Thursday, January 7, 2016

My One Year Anniversary

I have been putting off writing this post for some time now. I could give you a whole range of excuses, but I’ll spare you the details and get on with what I hope is useful content instead.

First, the most important old news: I had a follow up CT scan in November and it came back looking good! So I am still in remission (yay!), and – even better – the guidelines for follow up on patients who had non-Hodgkin primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma have changed, so I don’t have to have continuing scans every six months (double yay!)! It turns out that after a bunch of research, experts have decided that they don’t find any more cases of recurrence by doing scans than they do by monitoring for symptoms, so I don’t have to experience the CT scan trauma every six months like I was expecting. Which is especially good because (unfortunately) my experience was a little traumatic. The first time I had a CT, it was a contrast CT, but they didn’t have me drink digestive contrast, they only injected it into my bloodstream. This time, however, they wanted me to do both. Drinking the digestive contrast (it’s a flavored barium liquid that looks like skim milk but splats like something thicker if you spill) is not a terrible experience in and of itself. Mine was berry flavored (if they ask you for your preference, go for cold, not room temperature). It didn’t taste like chalk like I’d been expecting, but it’s a lot of liquid (2 full bottles, maybe 32 ounces total) in about 2 hours. I can drink that much water in that amount of time, but barium is a different story. Couple that with no other food or drink for 8 hours before the scan, then add that the room where we did the scan was chilly, then add to that lying down while the tech attempted to insert an IV so they can inject the other contrast, and well, the combination of fasting (which makes my veins harder to find) plus cold (ditto) plus lying down (which is a super vulnerable position, in my opinion) plus having been poked numerous times before and thus having very tender, worn out veins (which makes the veins hard in addition to being hard to find), made the IV part of the process not so much fun. Thankfully, the medical professionals taking care of me were compassionate and understanding. And once it was over and I had taken some time to recover physically and emotionally (read: the next day – or maybe two days later) it was all fine. So fine, in fact, that I didn’t even bother looking at the scan results. (Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I was so DONE with the whole experience by the time it was over that I didn’t care to look at my scan results…) At any rate, the next week I went to see my oncologist in follow up and she gave me the aforementioned two pieces of good news. And then I was very happy to fly home to Phoenix to celebrate Thanksgiving – because I really do have a lot to be thankful for!

And then we ate pie. Because pie is delicious.

December was an anniversary month for me. I tried to avoid thinking about it on the theory that it would be easier than reliving some of the emotions I had dealt with a year ago last month, but wasn’t very successful. In the end, it was a good experience to reflect on the past year and remember all that I have been blessed with. It has now been more than a year since I had pneumonia, received my initial possible-lymphoma diagnosis, and had the biopsy + port insertion surgery. I still have ahead of me the year mark for starting chemo and for finishing chemo. The latter will be the most awesome.

During church last week, I was reflecting on the experience I had the Sunday after my surgery (which was the Sunday after Christmas 2014). I was too unwell to go to church that day, for obvious reasons, so the young men of the priesthood came to my parents’ home after church was over to administer the sacrament to me. As I remembered the feelings I had that day as I participated in that sacred ordinance that was performed just for me, I felt overwhelming gratitude for all I have experienced since and what it has taught me.

The scriptures that come to mind most readily when I consider all I’ve learned are these: “And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” (Alma 42:15) And also: “I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.” (Mosiah 15:1) When Jesus Christ came to earth to live as we live, suffer as we suffer, feel all that we feel, and atone for all the sins, injustices, wrongs, pains, sorrows, and sadness of this world, He came as God – not man. This work was so important that God did not delegate it away. He did it Himself. Somehow, my experience with extreme difficulty made that fact real to me, and helped me to feel that God would see me through it. And He did.

The past year was eventful. And full.

In January, I received my official lymphoma diagnosis, started chemotherapy, and received and accepted a job offer (in another state – with remote work options, fortunately).

In February, I started working, traveled to Utah twice for work, and continued chemo in Arizona.

In March, I traveled to Denver for the Epic Pi Day (3.14.15 9:26 am) with my dear friends and met up with another dear friend from Boston while I was there; I also flew from there to Utah for work, had another round of chemo, and then spent the rest of the month recovering.

In April, I traveled to Cleveland for work, had a visit from another old Boston friend, and finished the last two rounds of chemo.

In May, I had a follow up scan that came back clean, so I moved to Utah and found a place to rent in Salt Lake (thus making my commute to the office a little easier).

In June, I started radiation.

In July, I finished radiation and made an offer on a home.

In August, I closed on my home and moved in (which also required the purchase of stuff like furniture), and was called as the Relief Society Secretary in my ward.

In September, I traveled to Boston to see old friends and started physical therapy.

In October, I finished physical therapy and we had our commercial product launch at work. (Notably, when I was hired, this was originally scheduled for April, so I felt very blessed that the launch delays gave me time to recover from my little adventure, making it possible for me to manage the increased workload associated with getting commercially up and running.)

In November, I had my 6-month follow up scans that came back clean and I traveled to Phoenix for Thanksgiving with family and visits with the wonderful friends who took such good care of me during chemo; I also taught myself how to crochet.

In December, I finished an overly ambitious but inspired Christmas project (4 scarves and 2 shawls), had my one year anniversary of my unofficial diagnosis, stayed up past midnight more times than I’d like to admit (which perhaps also meant that I was finally fully recovered from chemo), drove to Provo and back at least 5 times in the last two weeks of the year, and thoroughly enjoyed spending time with family for the holidays.

When I think about all I have managed to accomplish, I wonder at my own stubbornness and tenacity, and I feel gratitude for Christ’s grace and mercy. His hand was in it all.

And I am looking forward to a hopefully less eventful but no less blessed year in 2016.

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