Friday, July 28, 2006

My Ultimate Chemo Playlist

So – since I have nothing but time on my hands at the moment I thought I would share my Ultimate Chemo playlist with you all. I like to listen to this when getting ready for chemo and during the infusion. Even before I was sick music always served as such an inspiration for my life. I can listen to certain songs and they take me right back to a feeling or time I may have forgotten.

Gotta Get Thru This – Daniel Benningfield
First of all the title of the song is so appropriate. Second of all, this song brings back memories from what I thought would be my last chemo during my first round of cancer. My little sister came up to help me through my last chemo and at one point did an IV pole dance to this song. As you can imagine it was HILARIOUS and being that many times I am one of the youngest patients in the treatment centers the older patients had quite a look on their faces. It is a memory I will cherish forever and to this day makes me laugh.

Out Of My Hands – Dave Matthews Band
First and foremost this is by my favorite artist. I know many of you make find DMB a little cheesy but I can assure you my love affair with this band began before they were cool. Once they became so popular it was too late, I was in love. This song again appropriate alone for the title is a good reminder for me that control is an illusion which I think is one of the biggest lessons that cancer can teach.

Bitter Sweet Symphony – The Verve
The beginning of this song always stirs emotions inside, sometimes a few chill bumps. Life truly is bitter sweet many times. Cancer is no different. It made me clean up, own up and take responsibilities for things I had avoided. Without I would also have not met many of the people that I now can’t imagine my life without. Cindy – my chemo nurse, from the moment we met I knew my life had been blessed. Bill and Sandy – Bill and I were in treatment together during my first round of chemo. I met them when Bill put on a nasty old wig to try and make me smile. I can’t imagine my life without any of them.

Life in Slow Motion – David Gray
This song and album titled “Life in Slow Motion” came out when I was sick the first time and I think I wore a hole in it. First of all it serves as a soundtrack for my cancer experience complete with a song called “Hospital Food”. Second of all, David Gray is a good old Irishman and who doesn’t love an Irishman? Third the cancer experience has been like that for me, slow motion.

Move Along – All American Rejects
I heard this song on the radio recently and it pumped me up. So now I listen to it as I drive to chemo.

Unwritten – Natasha Benningfield
This song helps me focus on my life after cancer. I reminds me that even though some days it feels like this will never end, that once this is over I have a whole life left to live and it has some much possibility.

100 Years – Five for Fighting
Good reminder of life and how precious it is without being too depressing.

Come Monday – Jimmy Buffet
I find this one particularly ironic as most of my chemo’s start on a Monday. I love Buffet, not only does this song remind me that everyday is a new day but it also lets me dream of Corona’s and Margaritas on the back of a boat somewhere in the middle of the ocean which sounds like a plan to me.

Lady – Lenny Kravitz
Needless to say it is hard to feel sexy when you are bald but no matter where I am or how bald I am this song always makes me feel sexy. I bald girl can dream. J

Today – Smashing Pumpkins
Even though today may not be “the greatest day I’ve ever known” it is another day I have to share with my friends and family the world and for that I am grateful. Plus this song reminds me of so many good times and nights in my life.

Sweetest Thing – U2
Last but not least this song reminds me of how sweet love is and all the possibilities it brings into your life. Everytime I hear this song I am happy!

Email: 07/28/06

I just wanted to send you all an email before I started the final process of my transplant since I will be out of commission for a bit. My transplant was moved up so I have already started my last round of chemo via pills at home. Monday – Wednesday of next week I will take my high dose chemo, which if I have any say in it will be the LAST chemo this body every sees. Then Friday, August 4th is T-Day (Transplant Day)! Once I get through the transplant it is just a matter of waiting for my body to engraft and my immune system to start growing back. Sometime between 4 and 10 days after the transplant I will be in the hospital for about a week or two. I don’t want anyone to worry about me – it is completely normal and 95% of transplant patients end up in the hospital for various reasons.

So – I will be in touch and hopefully talk to you soon. I hope you are all doing well.

All my best –



Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Stem Cell Transplant Scheduled

After much to do - my stem cell transplant is offically on the schedule for AUGUST 4th. Last week alone they moved the transplant foward and backwards 4 times. Not because I was sick or could'nt handle it but because of insurance. I told everyone at the transplant center that I wasn't having it! NO WAY not because of insurance. Started making some calls and yelling a bit and totally pulling the CANCER CARD, which as other patients know can come in handy at times. So at 4:30 on Friday I got the call from Aetna and they sent in the approval.
All I could think is that I was going to sit here for a week and do NOTHING. In a moment of tears at the Dr.'s office I was talking to the Mid-level about my fear of not being in treatment and the tumors growing back. She said and I quote "even if the tumors are growing back when we do the transplant the chemo is so harsh they will shrink again". That DID NOT make me feel better. All in all no complaints b/c it is moved and I am happy. I start Busulfan at home tomorrow so pretty much a pill every 2 hours all day thursday thru sunday. Then into high dose chemo (as opposed the AVBD and ICE I already recieved).
By the way in case you didn't know....Cancer Sucks

Monday, July 17, 2006

Email: 07/17/06 & Team in Training

I just wanted to check in with you guys and give you a quick update. I have been trying to collect my stem cells for the transplant for the last 5 days; it is going a little slower than expected. Tomorrow is my last day of collection and I now head into transplant preparation. Because the stem cell harvesting was a little slower than expected my transplant date was pushed back a bit. I will be having the transplant around August 11th, if all goes well. In the meantime just more doctors appointments.
I also wanted to mention a hero of mine, Lisa Nikolich. Lisa is preparing to run a MARATHON with an organization called Team in Training. For the record previous to this training Lisa was not a runner! She along with other people just like you and me begin training with this organization everyday to help raise money for cancer research. I am honored to team up with Lisa in her effort to help raise money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Please see the attached fundraising letter from Lisa or if you would like to donate now please click on the link below, any help you can give is appreciated! My hope is that next year you will be making a donation to help my training efforts – by that time I am sure Lisa will be my trainer!


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hair today - Gone tomorrow

So - I thought I would post a picture of me pre-cancer (aka with hair) funny thing is, I really couldn't find one since it has been over a year. I did find this one of me and my best friend Amanda. It is weird I don't even recognize myself anymore! The other picture is post treatment #1 and is of me and my friend Jenni's kids, Cole and Hannah. Oh to have hair again! Although for me not having hair is not the worst part. It actually makes everything easier b/c when I feel sick I don't have to wash, wax or shave :)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Email: 07/04/06

Thought I would take a second to wish you all a HAPPY 4TH OF JULY and let you know that I am doing well. Final round of ICE chemo was last week and now I head into the stem cell harvesting part of the plan. At this point the high-dose chemo and transplant is scheduled for July 25-28. All I can say is “ARE WE THERE YET?”.
I miss everyone so much and as you can imagine it is killing me to not be as social as I once was. Hunter (my dog) is getting sick of me and has started to give me looks that quite clearly say “stop talking to me, I am a dog”. I am also quite sure that my sister is faking business trips just to get away from me. JUST KIDDING! Luckily I don’t miss everyone at work too much since I am so fondly reminded of you while watching the past seasons of THE OFFICE that you provided for my viewing pleasure on my Ipod. I don’t think I have laughed so much in years….what a funny show.

On a quick side note many of you have asked about platelet donation. We did meet with the donation center last week and all of you willing locals will be called in to help out when possible. You will be receiving an email with donation details from a Laura Lee Jonas, platelet donation coordinator extraordinaire, in the next week or two.

Enough rambling – hope you are all well.
Have a safe and happy 4th!

- Becca


Monday, July 03, 2006

Art as therapy

This picture has always been a favorite of mine. For awhlie it hung next to my bed and while I was sick I would stare at it for hours. I am not sure if it is the color orange that was used or the serenity of the woman. I find peace whenever I look at it.

Not really sure why I felt like sharing this. I suppose I feel like sharing bits of me alot lately. I have a need to say things out loud I have never said before. Maybe it is just a need to clear out some space in my head for other things.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My Puppy and Me!

This is my puppy Hunter.
Ok - I know he is a poodle but come on, he is so freaking cute. I did give him a butchy name to help toughen him up - so the other dogs wouldn't pick on him. I love him so much sometimes it is hard for me to imagine how much people with kids love thier kids b/c I don't think I could love anyone more.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

My journey with Hodgkins Lymphoma

My journey with cancer began when I was 19 and my little sister was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 14. Time stopped for my family as she began her year long battle with cancer. I remember vividly telling people that is was so strange how cancer hits. One day everything is “normal” and the next day everything you think about revolves around cancer. You don’t get any warnings you can’t prepare and yet nothing in your life or your families’ life will ever be the same.

It was much the same for me when I found out about my cancer. It began with my yearly company paid physical. My boss and I scheduled our physicals at the same time so that we would actually go. I had never felt better, I was working out and preparing for a 3 week vacation in Europe, I was healthy. A few days after the physical I got a call saying that there was something strange showing on my chest x-ray and that I should go have a CT. The doctor said “you are young, I am sure it is nothing but you should have it checked”. So I didn’t worry, scheduled the CT and didn’t give it much thought. About an hour after the CT I got a call saying that there was something there that I should have it checked. What followed were a few doctor’s appointments with different specialist trying to figure out what “it” was they were seeing in my chest. No one really thought it was cancer and everyone dismissed the fact that my sister had had Hodgkin’s. Every doctor we met with was sure that it wouldn’t be Hodgkin’s because doesn’t run in families. Everything culminated in surgery to biopsy the mass. On June 28th, 2005 as I woke from surgery the doctor said “I am sorry, looks like cancer – Hodgkin’s lymphoma”. All I could think was are you kidding me….here we go again.

They say if you are going to get cancer Hodgkin’s lymphoma is the kind to get which is one of the weirdest statements you will ever hear. Approximately 8,000 people in the US are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma every year so it is not a common cancer. It is extremely curable and they have treated it for years with high success rates. It has about and 90% cure rate which compared to most cancers is really high. Funnily enough you start to feel lucky that your diagnosis is Hodgkin’s.

Soon after surgery they brought Dr. Reddy to my room – he would become my oncologist. A very young, good looking, kind natured man who I would come to trust with my medical journey. The first decision he needed to help me make was, CAN I GO ON MY VACATION? Looking back I am sure he thought I was a nut. Here I am 28, diagnosed with cancer and more worried about going to Ireland than discussing upcoming treatment. I did end up going on a shortened version of my 3 week vacation and toured Ireland with friends. To this day I am very happy that I had that chance to go and have a little fun and try out the Guinness cure for cancer, which by the way doesn’t work.

Upon my arrival back in the states I began 6 months of chemotherapy. After staging my disease they decided that I was stage 2A which meant I had no real symptoms (night sweats, weight loss, itching, etc) and the tumors were only in 2 locations both above my abdomen.

AVBD is the acronym for the type of chemo I received. For 4 hours every other week I would receive this lovely elixir from July to December. It is hard to describe how chemo makes you feel and what the experience is like in general. I believe that is because in reality you don’t want anyone to know how awful it is. The physical pain is bad, that is a given. You feel sick, you feel tired and your body becomes a science experiment. The environment is strange, or at least it was for me, you are sickest you have ever been you are the sickest person most people close to you know but there are people all around you who are way sicker than you are. Your life is consumed with the illness what you can eat, what your body can do, where you can go. You may want to take a break but you can’t escape the impact.

I finished my 6 months of chemo and was declared in remission by my doctor the first week of 2006. How sweet it was to start the year off with a clean bill of health. I felt so blessed that I had fought this disease and won in less than a year!

I went for my first set of check up scans in April of 2006. I knew that every 3 months for the next 2 years I would have scans to check and make sure everything was ok. Unfortunately, during my first set of scans the cancer was back. There was a 5% chance that the cancer would return and somehow I won that lottery. Since it came back so soon after remission we had some choices to make regarding treatment. It was a roller coaster of research and decisions. What you learn pretty quickly is that as a patient you have to be your own advocate and ask the right questions. So we met with more doctors and decided that I would use a combination of chemo, stem cell transplant and radiation.

So right now I am smack dab in the middle of what we are referring to as CANCER PART DEUX. I am about to have my transplant and then will move on to radiation. This time we used a chemo called ICE – sounds like a nice summer treatment but as you might imagine it was even worse than the first round of chemo. Hard to imagine but true.

The most amazing thing for my about having cancer was that at some point I was actually thankful for the experience and the lessons that cancer was teaching me. It made me look at my life from a different direction and with clarity I had never had. I had more questions and doubts than ever before but something just shifted and I was seeing things with a gratefulness I never experienced.

One of the most life changing experiences I will ever have was the outpouring of support. I have said to many people that I hope at least once in their life they are able to experience what it feels like to receive the gift of seeing how loved and cared about you actually are. I had so many cards, emails, phone calls and support in general. I am not sure most people know how loved they are, to feel it fills you with such love

All in all - I try to remember each day that it is just cancer. I look around and realize that everyone faces their own challenges each and everyday. Mine are no easier or worse just mine.