had stopped treatment and we knew he wouldn’t have long, but he went much sooner than any of us expected and we were shocked and utterly grief-stricken. Cancer has taken too many members of our family: 6 of the 10 members of my father’s immediate family. Both of his parents, two of his younger siblings, and two of his older siblings, neither of whom made it to 70. The first to pass was actually the youngest, my Uncle Jim, who passed at the age of 30 from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Don’s only son (and only child), my cousin Mike, also passed at the age of 30 from melanoma that spread to his brain.

The night I heard about my Uncle Don’s passing, I woke up with extreme pain in my left shoulder. The next morning I woke up and knew I had to get checked out. I just knew something more was going on. After a little googling, I called up my doctor in somewhat of a determined panic and said ‘I need a CT scan this afternoon.’ The receptionist replied with more than a little skepticism and annoyance, ‘Well it doesn’t work like that, you’ll need approval, and a reason to get one. There’s no chance you’ll get one this afternoon.’ I insisted that I see him early that afternoon, and she booked me for a 1:30 appointment. I received a huffy sigh and minor eye roll from her when I got to the office, but my doctor sat me down and took my vitals, again deeming them ‘perfectly healthy,’ but given the longevity of my symptoms he decided to send me down for an X-ray to be safe… and probably somewhat just to appease me. Really though, what doctor would suspect anything serious from a healthy 30 year old? I went down, wrapped the gigantic hospital gown around me tight, and got my x-ray. As I walked out I swore a technician gave me a sideways glance, but tried not to think much of it. My doctor had said to come right back up after the scan so I did, and he sat me down and opened the file. Pause. ‘Hm’. Mumble. He turned the screen to me and showed me my clear right lung, and a large portion of my left lung covered in some white film. He couldn’t be sure what it was, and said, ‘Well, it looks like you’ve earned your CT scan.’ That is obviously not something I wanted to be right about, but thank goodness I listened to my intuition.

The next morning we flew to Oklahoma, and while we were getting ready to board at the airport I received a call from the hospital saying my doctor had ordered a PET scan for me to schedule the next week. Confused and scared, I hung up and immediately called my doctor, who was with another patient at that moment. I requested that he email me to explain the results of the CT. In the meantime I researched PET scans, and of everything I read one word stood out: cancer. When I landed I had an email from my doctor, explaining that the CT showed a large ‘growth’ in my chest between my lungs. Not in them, fortunately, but it was large. At the suggestion of my doctor friend, I requested that he send the full CT report and had her read through it the next day. There was no way to know the exact diagnosis from just the CT, so I tried to focus on the fact that it might NOT be cancer, but in the meantime I began my research. I googled what a mediastinal growth was, and the ‘growth’ search came back with ‘tumor’ which ultimately implies cancer. So I researched how to shrink tumors and get rid of cancer. I made the immediate decision to do whatever I could to start combatting this thing inside me from that point on. Time for it to go away. I scheduled my PET. I searched for organic juice places in the middle of Oklahoma (yes, I found one!). I stuck to my healthy diet and tried to up the fruit and veg intake as much as I could in the middle of chicken fried steak country. In the meantime, I tried to keep things quiet as the family was already gathered for a very difficult reason, and at that point we didn’t know anything official.

When I got back from Oklahoma, I turned things up a notch. I bought a juicer and started juicing carrots because I had read that some people cured their cancer just by drinking carrot juice and doing green smoothies and upping my intake of cruciferous vegetables. I cut all sugars and processed foods and severely limited my carb intake, because I read over and over that cancer cells thrive off of glucose. I completely cut dairy because of the studies that show a link between casein, a protein found in dairy products, and tumor growth. I cut caffeine cold turkey (no withdrawel 🙂 as well as alcohol. I’ve read books and articles and watched documentaries on anti-cancer diets and detoxing and herbs and supplements and energy healing and stress and immunity.

I went in for my PET on Wednesday March 30, and met with the surgeon Friday April 1. My original appointment with him was scheduled for April 12 because he was booked solid and was warned they rarely get cancellations, but the receptionist called back within an hour of my initial call to say that they had not one but two cancellations – the first being that Friday, so I booked it…. incredibly fortunate that things have opened up for me and the process has moved along extremely quickly all things considered. My parents both came to the appointment and we learned that the PET showed activity in the region of the growth, which is not a good sign. It means there are active cells – active cancer cells. The surgeon explained that we needed a biopsy before we could make any conclusive diagnoses or decisions about treatment, but he did not think this would be a job for him. His best guess was lymphoma, and said I would most likely be treated with chemotherapy. The biopsy was scheduled for first thing the following Tuesday, April 5.

I showed up at 7am for the biopsy as per their requirements – no food since dinner the night before – but of course I hadn’t slept and was thoroughly unrested. The doctors came over and by law had to warn me of the potential risks involved with the procedure: due to the growth’s location, there was a risk that the needle could puncture my heart, or my lung, or one of the major arteries in my chest. Wonderful. Exactly what I wanted to hear. I said to them ‘Well then ok please do your job well!’ The procedure itself went fine, however I am prone to vasovagal reactions – sudden drops in heart rate and blood pressure… basically I faint at the sight of (my own) blood or simply feeling an injection or IV. When they first inserted the IV before the procedure, I warned them that I must be lying down and could not look, but even then I accidentally saw the IV in my arm a minute later and suddenly blood pressure dropped. Drama before the procedure, then again during my recovery when I tried to sit up, and finally, after an extended recovery and having some juice and nuts, they took the IV out and I started to get changed and it happened again – AFTER they took it out! Clearly my hypersensitive system had just had enough. Since I was already lying down and hooked up to machines I was able to remain mostly conscious for each of these episodes (they inverted my bed so the blood would get to my head) and from what I noticed it went as low as 66/19.

Two days after the biopsy I received a call from the director of the lymphoma center and he was able to confirm from the preliminary tests that it was in fact lymphoma, but they had to run further tests to determine which type. I scheduled an appointment with the oncologist for the following Thursday, since there was a near guarantee the final results would be in. My whole family joined me for this one – mom, dad, sister. After waiting nearly two hours to see the doctor, he explained my diagnosis and the recommended treatment in a very clinical fashion, detailing the potential/ likely side effects of treatment. There is a risk of infertility so they advise any young female to go through the egg freezing process. Again in a very matter of fact fashion he explained that they would remove part of my ovary and then once treatment is finished they would surgically replace it. As prepared as I was by that point for the diagnosis and recommended treatment, this was too much… on top of cancer I had to take massive risks with my reproductive organs!? Between this and the hair factor, I broke down. I then asked about nutrition, and he said I could eat whatever I want, ‘except raw meat.’ Um no, that was not the answer I was looking for.

Needless to say the next day I took all the required steps to set up an appointment with another lymphoma oncologist who came highly recommended from a couple highly trusted sources. After speaking with the receptionist Friday morning and hearing that I might hear back Monday morning regarding an appointment, I ordered all my records and scans and slides to be sent to his office and just before end of day I heard back from the receptionist that the doctor would meet with me on Tuesday. He sent me a personal email that evening after hours and made arrangements for the fertility clinic to follow up with me first thing Monday morning.

The weekend was a whirlwind of logistics and forms, Monday moreso with the fertility clinic, and Tuesday morning I went in to meet the reproductive surgeon. No, I would absolutely not need to remove my ovary…. that’s not even a well-established procedure as of yet. I would go through the normal egg freezing process that women elect to do… Seriously How many women would elect to remove their lady parts in such an invasive fashion?? Relief on so many levels. That afternoon I met with Dr. L, and immediately felt so much more comfortable. My Nana was right – there is SO much to be said for bedside manner (she has a bit of a crush on her handsome cardiologist ;), and for explaining things thoroughly, and for not brushing off questions with a terse reply. The treatment is the same, because you don’t mess with a treatment with that kind of response rate, but trust in your doctor is crucial. It doesn’t hurt that he has a very notable track record.

Given the aggressive nature and bulky size of my growth, he asked that we do a bone marrow biopsy right then and there. Apparently this is typically a ‘simple’ 15 minute procedure. He numbed my left back hip bone and went for it. I felt the pressure and the twisting of the needle/drill and it was the strangest sensation in the world, knowing he was digging a needle into my bone and sucking out part of my inner being. He was impressed with how I handled it, especially after my warnings regarding the vasovagal reactions. I had also had 10 vials of blood taken at the fertility clinic that morning, and of course, again, had not slept at all due to the extreme referred pain in my shoulder the previous night. He finished and instructed to me to turn over onto my back, slowly and carefully. As soon as I lifted my head I started to feel woozy. He coached me through the turn over, and I lay there for a minute. He rose the incline of my table so I was somewhat propped up and called my dad and sister in (mom was up visiting Nana). I told them I still felt a bit woozy and asked for my carrot juice. My dad handed it to me but as soon as I took a sip I apparently fainted without managing to swallow. At this point I was out cold: I fainted, stopped breathing and turned the color of an eggplant. My table had no side rail and I was not hooked up to machines so my sister ran out into the hall screaming for doctors while my dad made sure I didn’t roll off the table. Ten doctors ran into my room and apparently I had no pulse. They hooked me up to oxygen and within an hour I was more or less recovered. It took a while for my brain to reset and a few tries to regain proper word usage and use of my tongue and I kept blacking out for a moment at a time, utterly confusing the heck out of Dr. L and my sister and my dad when I would come back and add a number each time – ‘What was that, number 4? Number 5? Omg 8 times now!’ – thinking I had full on fainted each time… they had no clue what I was talking about until later that evening. Hah. I put quite a scare into them that day.

The next day was another flurry of appointments – fertility clinic instructions, injection, and more blood, anesthesiologist, an ultrasound, and then on my own I went to see an applied kinesiologist who spent two hours clearing my body of past injury traumas and diagnosing the right dosage of Vitamin D and Brazil nuts (for the selenium) for me to take each day. That evening I started my hormone injections, and it’s just been a day by day whirlwind of a process since. I’ve never had to go to the hospital in my life (save for a few hours at Mass Gen after my car accident senior year for precautionary x-rays.. PS first vasovagal fainting episode when I saw my friend’s cut elbow requiring stitches) and in the past month I’ve been to more doctors appointments and had more procedures that my entire life combined, by a long shot. As much as this completely sucks… I know that with the support of my amazing friends and family and team of excellent healers I will get through this and it will just be a blip in my life. I’ve gone on many adventures in my life, but this is my first adventure of a medical nature! Stay tuned for the updates… 🙂