Sunday, July 3, 2011

Bump in the Road -- Part III

Part III: The Road Ahead

photo by Sarah
On the open road.

There have been about one-million and one things that have happened between the moment I hung up the phone with the doctor and the moment in which I'm writing this. When I first heard my diagnosis, there were so many unknowns. I had absolutely no clue what I was facing. As the answers started coming however, the road ahead became quite clear and straightforward.

I have classical Hodgkin's Lymphoma.
When I first heard the word lymphoma I didn't even know what that meant. There are two different types of lymphoma: Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkins. It is much better to have Hodgkin's. (Good thing for me!) The name is a reference to Thomas Hodgkin, a doctor from the early 1800s who first diagnosed the cancer. Doctors still do not know why people get Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

I'm Stage II.
Stage II means there are cancerous lymphnodes in multiple locations but only on one side of the diaphragm. (On both sides of the neck, for example.) I have it in three places: the left side of my neck, the right side of my neck, and behind my sternum.

I'm Stage II-A.
The "A" refers to a lack of typical symptoms. Unlike "B" patients, I did not lose weight, have night sweats, feel fatigued, or have a fever. Since I have felt fine this whole time, it's been very hard to convince myself that I do actually have cancer. A lack of symptoms has lead to a lack of acceptance. I'm still in denial.

The typical protocol for a classical Stage II A Hodgkin's Lymphoma case with no real complicating factors is as follows:
  • 2 rounds of the ABVD type of chemotherapy (a whole body treatment)
  • more CT and PET-CT scans (to see how much cancer is left)
  • 3-5 weeks of radiation therapy (a local treatment to my 3 affected sites)
June 30th was my first chemo treatment. If all continues to go as planned, I'll only receive 3 more treatments on July 13, July 27, and August 10th. Since ABVD is a relatively gentle form of chemo, I don't have to stay overnight at the hospital. There is a bit more to it, but I'll explain that in upcoming posts.

After the chemo I'll have new CT and PET-CT scans. This is tentatively set for August 24th. If the scan results come back and don't show any cancer, I will immediately begin radiotherapy. However, if they find that there are still some affected sites then I will have another 2 rounds of chemotherapy. If that's the case, I hope to be finished with chemo by the end of October.

The radiation therapy will take me into the month of September (or early December if I have to do more chemo). Thanks to new developments in technology, doctors are able to target the radiation beams to the precise area that is cancerous. Small doses of radiation are given each day with breaks on the weekends. The symptoms are not as severe as with chemo, but trying to teach and get treatment will be a bit of a challenge. I suppose we shall cross that bridge when we get to it.

photo by Sarah
Riding a moped was actually really scary at first. It took me awhile to gain some confidence, but eventually I was too busy having a wonderful time to worry about crashing. By the time we returned to the rental shop that afternoon, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment; I also declared it my favorite day of the trip. I'm so glad Sarah and Skylar pushed me to give it a try!

Although this cancer business was never on my agenda, it seems to be what's in front of me. I trust that God knows what He is doing. He must know that I need this to grow and to learn and to become who He has created me to be. I'll admit that I'm not particularly looking forward to some aspects of the road ahead, but I'm praying that with a little time, I'll be able to look back and see all this for what it is: just another bump in the road.

♥, Molly

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