My Not So Private (Cancer) Status

I’m a relatively private person, not one to air their dirty laundry, so to speak, on social media or to the general public for that matter. In fact it has always been a running joke among my students; I won’t reveal anything about myself so they speculate. For instance, one class, that has since graduated, decided that if I wouldn’t tell them about my life they would instead tell me what they assumed or could conjure up; which was a relationship with a dentist (apparently I had too many dental visits one year and it seemed suspect), who enjoyed outdoor activities and drove a sweet car. They called him Roger and even gave me birthday flowers one year from my fictional dentist boyfriend Roger. Clearly my students had far too much time on their hands, but case in point I never thought it necessary to inform the masses about my personal life – to my students or anyone else for that matter. But the news of my cancer quickly became public once I told my students and even more so once I had to shave my head.

Once hair becomes optional it becomes harder to blend in with the crowd. By optional I mean I wear my wig on special occasions, when no scarves match my outfit, I want to feel normal, or am around my sweet goddaughter who seems a little reluctant to come see me in a scarf. Aside from those days, I pretty much rock the scarf. Sarah, an IV nurse from my local hospital, said it all worked out because otherwise how would I have ever known I was an attractive scarf chick. (Definitely a silver lining). I love the scarves and have fun finding new ways to tie them and am excited every time I add a new scarf to the collection, but they do draw attention. Even though no one comments, people look at you differently; sometimes sympathetically and sometimes as if you have a horrible sense of style and didn’t realize gypsy wasn’t a style. Small children move a little closer to their parents when they see you and some even point or ask their moms why that lady looks funny. I’m always more interested in the response of the parents, who explain that it could be a religious preference, a style choice, or possibly that I am sick. Either way, what I am is noticeable. 

At school, some students (who never had me or were not my actual students) were somehow offended my new look. They saw my scarf wearing as a violation of the rules and felt that it was unfair. Some were vocal about it to other staff members, who were appalled by the lack of empathy displayed by these teenagers. Some of these students immediately felt bad after being told that I was wearing the scarf as a result of my recent cancer status but others still felt as though it should not be allowed. It didn’t stop me from showing up to work everyday and doing my job as I had been for the last eight years. And hopefully my students and those in the building were able to gain some perspective. I allowed the students to ask questions if they had them in hopes that it could generate understanding or provide a teachable moment. One girl was most curious by the very visible tube in my neck that connected to my mediport. I explained how it worked and she said “I would rather die than have a tube under your skin that people could see” and very factually I replied “and you would then” and explained that sometimes you have to do things in life that you may not want to, but they have a much greater purpose.

 I think the visible elements or public views of cancer are what people dwell on – the hair loss, the scars, the paleness – but in reality those are the things that matter least. So what if the world knows you have cancer, what is important is how you react to having cancer. So in some ways I was okay with my public cancer status because I wanted others to see how I chose to handle it. I’ll keep wearing my scarves and let my biopsy scars serve as reminder of how hard you have to fight. My modeling career might be over but my life isn’t and hopefully my very public attitude about cancer might change at least one person’s private view about it!

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Regularly Scheduled Programming

I have always been the type of person that liked a schedule of sorts. I like to be able to anticipate my day and know what I need to accomplish and in what time frame. Some might refer to me as a micromanager, and I can’t really argue that. Micromanaging cancer is virtually impossible, so you have to choose your battles and take control over what you can. I opted to gain control by taking on my closet and accessories suited to my new look (somewhat gypsy-esque, so I’ve been told), getting informed (I always knew I should have come with a manual), and becoming acquainted with the full process of taking on my Hodgkin’s. But ultimately the rest isn’t up to me. All I have to do is show up and see what happens. In many ways it is a lot less stressful than one would think. The only decision you make regarding your treatment is whether you are actually going to have it or not. I choose to fight but I can fully comprehend those that feel that they fought long and hard enough and need a break. So for now I am a warrior of some kind on a regularly scheduled treatment program.

Because I like to know what to expect, I was happy to learn that my treatment days and doctors’ appointments and blood draws all pretty much looked the same. Even better that most of those days start with compliments from the fabulous valet/ doormen at the cancer center. I have to admit they are a major confidence booster. I find that I smile a little bit harder every time I see them, although oddly enough I pretty much smile all the time. You have to live each day to the fullest and why not enjoy all of it? After the doormen and I chat about life and theater and my smile, I go in to reception to check in. Where without fail, I am asked my birthday and given an id card with stickers that follow me on my day’s visit. Throughout the day I will be given a hospital bracelet that I usually forget to take off and asked my birthday at least a dozen more times. I actually ordered a t-shirt that has the date just to be funny. All of the people that work in the front offices as schedulers and registrars are amazing. They know you by name and you know them. We joke and comment on each other’s outfits. It is a truly comfortable atmosphere. 

I start off on the fourth floor with my Julie or Susan or Stacie or Brenda for a blood draw. One would assume with a mediport a blood draw would be easy, but not me. I usually have to turn into a contortionist to get a blood draw on the first try. Otherwise I usually deplete Julie’s stash of saline and heparin from the cart first thing. I prefer that not happen because I am one of the lucky one third that can actually taste the saline solution and I can tell you it does not taste good at all. Once the blood work is over and I have secured my chair in the corner window by leaving all of my personal belongings (it generally looks like I have packed for the week between my cooler, book bag and other not so necessary things), I get to go down stairs for a visit with the Doc. 

My Doc visit always starts off rough with the scale. I have never particularly been fond of the SCALE, it has always mocked my height and weight discrepancy. But alas it is what it is and my cancer has had no interference with my appetite, if anything the steroids and my need to mask the taste of drugs has led me to an even greater love of snacking on popcorn and Pops. So needless to say I’m happy when I step on the scale and there has been no change and so is my Doctor because that means I’m holding steady. After that you get the usual blood pressure cuff routine and temperature, followed by the wait time before Doctor Z graces you with his presence. I actually look forward to our witty banter. He thoroughly checks my lymph nodes and discusses what is next on tap for my treatment options and always assures me that we are on the right track.

After our exchange I am back upstairs to the Infusion room for the duration of the day, where I get to spend quality time with my mom or Steph or Nancy(my chemo buddies)  and most importantly my Julie.  Julie has been my oncology nurse from the get go and as a result we have become friends. So the afternoon is usually filled with laughs and smiles and funny stories. In addition to Julie, I get to spend quality time with Susan, who recently gave me and my group of girl friends the idea to have rotating dinner parties. And I always love good book suggestions from Stacey, who is also a John Green fan.

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And once the infusion is over I go home and come back within 24 hours to receive the dreaded neulasta shot. This is by far the worst part of treatment, the shot that increases your white blood cell count to fight off possible infections. It really just makes you feel like you were hit by a mack truck for a day or that you are an adolescent re – experiencing growing pains. Super fun! I really shouldn’t complain however because it is really the only side effect that I have experienced thus far, minus the hair loss. I usually stayed home the day after neulasta, but was able to go to work the day immediately following chemo and all the other days in between. 

So my regularly scheduled programed life was only interrupted by one Wednesday every other week, a shot on that Thursday after work, followed by a rest day and then on with the rigamarole of work and life. I had to show up on the in between Wednesday for routine blood work, but aside from that it was life as usual. 

Cancer – My Latest Accessory!

I imagine that everyone would say that their style has changed over the course of their life and perhaps even some of those styles return. I know that there has definitely been an upsurge of eighties style clothing on the racks as of late. Unfortunately.

I am a firm believer that style provides a certain insight into one’s personality. As children our parents select our style for us. It is often genderized, pink for girls and blue for boys. I look back at my childhood photos and take note of my matching dresses and hats. Somewhere around nine or ten, we develop our sense of style. Mine was definitely fluorescent. I loved bright colors and honestly still do, even if I don’t wear them all that frequently. My middle school years saw spurts of colored hair (hot pink or green), my favorite bright red Airwalks that I convinced my parents to drive all the way to Thorne’s Market in Northampton (an hour away) to buy, a lime green aviator jacket that went with absolutely nothing ,way too big corduroys and tie dyed tees, peasant shirts, and poorly put together outfits. My style evened out by sophomore year, but was somewhat boring. My closet mostly consisted of jeans and neutral tone sweaters. College was comprised of sweats and hoodies for the most part. I had on jeans a black turtle neck sweater and my leather jacket one fall day and my boyfriend at the time panicked thinking we must be going someplace fancy. It was that moment I realized my sweats needed to be taken out of the rotation. After college I obtained my first grown up job as a high school teacher and made it my mission to build a professional wardrobe on a limited budget. And I must admit I really do like to wear my money. Shopping for me is like channeling Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City minus the Jimmy Choos and Dolce due to a lack of funds. I pride myself on never duplicating outfits within a school year. I wear the pieces multiple times but never the same way. My students refer to me as somewhat of a fashionista. I’ll take that compliment any day.

My style drastically changed with my cancer, as did the rest of my life. But I had no intention of letting potential hair loss, pale skin and weight fluctuation take away my style. Instead I decided to embrace it and let it reflect my attitude about my recent diagnosis. My first step was to go with a short hair style, so that once my hair started falling out it would be far less drastic. I began my search for the perfect hair cut on Pintrest and found Jennifer Lawrence’s look to be daring but still feminine. So I went for it, certainly something I had never been brave enough to do before. I think it is funny now that I thought that was brave. Either way, I went to Ulta, sat in the chair, showed the stylist the picture, and said just go for it. She tried to talk me out of it at first but after I explained my situation she quickly decided it was a great idea. It took some getting used to and the people that had not yet been informed of my recent health problems just thought I was in need of a change and it looked great. I have to admit it might just have been my best hair cut ever.

I knew that my hair was slated to fall out after a few rounds of chemo so I promptly signed up for the Look Good Feel Better skin, hair, and make up workshop offered at MOMENTS HOUSE our local cancer support center. I actually received a private session because no one else showed up for the date I chose. So Steph (my BFF) and I got make up advice from a local stylist, I received a ton of amazing products donated by top Companies partnering with the American Cancer Society, tried on a few wigs (some of which were hilarious like an eighty hair band style), learned a few ways to tie head scarves, and overall had a fun evening. After that I felt pretty confident about how to apply make and when the time came if I needed to pencil in my eyebrows I would not be walking around with a permanently surprised set of brows or an angry scowl look.

True to form my hair started to shed shortly after my first cycle of ABVD (two treatments). It was worse then my Golden Retriever, between the two of us there was hair everywhere. I decided enough was enough and convinced Steph, the beauty school drop out (Just to clarify, Steph pursued cosmetology before finding her true calling and becoming an amazing High School History teacher.), to once again be my hair dresser. Only this time I didn’t need a trim, I wanted her to first shave it into a multi-colored mohawk just so I could say I once had a mohawk and then shave it entirely. She was far more nervous about it than I was. I thought of it as making the most of a difficult situation. Why not have fun with it? Steph was hesitant but was a trooper in the end. It was actually the first time she had ever done my hair that it was pain free for me at least. She of course ended up with hair and dye all over her hands, but I have to admit for thirty minutes I totally rocked my mohawk. Steph convinced me to post it to my facebook page to show people just how I was handling my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis without giving the nitty gritty details. It was actually really freeing for me and nice to see the support of so many.

Once the mohawk was shaved off came the wig and head scarfs. I was fortunate enough to have grandparents that purchased a top of the line wig for me. I went to Hair Studio, where Frank swept me to a private room in the studio and had me try on wigs that he could custom alter to best suit me. I found a great wig, darker than my natural color, with a little bit of an edge that I just fell in love with. It many ways it looked better than my actual hair ever did and I wore it a lot at first, despite that I constantly got food in it because well I must just be a messy eater and that it was a little uncomfortable around the ears. It looked so natural that strangers and even my colleagues and students (who should have known better) thought it was real. So I’ll take that as a win.

But overtime, I felt like the head scarf was more of my every day style and I had purchased tons of them to match and properly accessorize every outfit. One of my eighth grade students even bought one for me, she said that they suited me and she was pretty sure the one she selected was my favorite color. And she was right, It was a beautiful ombre turquoise scarf that I just love for both the sentiment and the style. I watched you tube videos made by the amazing Karina Moreira for beauty tips and scarf tying. So I wear my scarves all different ways, but rest assured they match my outfit and jewelry. My oncologist and team of nurses as well as friends and family comment on my matching, especially because I am far too well dressed for chemo (so they think). I personally think feeling put together makes me feel both beautiful and ready to face anything. I actually joked to my friend Tammy that I had somehow morphed into the Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl reference) of cancer patients and that my cancer was just my latest accessory!

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The Chair

If you were to play a word association game with the word chemotherapy it would most likely be paired with one of the following: toxic, nausea, hair loss, scary, confining, etc. It is similar to the association of cancer with death. The issue with these associations is that there is little to suggest anything different, thus creating a fear factor before ever actually experiencing it. I admittedly was no different. I pictured chemo like a scene from a poorly made drama. 

CUT TO: A poorly lit room, painted a putrid shade of yellow that gave everything a dingy appearance. Old school wooden folding chairs, the kind with the slightly cushioned seat and upper back section, were placed in a circle in the center of the room. The twelve occupants seated in the chairs stared blankly at the television, read silently, or talked in hushed tones as they shifted uncomfortably in their chairs. Many sipped coffee out of their paper cups with their free hand, while the other remained stationary and hooked up by IV to the pole that would slowly drip the cancer killing toxins. The nurses station was a single wooden desk off to the side pilled with a stack of paper and extra IVs. The nurses circulated the room checking on their patients periodically, both parties seemed distant and dismayed. 

Imagine my surprise when chemo looked absolutely nothing like the movie scene directed by my over active imagination. The infusion room is an entire floor of the hospital and seats thirty patients at a time. Each patient has a fancy recliner  fully equipped with massage. The deluxe model chairs were only part of the ambiance achieved in the infusion room. Each station also has a comfortable chair and ottoman for the family member, friend, or care giver that accompanies the patient. The rooms are open, but can easily be made private by simply pulling the curtains. Everyone has a window overlooking the beautiful well maintained gardens or landscaped grounds. And the natural light on the unit negates the buzz of fluorescent lights and low grade buzz of most hospitals. Each infusion patient also has free wireless access and their own personal mini flat screen television and dvd player. The infusion unit was designed to make everyone as comfortable as possible. If need be there are actual physical room isolated from the other stations for those patients that require additional privacy or other special considerations.

I personally prefer the corner room as I like to call it that overlooks the grounds (and construction on the new radiation oncology wing). Because I am a creature of habit, I actually once cut off an elderly woman walking in the direction of my chair. Clearly I have no shame! I’m usually in my chair from around 10:30 to 1:30, hooked up to my ‘stripper’ pole. Some of my chemo drugs are run through the IV drip the others are administered by hand by my Julie. I also have the pleasure of getting to know Susan, Stacey, and Tammy throughout the course of my day stay. All of the oncology nurses are AMAZING! They are personable, knowledgeable, insightful, and genuinely great to be around. I have developed a closer friendship with Julie because she was initially assigned to me and my chair and later because she’s awesome and we just connected. Julie has to don her highly fashionable blue dressing gown, gloves, and mask while injecting my chemo drugs into the IV that directly runs into my mediport. We generally joke about life, talk about family, friends, and guys, suggest restaurants and activities, and just converse like friends do over cocktails; only in this case the cocktail can be lethal. The day is full of laughs for me, the fabulous nurses, and my ‘guest’ which is usually my mom. I have to admit I enjoy the day and look forward to seeing everyone. I’ll be happy when we are making shopping plans rather than injecting chemo drugs, but until then I can honestly say it is nothing like I imagined. 

People act like my day of chemo is like going to the electric chair. Everyone wishes me luck or calls me later on that night to see how I made out. And I suppose unless you see it for yourself you may imagine a scene similar to the one I did only worse. After Steph came with me for treatment she understood what I meant when I said I thought of it as a good day. We played cards, joked with Julie and Susan, and overall enjoyed the few hours overlooking the freshly manicured grass. She tried to tell my coworkers that it was almost fun and they just stared at her wide eyed, much like they did me. I brought my second mom, Nancy, with me once as well for similar reasons – so she could see it and stop thinking I was being tortured. After our day of jokes, sharing pictures, eating popcorn and fruit salad, she too realized that she let her preconceived notions of cancer get the best of her. She was even offered a complimentary Reiki treatment that day. So, unless you go through it or accompany someone who is, people will look at you sympathetically on those days and wish you luck because to them the Chair is something out of a horror movie. 

Prep Work

When someone falls ill people seem to channel some sage old woman who encouraged those ailing to rest as much as possible. I cannot even begin to tell you how many people told me to “take it easy” or “get lots of rest” or something to that effect. However, if you’ve ever actually been diagnosed with cancer you know that there is no rest period, because you are constantly running from appointment to appointment – at least in the beginning. My calendar looked like a black out bingo card; there were no open spaces. Now normally I would be ecstatic to have such a booked social calendar, but this was ridiculous. I spent the first month after my diagnosis in my car driving to appointments, in waiting rooms of doctors’ offices, or having some uncomfortable procedure done. And if I wasn’t with my ‘doctor friends’, I was with my family and friends who accurately assumed that social engagements were a necessity after my week of running around.

The running around is all just part of the prep work associated with having cancer. Based on all the appointments and procedures, I would have sworn I was preparing for an apocalypse. After my meet and greet with Doctor J in Boston and Doctor Z in my ‘neck of the woods’, an individualized plan was outlined just for me. I had to have a consult with a Radiology oncologist just in case I needed radiation in the future. Luckily, he looked a lot like Emilio Estevez in his younger years; so despite the fact that I loathed the thought of radiation, going to see him wasn’t all bad. I met with a care navigator, a therapist, and a nutritionist who could all be put on speed dial if need be. I had to have a consult with my trusty thoracic surgeon so he could explain my fancy new titanium mediport that he would be equipping me with the week before ABVD started. I needed an echocardiogram and EKG to make sure my heart would survive the apocalyptic chemo drugs. Also on the list was my most dreaded appointment, the bone marrow aspiration.

Now I have to admit the thought of someone drilling even a tiny hole into my hip bone sounded pretty awful, unbearable even. And when my phone autocorrected Dr. Z to to Dr. Zombie, I was sure it was going to be even worse than I expected. (Dr. Z did not quite find my autocorrect as amusing as I did.) So I arrived at my appointment only to meet one of my new favorite people, Julie. This was our first real meeting and I have to say it was a little awkward since she had to give me a shot right in the ass. Apparently it’s meant to dull the pain. At that point I was thinking this is really going to suck if they are giving me a shot and Ativan to calm the nerves I didn’t know I had. By the time I got to Dr. Z I just wanted to get it over with, considering I was envisioning child labor as portrayed by my middle school health video, that might as well have been a black screen with screams of agony. But I laid down on the bed and braced myself. And then I waited…I could feel the pressure of the drill but it wasn’t getting through the bone. I could hear the frustration in Dr. Z’s voice, he even stated that it was quite the work out. He was sweating, like he had just hit the gym for real. I joked that at least we knew I wasn’t suffering from osteoporosis…and he just sighed at me. It took a little bit more oomph than either of us anticipated but it finally went through and honestly not nearly as bad as i had made it out to be in my mind. I think in some ways it was worse for Dr. Z on that one.

After that experience, everyone knew I was going to be ‘difficult’. And they were pretty spot on with that deduction. For example, my mediport was put in an unusual location, higher on the neck than most, causing crazy swelling and pain which led to a another appointment for a dye study to make sure it worked properly before starting chemo. My blood draws never go smoothly. I usually have to do some form of yoga before it will actually work. Julie usually gets the short straw and is stuck with me and once I think I even saw Susan try the nose game because I’m such a difficult draw. So once all the prep work is complete, you can begin your regularly scheduled programming and things settle down. Up until that point though, that sage old advice of rest is not an option.

Front of the Class: Q and A

Being a high school teacher is a lot like being in high school in general. When you make the slightest change in appearance or attitude, the faculty speculates and the students comment. These little known facts are why I avoided telling either until I had all the details. So I adorned pretty much every outfit with a scarf to hide the very visible three inch lymph node biopsy scar that was just to the right of the center of my throat. I didn’t think telling my students I was in a gang fight was quite appropriate, so I covered it up for the time being. Once I finally had some definitives like when chemo was going to begin, the duration of my treatment, and potential issues; I felt as though I could finally tell my students why all the scarves and my suddenly trendy chic new short hair cut.

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I spoke with my administrative team about how to best approach this difficult subject with my students ranging from eighth to twelfth grade. I was most concerned with my seniors because they lost a dear friend to a form of brain cancer (Gliomatosis Cerebri) the previous winter. She had fought long and hard for the majority of their high school career and the word cancer alone dredged up awful memories and raw emotions for her closest friends, all of which presently sat in my Advanced Placement European History class. I knew I needed to tell them first, so the news would not leak out to them before they heard it from me. Administration agreed that this particular group needed to be the first ones told and they thought it would be better if the conversation also included the guidance counselor – Jaime, who happens to be one of my dear friends. I spoke with her as well as the adjustment counselor as to how to proceed, but in the end I chose to to tell them the way I would tell them anything- straight forward and direct. I am not one for sugar coating anything and this bombshell would be no different. Once I told them my other classes would be easy, after all my other classes hadn’t developed a relationship with me over the past four years.

I sat down at the back table, where we always sit, and waited for everyone to arrive. They exchanged confused looks because normally Jaime was not part of class. I explained that I needed to tell them something rather important and she was here to support both me and them. They were aware of my absences as of late and were smart enough to connect the dots of how the remainder of this conversation was going to go. I explained to them that I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma a few weeks ago and would need to undergo chemotherapy treatments that may have an impact on my physical, emotional, and mental state. I joked that I didn’t want them to think I had a Britney Spears moment and just shaved my head for no reason or that I decided to try some new fad diet, etc. I wanted to be as honest and as positive with them as possible. I was very optimistic about my situation and was determined not to let my cancer dictate my life. I explained that I fully intended to continue working and that I would still be their teacher. Nothing would change other than that I would have to miss class on Wednesday every other week and potentially some other days. They looked at each other with wide eyes, the ones I expected to cry -cried, one of the boys acted distracted and the other was not impressed by my humor; but all in all it went very well. They didn’t ask any specific questions, so I assumed they were all set and began class as usual. Apparently they waited until next period to flood guidance and talk about it with Jaime.

After I told my seniors, I felt much more comfortable giving a similar spiel to my eighth and ninth graders. I opened the floor for questions. I wanted all of my students to know that they could ask anything they wanted pertaining to my cancer and how this may impact them. I saw this as an opportunity to be completely transparent and to show them that how you react to the bad things that happen in your life makes all the difference. It was one of those rare teachable moments, the kind you always hear about on television but rarely have in the actual classroom – at least on this level anyhow. I refused to let my cancer diagnosis disrupt my life or my otherwise cheerful demeanor. Some asked how I could possibly be so optimistic. Others asked specifics about Hodgkins and the treatment. They asked some really good questions, all of which I tried my best to answer for them.

I have to admit the two days that it took to tell all of my classes were the hardest days of my teaching career. It was like being in the hot seat at the front of the room. I was unsure of their reactions and they were equally as unsure of what I intended to tell them. I also found it difficult because I have spent the duration of my ten year career keeping the details of my life private and for the first time that was not possible. It was as if my teacher self collided into my ‘real’ self in front of an audience. And once it was over, it was a huge relief. I could stop hiding behind my scarves for a little while at least until my hair fell out.

On a side note for those of you wondering, my news had absolutely no impact on their behavior or their expectations. They treated me no differently than prior to my cancer confession. And I am so grateful for it!

 

Chemo School

Before I started my prescribed ABVD treatment, Dr. Z informed me that I would have to attend a chemo information session with one of the oncology nurses. I immediately dubbed it chemo school, he now refers to it as such as well. No one wants to attend school alone, after all don’t most students think of school as 80% social and 20% academic (it might even be 90% : 10%), so I dragged Steph along (my unfortunate BFF). Off we went to chemo school, I came prepared with my shiny new turquoise Martha Stewart inspired ‘cancer’ binder and pink Breast Cancer Survivor pen that I bought purely out of solidarity not need.

I should inform you that my binder is now legendary. I started it the day after my diagnosis. As a teacher I am obsessed with binders and thanks to my mom I have learned OCD which made organizing and accessorizing my binder all the more necessary. I knew I had to go to the Shangri-La of office supplies – Staples. I purchased a Martha Stewart binder, section dividers, a fancy clear zipper envelope, and page protectors. This may all sound ridiculous and frivolous but let me tell you how useful it really is. My binder houses all of my paper work – pathology reports, blood work records, consent forms, information packets, medication lists, contacts, bills, receipts, etc. It has saved me from having to reproduce papers and has made it much easier to answer any and all questions about my specific case. Plus everyone comments on it.

It most definitely includes the extensive paperwork given to me at Chemo School. Steph and I sat attentively listening to the oncology nurse explain the different drugs I would be given (Adriamycin AKA the Red Devil (according to my Julie – my personal oncology nurse and now friend), Bleomycin, Vinblastine, and Decacarbazine) and their wide range of side effects. The side effects sounded like ‘a walk in the park’ if that park existed in Hell. They included but were not limited to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, mouth sores, neuropathy (numbness and tingling), fatigue, bone pain, skin issues, lung function impairment, possible heart problems, weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, so forth and so on. Based on my endless possibilities of side effects I could hardly wait for my first chemo treatment. 

Humor is necessary when battling Hodgkins Lymphoma at the ripe old age of 32