Monday, November 3, 2014

14 Days, 26.2 Miles, and 35 years

So...this is awkward.

I've been hiding from you which is not very nice considering how kind you all are to me.  The short version of why is that:

a.  cognitive function not in the crapper anymore but mostly at capacity with daily life
b.  living with my husband and kids again
c.  the longer I wait to write the weirder it feels to start up again

I was also approached to do an awareness post in September and I had a big mental panic attack because I'm SUPER conflicted about disease related awareness and so I just went into a mental bunker to hide from the whole thing.  Then I felt guilty that I didn't do it.  Then I felt guilty I didn't do awareness posts for ALL THE CANCER!!!  Now I decided to put on my big girl pants and give my adoring public what they want...half baked ramblings and haphazard punctuation.

14 days until Day +100

Today is exactly 14 days until I'm 100 days past transplant.  Starting day +100 I'll be allowed to do all kinds of things like drive, change diapers, handle raw food, and handle dirty laundry again.  I've already signed up for my first volunteer shifts at the kids' schoolish.  I cannot wait.  My recovery has been slow but steady.  My germ fighters (ANC) were fluctuating quite a bit for a while and I was having to get weekly growth factor shots.  I finally stopped the shots 2 weeks ago and had a pretty good count so hopefully that will continue.  My platelets and hemoglobin are good which is really nice, they're usually the last to come up.  Waiting for your blood to accomplish things is weird.  You feel like there is something you should do but other than eat and be active you're pretty powerless (really cruncheroos, sorry).  When it comes to germ fighters you're totally in the dark about whether you're improving or not, I've never been symptomatic (bleeding nose or gums) when my platelets were low, but oh my goodness, I could predict pretty accurately where I was on the scale for hemoglobin just based on how I felt.  My hemoglobin is on the low end of normal right now so I'm feeling great.  

I'm starting the re-staging process this week.  CT Scans on Friday and then next week PET scan, cardio/pulmonary test and DEXA scan to see how my bones weathered this storm.  My guess is my bones are fine because they have me on enough Calcium to cure a horse with osteoporosis.  

26.2 Miles for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Yesterday, my best friend from middle school and dear friend for life, Dr. Joelle Taylor, finished the New York City Marathon in 4 hours, 19 minutes, and 49 seconds.  In the process of preparing for this incredible accomplishment she raised $4,655 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  She ran in my honor and I am deeply humbled and grateful.  Joelle, I am so proud of you and I am so grateful for your love and friendship!

35 years

On October 25th, I turned 35. 

 Remember in elementary school when you learned to round to the nearest 10?  5 or more in the ones place and you round up?  Well, Michael is 3 years older than me and so I've mercilessly teased him since he was 25 about "rounding up".  It went something like this..."You're so OLD, you're not 25 you're really 30!  You have a wife and a house and your age ends in 5 so round up!"  Super funny Nella.  That used to seem like a funny joke when we were dumb kids.  So anyway, we've been teasing each other in this manner for a long time.  

This year Michael gave me the old speech about rounding up (haha!  You're really 40!) and I realized that while it's not a guarantee, statistically there's a decent chance that rounding up is the closest I'll ever get to 40.  My chances for surviving the transplant were good, but the truth is that my chances of surviving this cancer for 5 years are not the kind of odds that make you feel awesome about the future. 

It's weird how our mind boxes things up without us really knowing.  After I found out that I had relapsed and went through the initial whirlwind, my mind became very focused on the task at hand and not on my prognosis.  As each step of treatment intensified I became more and more consumed with the tangible steps in front of me.  In the last few weeks as I've felt more and more healthy and my recovery from treatment has become less and less of a full time job, my mind has opened a door that looks like this:

Fancy bloggers with discipline would have photoshopped this to read:  "Don't Open, Cancer Inside"

One day a few weeks ago all of these really scary statistics that my mind had cordoned off behind yellow tape and razor wire were released back into my thought stream.  Now that I've survived the transplant process I'm back to thinking about cancer.  That may seem weird because how could you be at a cancer hospital and not think about cancer, but to get through something like the transplant process I really needed to focus only on that and not on the actual cancer stuff.  

I can't hide from the truth anymore, which is that the chance that I'll still be around and Lymphoma free in 5 years is 50%.  50% is actually being a little generous based on how quickly I relapsed last time and some other factors.  That's a lot of reality to deal with.  Truth is, sometimes I'm ok with that and sometimes I'm just not.  

Please do not mistake this for not having a positive attitude.  I've realized  through this that many people think that a positive attitude is some kind of magic spell that makes everything just work out.  I'm here to tell you that that is not why a positive attitude helps you when you're sick.  A positive attitude doesn't have much control over whether or not cancer grows in your body.  What a positive attitude does is makes you swallow your pills when you don't feel like it and you're tempted to think "What difference does it make?".  It makes you get out of bed and get dressed and go to the hospital when you feel like you just can't face that place again.  A positive attitude makes you keep moving when it's just so hard.  A positive attitude doesn't involve avoiding reality.

Michael and I have adopted a policy of "expect the best and plan for the worst".  We've started researching the most commonly used treatments for 3rd time relapsers and evaluating clinical trials.  I already have a list of questions for when I return to my Lymphoma Oncologist at day +100.  I may still have some treatment to go, even if my scans are clear, which they should be.  

I can't be positive that I'll make it to 40 because I know about math, but I can be positive I'll fight like crazy to get there.  

Getting old is the best thing that could ever happen to me.


  1. Ah, thank you for the update! I keep thinking about you and not wanting to bother you. So so so glad we should get to see you soon.

  2. Nella, I'm so proud of you. My heart breaks as I read this, but even if there's no tomorrow, your life up to this point has been so important. You're children are so perfect and precious, and I'm thankful that I had the pleasure of knowing them, and you. I pray for you every day, offer my Rosaries and Masses and Communions for you, that while your body may be fighting, your soul may be free. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, even when it must be so hard. You're strong and beautiful and an inspiration. <3

  3. I first started following you right after you relapsed and I'm so glad to see an update - glad to hear you weathered the transplant, and you will continue to be in our prayers!!

  4. Nella, it's so good to hear from you again. I'm glad to know that you're feeling (comparatively) better and that you're nearly to day 100. As for the rest... I don't really know what to say. Thank you for sharing with us, for helping us to understand what you're going through. Your story and your words are so touching. I'll keep praying.

  5. So happy that you wrote this. We're always praying for you and it's good to hear an update. Hope to see you around town some time :)

  6. Nella, I'm glad that you wrote this update. I continue to pray for you and your family.

  7. Thank you for the update Nella, prayers going up for you tonight!

  8. Thank you for taking time to update! It's some journey you and your family are on. I love the way you explained positive attitude. Right on! Many prayers for you and your family.
    Catholic mama from Southern California.

  9. I bawling....through this. Nella I'm praying for you so much! I love you.

  10. Thank you for letting us know how you're doing. I've been praying for you. I'll keep praying for you :)

  11. Thanks for updating! Your writing is so beautiful and honest. I am better for reading your blog. And, of course, continued prayers to you!

  12. Glad you're back on the blog - I've been praying and checking to see if you've updated. So glad that you're making good progress in your recovery. Praying for a full recovery, that you beat the odds, and that you're around to see and know grandchildren!

  13. Thank you for the update and yes! Cheers to getting older!!!


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