This picture was taken this past April in Cancun, Nick is on the left, now 16 and Chris in on the right, almost 15.
Jen Singer and I met somehow years ago online. We became friends and corresponded back and forth. I love her sites, MommaSaid.net, Parenting with Cancer, and her facebook page and her fun outlook on life and parenting. She has done some speaking and is an inspiration to many.
Happy First Survivor Story
I still know my oncologist’s phone number by heart, even though it’s been nearly six years since I went into remission. I know this, because I just called it to make my annual check-up appointment – the first appointment in all those years that I’m not worried that the cancer may have returned.
Well, not that worried.
Six summers ago, I was diagnosed with Stage III Aggressive B Cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I had a tumor the size of a softball inside my left lung, pressing against my esophagus and my heart.
Speaking of my heart, I also had two boys in elementary school, and I desperately wanted to see them grow up. According to my oncologist, however, I was about two months from death – a fact he didn’t reveal, nor did I ask about – until I was safely two years in remission. And yet, deep down, I knew it.
I spent much of June 2007 in the hospital for a five-day infusion that turned into 10 because of complications, plus another few days before that just trying to get an accurate diagnosis. (The doctor had told me that I had the “good cancer,” Hodgkin’s lymphoma, when really, I had non-Hodgkin’s. And, oh yeah, there is no such thing as a “good cancer.” I switched hospitals shortly thereafter.)
In all, I had six rounds of chemo – the kind that makes your hair fall out and comes with the possible future “complication” of leukemia – and five weeks of radiation treatments. I coached soccer (well, I sat in a chair and tried to yell), I was class mom, and I slept on the couch a lot while trying to ignore the house-wide construction going on around me that we had started before my diagnosis.
I tried to be the mom that I had been before cancer, but that was nearly impossible when it took all my energy just to get out of my car and walk to the edge of the lake where my kids had a swim meet. So I did the best I could and relied on everyone around me to fill in. And they did, thank God.
When I finally achieved remission, I waited for “normal” to return, but it never did. Not the normal I knew before cancer, anyhow. In the first year, there were PET scans every quarter and then in the second, every four months. After 14 PET scans, my oncologist finally cut me loose from that anything-but-normal ritual, relying instead on blood tests and “how you feel.”
And I feel fine. Good, even. Normal, but a new normal, in which cancer isn’t so much in my rearview mirror as it is potentially at any exit along the way. Only now I zoom past those exits without (much) worry, relying on annual blood tests and how I feel to confirm what I know deep down: I will see my kids grow up.
My boys are now both in high school, the final lap of the under-your-roof parenting years. They are stronger and wiser for what they went through, of this I am sure. And we are closer, too, because of it all.
Next week, I will have my six-year check-up, but I am not worried. I will zoom past this exit with the memories of all we’ve been through, looking forward to watching my sons become men. And yet, I will still remember my oncologist’s phone number.
Just in case.
Above picture from 2008, Jen was 6 months in remission. Nick on the left at age 11, Chris on the right age 9 1/2.
Jen is both an author and a blogger. Her sites are MommaSaid.net. and Parenting with Cancer. (In fact I guest blogged for her back in 2011, check out the post-Debbie Vinyard wants you to be Happy First). It is the back fence of the Internet where moms go for laughs and a pat on the back. Created by Jen Singer, author of the Stop Second-Guessing Yourself parenting series, a Mom’s Choice Award gold winner. Also check out her facebook page MommaSaid.
Thanks so much for sharing, Jen!