In January of 2012, just 10 days into the new year, and a week into my final semester of high school, I was diagnosed with Stage IV B Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Things began to move at a breakneck pace. Tuesday my pediatrician sent me for an X-ray, which confirmed widespread cancer. Wednesday I had a PET and CT scan to project a clearer picture of the cancer. Friday I had my senior pictures, as well as a family portrait. Within the next 10 days, I had a lymph node biopsy (a final confirmation of diagnosis, as well as staging), spent nearly a week in the hospital, had a surgery to install a Mediport, and then started chemo before I was even out of anesthesia!
I had 6 rounds of chemotherapy, each round lasting about 28 days. I was on chemo from January - July of 2012. After every 2 cycles of chemo, they took PET/CT/X-ray scans to see if the cancer was responding. Each scan showed less and less cancer! Finally, at the very beginning of August, I started radiation treatments Because of the initial extent of my cancer, I received 8 fields of radiation, from my chin to my hips. I finished all cancer treatments on August 3, 2012!!!!
One week later, on Friday the 10th, I attended a leadership orientation at the University of Akron, Honors College. Frankly, it was the first time I had been out alone (without ANY of my family), though a friend took me. I seemed to be starting a brand-new college life, and I thought I would leave my cancer behind. On Saturday we had a "Celebration of Life" party- my graduation, 18th birthday, and end of cancer party all rolled into one! On Sunday I had a celebration at our church, and also celebrated my 18th birthday. The next week was filled with a final packing of school supplies, as well as getting my license!!!! Thursday of that week, I had surgery to remove my Mediport. Friday, I was able to attend orientation, and then a soccer game with friends, old and new! (Zips won, btw)
On Monday, August 28th, I started my first semester of college, at the University of Akron, Honors College, in the Mechanical Polymer Engineering program. I had an amazing semester, meeting new friends, learning new things, and so much more!!!!
On Black Friday 2012, I got up early; however, I wasn't headed to the mall, but to Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital for my 3 month scans. The next Monday, Iwas back in the swing of college. My mechanical engineering friends and I had a mousetrap car competition (that we were graded on!) due the next day. We built a cardboard ramp in the kitchen, and were doing final tests and modifications to our cars. I was so exhilarated to be with my friends, doing what I loved, all of us pumped for the competition the next day. In the middle of our
The day after I finished my first semester of college, I had even more tests. Through the next few days, I had a spleen biopsy as well. Just three days before Christmas, I found out the cancer had returned. I had been cancer free for only 112 days.
The news made our Christmas so much more special. We had piles of friends for Christmas. Our adopted grandparents spent a few days with us for the holidays, while we had friends and neighbors visit all day on Christmas day. We went sledding, and did so many wonderful things!
On January 3rd, I officially started my new treatment regiment. I had another Mediport installed, and once again, started chemo just a few hours later. This new treatment regiment required more frequent hospitalizations.
So far I have completed two rounds of chemotherapy. I have experienced some of the side effects, mainly elevated blood sugars, lowered blood counts and immunity, slight hearing and eye troubles. I also had an RSV attack, which required an extensive hospitalizations. The scans I had following this treatment, have come out clean, and I'm now in the autologous bone marrow transplant (BMT) phase of my treatment.
When my spleen was biopsied, the doctor found an atypical tuberculosis bacteria. As a result of "Micobacterium Asiaticum", I am on several different antibiotics to combat this slow-growing bacteria. While waiting for the specific typing of the bacteria, and finding the perfect cocktail that would agree with my body, I have been on several different medications. My Infections Disease doctor said that I deserved a punch card- "And the 10th Antibiotic is free!".
I wrote this background story shortly after I started my blog, but I wasn't ready to publish it then. I've finished my treatments, and am nearly at my 100 days. I've scheduled classes for this fall, as I plan to return to college full time. I'm greatly enjoying my summer with my family and new found friends.
There really is no closing to this story. I'll live the rest of my life as a cancer survivor, and I know I'm not the same person I once was.
I'd like to share one of the many lessons I've learned. I heard a phrase of a song that said 'why wait to live when you will die'. Living it up in our vocabulary today has the connotation of partying, flinging caution to the wind and living a life with a careless attitude. There is so much more to life than that. Our lives are a gift to us, from God. We need to use our lives to bring honour to Him by showing His love to others, and leaving our mark on the world for posterity.
Thank you for sharing in my journey.
June 22, 2013
I'm back at college full-time! I had to spend a week in the PICU before I started my fall semester 2013. Even though it was an extremely difficult semester, I'm so grateful God allowed me to complete it. I was sick almost all of Christmas break, with a severe cough and breathing issues. I'm still dealing with a lot of aches and pains, intense muscular cramping, which the doctor says is vascular issues, breathing troubles, and chemobrain. But God is faithful! I'm a few weeks into my first spring semester...God has blessed me with some absolutely amazing friends, that continue to stand by me, as well as new friends I've made that will stay with me for my life. My 6-month scans came clean, and I'm looking ahead to my 1-year BMT birthday March 18th!! I'm trying to keep walking with Him, and count by blessings daily!!
February 23, 2014