So that’s not actually true but when I was 28 years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It took four months and a lot of persistence on my part to get the diagnosis but when I heard those words, you have cancer, well, I couldn’t believe it but it wasn’t the end of my world.
I am not a publicly emotional person. I save my crying for times when I am by myself. To be perfectly transparent, I was still drugged from the biopsy surgery so when the surgeon told me I had Hodgkin’s Disease, my reaction was quite literally, um, ok.
The next couple days were fuzzy. There were meetings with specialists and oncologists and vomiting in the bathroom, great side effects from the anesthesia.
Two days after my biopsy, my boyfriend at the time (now my husband) and I traveled to Mexico to cure the cancer! No, that’s not what happened. We were actually going to meet up with my parents for a week long vacation.
So that was fun, getting off the airplane and trying to hold myself together during the car ride back to their rental house, so I could then tell my parents I had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
This isn’t going to be a story about how I was on death’s door and treated every day like it was my last and had some epiphanies about how to make the most of every day. That’s just not the way my head works.
I Never Entertained Death
I remember coming home after our vacation and sharing the news with my friends, or maybe I did that before we left. I can’t remember, it was 15+ years ago. Whatever, everyone said, ‘oh, that’s the cancer to have‘.
Like everyone is going to have cancer so you drew the lucky card. Cancer is cancer and it sucks but Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has very good ‘cure’ rates.
I remember only one time breaking down, as I was driving 60+ mph on the highway, and my husband asking me what was wrong. I’ve got fucking cancer, that’s what’s wrong! In all fairness to him, it was totally out of the blue, my brain was just stewing.
I never worried about dying. Honestly, I don’t think the thought ever crossed my mind. I’m kind of a pessimist but I really never thought I could die. I just went to my chemo treatments, then to my radiation appointments and that was just what I did. It was my job and I did it well!
Speaking of jobs, a few weeks after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, I was laid off from my job so yeah, that was awesome! So see, chemo and radiation were my job, I just didn’t get paid for them.
What’s It Like to Have Cancer?
Well, it’ pretty much sucks BUT, as much as I am a complainer, I did not complain during my treatment. I actually remember asking my oncologist if they were giving me enough drugs because besides losing all my hair (yeah, that was pretty), I felt good.
I kept ahead of the nausea after chemo treatments, I got enough rest (remember, I didn’t have a job so there’s that), I went for walks. I wasn’t complaining.
Get Married in a Wig
Three months before my diagnosis, we got engaged so we had just begun all the wedding planning. I got cancer and then got laid off from my job so the next obvious thing to do is get married. I even wore my wig for the wedding! My parents and friend came with us to the courthouse and then we all went out for sushi!
Great Time to Get a Puppy
I’d been wanting a bulldog for years and I mean YEARS. The husband and I were ready to add a furry friend to our house and this seemed like a good time. I was about halfway through my chemo treatments and tolerating the drugs quite well so we went for it.
I had all this time on my hands, so bring on the potty training! This dog made me laugh and laugh and he was such a love bug.
What Did Cancer Make Me Do?
Like I said earlier, I’m not a sentimental person. I cry in private and really the only things that make me cry are frustration and seeing animals in pain.
When you’re diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and the doctor can’t tell you why you’ve be one of the ‘chosen ones’, if you’re me, you look at your surroundings, your environment, your lifestyle.
I don’t think I led an unhealthy lifestyle before cancer. I went to the gym regularly, ate fairly healthy foods, got decent sleep, drank water, you know, the whole shebang.
What about the chemicals I was coming into contact with on a daily basis? Maybe those were the evil doers? What about the food I was eating? What about the products I was putting on my skin?
At this point, 15+ years later, I don’t really remember if I made any changes in my lifestyle to make it healthier, I’d like to say I did but that would be a guess.
What Changes Can I Make?
The changes came when I became pregnant with my first child 3 years later. I was all in at that point. I’d already had cancer so I was going to do my damnedest to keep it away from my kid. Was that even possible?
I stopped eating deli meat, hot dogs, tuna fish, you know, all the things the doctor tells you to stay away from when you’re pregnant.
I educated myself on what chemicals to look for on the cleaning and personal care product labels. Talk about information overload and making your eyes glaze over. Not to mention wanting to just wrap yourself in bubble wrap for the rest of your life.
I mean jeez, spend a little time learning about this stuff and you start to wonder if our government that’s supposed to be protecting us is really just using us all as guinea pigs in a big experiment. Insert face plant.
The Environmental Working Group became my new best friend. I made lists of the chemicals to look for in cleaning products, personal care products and of course food.
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I used the Dirty Dozen list to know which organic produce to buy because I had started making baby food for my son. I started buying organic meat when possible and eating wild caught fish, when we ate fish.
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Life After Hodgkin’s Lymphoma
I’m not sure doctor’s will declare you cured from cancer because there’s always a chance it can come back. Thankfully for me, my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has not relapsed although I do have a higher risk of developing breast cancer due to the radiation I had.
Every time I go for my annual mammogram, I hold my breath.
Lucky for me (insert eye roll!) melanoma runs in my family so I’ve had a nice size chunk of my arm cut out. Thankfully though, it didn’t spread to anywhere else.
I’ve made many changes to my lifestyle due to my cancer diagnosis but the one thing I learned is while I can’t control what goes on outside my home, I can make my home as safe as possible by making choices to reduce the amount of chemicals in our home.
Has cancer touched your life?
Make it a green day!