Want to hear a scary story? 10 years ago I ran my first marathon. It was with my twin sister, Robin, in Dublin, Ireland. A marathon in the year 2000 - how cool is that, right? We trained and fundraised with the Leukemia and Lymphoma's Team in Training. An awesome and amazing experience.
Fast forward four months later to February of 2001....I was in a car accident on Valentine's Day. The seat belt caught me hard and I suspected some cracked ribs and whiplash. The next day I was checked out at the doctor's office, but came out not with a neck brace, but with a cancer diagnosis. A routine xray had revealed tumors filling my chest - Hodgkin's Lymphoma was suspected, but it would take 3 weeks of anxious testing ("staging") to confirm the diagnosis.
Discussions about freezing eggs (there wasn't time, my oncologist at Stanford recommended starting chemo right away before it spread to my abdomen and pelvis), worrying about "what if," long talks with survivors who had advice and insight, days and then weeks in which all of my normal worry items fell off the list...I was a 28-year-old newleywed who had just ran a marathon. I should be healthy and thinking about starting a family.
A course of 3 months of weekly chemo (nitrogen mustard was included and was scarily brought to my recliner in the infusion center at Stanford by my favorite nurse...but she was wearing a has-mat suit - this was put right into my veins) and then 5 weeks of daily radiation. I was in remission and happy to be alive and well.
It was no picnic, but honestly it wasn't terrible. I was never hospitalized for infection or dangerous levels of low white blood cells, I threw up exactly once, my veins held up pretty well, although I did get a PICC line towards the end of chemo. I did okay. I was positive and I KNEW I WOULD BEAT THIS. And I did.
During discussions of treatment options, we talked a lot about minimizing long term side effects. Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a fairly easy cancer to beat (it was about a 97% survival rate when I was treated almost 10 years ago and it might even be higher now). The trouble is....the chemo and radiation that cures us also exposes us to a higher risk of other cancers later. 10 - 20 years later, survivors are worried about developing breast or lung cancer, heart and lung disease. I had radiation directly to my chest. I had chemo that is linked directly to breast and lung cancers.
Now that I am approaching the 10 year mark, I am happy, but I am more worried that I was when I was 5 years out, 2 years out. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. And WHEN it does (maybe not even if...), I want to be ready. I want there to be a cure. I want to be there for my three young kids who I fought so hard to even have.
On this last day of October - breast cancer awareness month - and on Halloween, I dare you to do something really scary. DO SOMETHING, ANYTHING to support cancer research today. I don't care what it is - a Facebook meme, buying something pink, joining Army of Women, deciding to train for a marathon with Team in Training. You choose what works for you, but please do something. It all makes a difference. To me and to so many others in this world who are surviving and are counting on a cure.
This post is a part of the Yahoo! Mother Board (of which I am a proud part) October topic on breast cancer and politics. Read more posts here and join us all in making a difference.
Crossposted from Linsey's blog Me Too You.