Four months later

Time has really flown by since my last day of chemo. The recovery from round 12 was quite different even though it was very much the same as the previous rounds. The difference came from knowing that once I got past that low point on Saturday, I would be on a consistent road to recovery. Knowing that my scan after treatment #4 came back with no evidence of disease helped me feel some confidence that this would really be behind me soon. I did a post-treatment scan at the end of February and it confirmed that I’m still in remission. It was not a surprise, but it was definitely a relief.

By the end of February, I was feeling better than I had felt in over six months. I was still feeling tired but I had much more energy than I did toward the end of chemo. By the end of April, I found myself telling people I felt 100% back to normal. However, I think I lost track of what normal was by that point, because now I feel far more energetic and more myself. I guess I lost track of what normal is. When you layer on the pandemic we’ve all been coping with, I think “normal” is taking on a new meaning for all of us. All I can say is that right now, in this moment, I feel great and I’m very happy.

In addition to being happy, I’ve been experiencing a growing feeling throughout my entire treatment and it continues to grow even more since the end of my treatment. It’s a feeling of overwhelming gratitude. I feel tremendous gratitude to those who helped me through this process. My Mom and sister were there with me every step of the way to support me. In addition to the loving emotional support they provided, they also made me the most delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes I’ve ever had, so that I could have the very best nutrition throughout my treatment. Thank you for always being there for me and doing anything and everything you could to help me through this. I love you both!

I’m grateful to my friends who checked in with me, called me, sent me messages to let me know they care about me. This helped me so much. Feeling that connection and encouragement means so much to me. I never realized how much these gestures could make such a big difference. The kindness of these friends will leave a lasting impression on me forever. They inspire me to be a better friend.

I have a special kind of gratitude to Jamie. It is much harder to be the spouse than the patient. I’m not sure I would have truly understood that last sentence if I didn’t experience it personally. When Jamie had his bout with cancer shortly before mine, I was a wreck. He was going through something that I couldn’t fix for him. I wanted to make it go away for him, but I couldn’t. The fear and uncertainty was off the charts for me while we processed his diagnosis and went through his treatment process. Thankfully, he’s totally fine, but it was intense. Little did we know that we would be switching roles as patient and caretaker only a few months later. Jamie, thank you for being the very best husband I could ever ask for. You took incredible care of me throughout this experience and I’m eternally grateful. I love you.

I’m very grateful to my oncology team who literally saved my life. The team at MGH is incredible. They are so brilliant and so kind and caring at the same time. I feel so blessed to have access to such amazing people and the some of the best care in the world. Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL) is a relatively rare disease. There are 8,000 new diagnoses per year in the US. That means very few doctors have any exposure to this form of cancer. Dr. Barnes is a leading expert, and he has seen a disproportionate number of HL cases. I saw evidence of his expertise every step of the way. He knew exactly what I’d be going through, how I’d be feeling physically and emotionally, and that I had an extremely high likelihood for survival. Thank you Dr. Barnes, Amanda, Krista, and the entire MGH team!

I also want to thank the OrangeTheory Fitness Waltham team. They were incredibly supportive and did everything in their power to accommodate me. Being able to keep going to work out was a big part of keeping my mental and physical self healthy. In addition giving me my own space in the studio to give me a little buffer from other people, they always checked in on me and encouraged me. I did not think I would be able to do this throughout my six months of chemotherapy, but I did, and it made a huge difference for me.

I’m also very grateful for my orthopedist, Dr. Suzanne Miller. I had been seeing her for a shoulder problem that was getting in the way of my weight training. In the appointment, I asked her if the shoulder problem was causing my right pectoral to atrophy. I was thinking that was why it was not keeping up with the “muscle mass” I was building on the left side. She took a step back and said she wanted to get it imaged because she doesn’t think this is an atrophy of the right side, but perhaps a non-muscular mass on the left side. After eight months of me assuming this was a muscular asymmetry, her quick thinking was the catalyst to get me down the path of getting this diagnosed properly.

The other day, I came to the realization that I’m glad I went through this. It sounds crazy to say it out loud, but when I think of the gifts that came from this, it’s true. It has given me a new perspective on life that I’m not sure I would have otherwise. I have a deeper appreciation for my life and the people around me. I look through life through a different lens with different priorities. Would I want to go through that experience again? Oh hell no! I’ve been lucky enough to have the love and support and medical care to help me get through it. I can carry this new perspective with me to enjoy many more years to come.