Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happy Tears


Happy tears! Just heard back from my oncologist. My sed rate is back in normal range, so no need for a CT scan; just my normal follow up again in October.

Of course it's frustrating that this could have been a lab error and that my family and I still have to worry about all this... but I don't care about that right now - I'm just too darn happy!😊

Thank you to everyone who sent messages, prayers, and positive thoughts. I love you all! 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Not Necessarily Bad News; Not Necessarily Good News

My last post was almost a year ago.  It was on the third anniversary of when I received my initial diagnosis of Stage I Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  A few months after that (October 2016) I had a routine follow-up with my oncologist - all good news.  Blood work was normal and she found no enlarged lymph nodes upon a physical exam... officially 3 years remission.

Fast forward to today, when I had another follow-up appointment.  Unfortunately, this time my my bloodwork was off.  My sedimentation rate - which is explained here, was elevated.  The normal range is 0-20 for a woman of my age.  My past tests have all been well within the normal range (usually around 10) but this time that number is 33.  There are a few reasons reasons this number could be elevated, but a high sedimentation rate can be an indicator of a relapse of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which is why it is of concern.  Boo.


While this is all somewhat scary, the positive is that there is a decent chance that this could be an anomaly or a false positive as a result of the lab taking too long to do the test after the blood was drawn (I'm trusting my oncologist on this one - I can't find any sources online to back this up).  I have no other symptoms, although I didn't have any symptoms when I was initially diagnosed, so it's hard to say that that's any indicator.  My oncologist could not feel any enlarged lymph nodes, so that's good, too.

So at this point, the plan is to redo that blood test and if the number comes back high again, we'll schedule a CT scan.  If the number comes back normal, we will assume all is good and I won't see my oncologist again for another 6 months.

My oncologist is contacting the lab where I had my blood work done to see if she can get an idea of what their procedure is on this test.  She may have me go to a hospital for the test, so they can do the test "STAT" - meaning within 2 hours of the blood draw.  I should hear from her tomorrow and get instructions on when/where to have this test redone.  Unfortunately, I'm traveling all week for work, so getting this blood work done may end up being delayed if she wants me to go somewhere specific.  Boo again.

Right now I'm remaining hopeful that this is either an anomaly or a lab error.  My oncologist says that is more likely than not the case, so that's what I'm focused on.  I will gladly take all the positive thoughts, prayers, etc. that you're willing to throw my way.  I will be sure to keep you posted in the upcoming weeks.

Love,
Melissa

Monday, July 25, 2016

3 Years; A Million Emotions

Well hello there!  I haven't posted in nearly a year, but you know that no news is typically good news and that's the case here!  As of April of this year, I'm officially halfway to being cured of Hodgkin's Lymphoma!!!  5 years is considered cured for this type of cancer, so that puts me at 2.5 years in the clear!  I figured it was time to give an update as today is the 3 year anniversary of the day I was diagnosed, so here goes :)

It was on this day three years ago my doctor uttered the scariest words I've ever heard... "You have cancer."  Two years ago I wrote this post about what that day was like and what I'd learned over the prior year (check it out if you haven't already).

Just recently I was trying to explain to someone how this day makes me feel, but I found it difficult to put into words or pinpoint any one exact emotion.  I very distinctly remember how terrified I felt three years ago, but I also remember the tremendous outpouring of love and support.  I feel relieved that I'm in remission but still scared at the possibility of a recurrence.  This day brings out so many emotions.

But one of the strongest emotions I fee today is proud.  I'm by no means tooting my own horn here, but I can't help but to feel proud of what I've been through and what I've accomplished since finishing treatment.

Cancer will definitely make you examine your life in a whole new way.  Someone once asked me why I like to run and my answer was "because I can."  Three years ago I couldn't, but now I can.  Three years ago I sat in the infusion room with 20+ other patients receiving chemo, all of which would have given anything to be able to run, or walk, or even just get out of bed every day.  So because I can run, I do.  I run for myself, I run for those who are in treatment, and I run for those who lost their well-fought battle.  With that being said... here's what I've been up to for the last few years :)

In the fall of 2014 I ran my first 10k.  I like this picture comparison of me "plugged in" getting chemo one year and running a race the next:


In the spring of 2015 I completed my first triathlon:


In the fall of 2015 I ran my first half marathon.  I was literally moved to tears when I crossed the finish line:


I completed my second triathlon in the spring of this year (2016):


My goal for 2016 is to run/bike 2,016 miles.  I'm happy to say that I'm officially on pace... As of today I've completed 1163 miles.


I've run tons of 5k races as well and have another 10k coming up this weekend, which is such a fun way to continue my training.  I especially like the races with beer at the finish line... the one this weekend is wine :)

Halfway to being cured has felt pretty good and I can't wait to get these other 2.5 years out of the way too!

Love, 
Melissa

Monday, August 24, 2015

Embracing My Chemo Curls!

For as long as I can remember, I've been flat ironing my hair straight.  I've always had somewhat wavy hair, but not in a good way.  Some parts were stick straight, some were super wavy, and the rest was somewhere awkwardly in between.  I was never able to wear it natural, so I was a slave to the flat iron (or the ponytail!).

But here's a positive thing that's come out of chemo: curly hair... that actually looks good!



I have actual ringlets of curls!  And they're actually quite pretty!


I will admit, I'm still trying to perfect the curly hair look.  Most days they look great, some days they look flat and messy.  But for the most part, I've figured out what products are best for me and how to style it to make it look good.  It is SO nice to hop out the shower, spend less than 5 minutes on my hair, and be done!

Don't be fooled, my brother actually loves me.

Apparently, it's very common for hair to come back a different texture (sometimes even a different color!) after chemo.  Something about the chemo changes the hair follicles, which can change the hair.  Many people experience what I have - chemo curls!

I still straighten my hair sometimes, here's what it looks like when I straighten it:


Huge difference from last year, right?!  Sometimes it doesn't seem like it's grown and filled in all that much since I finished chemo, but then I see this picture from a year ago... holy moly!


There's no telling how long these "chemo curls" will last, but I'm embracing them and loving them while I have them!

Love,
Melissa

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Getting My Body Back After Cancer

I'll never forget the day in January that I stood in front of the mirror, nearly in tears, staring back at the body that cancer left behind.  I had new scars, I was half bald, my skin was so dry it was literally flaking off and had a weird gray hue, and I was nearly 30 pounds heavier.  My cheeks were puffy and swollen (a side effect from the steroids they give with chemo) and my entire body was soft and pudgy from losing muscle while laying in bed for 4 months straight.

While I was SO proud to have beaten this stupid cancer, I was heartbroken and frustrated at what was left behind.  At that moment as I stared at myself in the mirror, I decided it was time to get my health back on track.

In the first couple months, I lost 10 pounds - I got back to the gym and started tracking my calories.  But my body hadn't fully bounced back from treatment and I definitely pushed too hard too fast and ended up with an injury.  It took a couple months to recover from the injury, which was frustrating, but also forced me to slowly ease back into my workout routine, which is what I should have done from the beginning!

On June 1, I decided it was time to make a drastic change!  I cut out 95% of sugar from my diet and went the whole month (minus one cheat day) without any alcohol.  I started tracking my food with the Weight Watchers app, which doesn't track calories, but it tracks macros: fat, protein, carbs, and fiber.  For me, tracking macros made a lot more sense than tracking calories, so I've stuck with it.  By July 1 I had lost another 8 pounds and several inches overall.

I've started running again, ran a 5k last month, and even signed up for my first 10k (which is in a few weeks!).  I incorporated a lot of strength training as well.  I still try to limit as much sugar from my diet as I can, but allow myself the occasional treat or adult beverage.

It's now the beginning of September and I've lost about 30 pounds.  I went from a size 12 to a size 6 (and the 6's are getting a little roomy….).  Even though I beat cancer last November, I feel like I've finally TRULY beat cancer.  I'm stronger and healthier than I was a year ago, and that makes me feel amazing :)

December 2013 vs. August 2014

January 2013 vs. August 2014
June, July, August


I'd be lying if I said that hasn't been hard work.  But it's been worth it.

Love,
Melissa

Friday, July 25, 2014

One Year Later...


My hope is that none of you reading this will ever have to find out what it feels like to hear the words "you have cancer."  For me, that day was exactly one year ago.

I recently watched the movie 50/50.  Although my doctor was much more kind than this doctor, my experience was much like this (feel free to skip ahead to 0:53):


(Sorry I couldn't find a clip without subtitles!)

I had prepared myself for the worst that morning, but I'm an optimistic person and I didn't really think I'd be hearing bad news.  I know my husband asked a lot of questions in that appointment, but I honestly can't remember a single one.  There are only two things I remember from that doctors appointment: (1) the doctor telling me I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma, then handing me a box of tissues; (2) all of the nurses staring at me as I walked out of the exam room (it's a small office, so I assume they all knew what had just happened).

I remember being in a daze the rest of the day.  I spent hours on the internet, trying to learn everything I possibly could about Hodgkin's.  I shared the news with my family, a few close friends, and my boss.  I started this blog.  I had dinner with 4 of my closest friends, who took my mind off everything and helped me laugh through the haze.

What I've Learned and How I've Changed

It's a full year later now, so today I'm reflecting on the past year.  I've learned so much in the past year, but there's one thing specifically that stands out:

People are incredibly kind.

I couldn't believe the support Josh and I got!  People from all over the country and from all different times of my life were sending their love and encouragement.  I especially loved getting cards in the mail.  I hung every single one of them on the wall and read them frequently - especially on my "bad days."  Here's a picture of my card wall:



A group of friends and family arranged for our house to be cleaned each week as well (to help avoid nasty infections and to ease the workload off my sweet husband/caregiver).  This was such a nice surprise and I'm forever grateful for their kindness and generosity.  People did so many nice things for us and I was so touched at their thoughtfulness.

Because of the generosity I was shown, I have been inspired to "pay it forward."  I try to send cards of encouragement and support.  I try to call, text, or email more often.  I've learned that a small gesture can make a huge impact, especially for someone going through a tough time.  Even just a quick note of encouragement can mean so much and make someone's day!

So a year after hearing one of the most frightening phrases a person can hear, I am pleased to say that I'm healthy, incredibly happy, and most of all I'm thankful for having come through this a better and stronger person.

Love,
Melissa

Monday, April 28, 2014

6-month Follow Up CAT Scan



A week ago I had my 6-month follow up CAT scan.  Although my treatment ended 5 months ago, they go 6 months from my last clean scan, which was a PET scan done right after I finished chemo in October.

Today I got the results - how terrible is it that they make you wait a full week after the scan for the results?!  Anyway, it's GOOD NEWS!  My scan was normal and my blood work looks great!


So after 6 months, I'm still in remission!!!!!!!


My first thought was "I can't wait to tell Tracey!"  But I know she already knows and even after all she went through, I know how proud she would be.

So… where do we go from here?  I'll see the doctor again in 3 months and will have bloodwork done then.  In 6 months, I'll have another CAT Scan of the neck and chest along with more bloodwork.  In 9 months I'll see the doc again just for bloodwork, and in a year, I'll see the doc for another CAT Scan.  At that time, we'll determine how often she'll need to see me and how often I'll need to get scans.

Thanks again for all the support, prayers, and words of encouragement!

Love,
Melissa