2009 was not my year to say the least. First I got laid off from my job in banking. I am single and do not have children so my career was a large part of my life and my identity. In order to deal with the situation, I decided I was going to turn it into a positive experience and use the time to do all the things I never had time for before. I joined a running group and ran my first race, volunteered at an arts and crafts program for homeless children, attended yoga class regularly, traveled a little and took my dog for walks in the park daily. I had finally stopped to smell the roses.
A few months later I found a lump in my neck. Although I thought it was probably nothing, I had a nagging feeling that I should go to the doctor. I did go and that was the day my life changed forever - I was diagnosed with advanced stage Hodgkin lymphoma that had been found in eight lymph nodes throughout my body. My treatment was six months of chemotherapy and my prognosis was 50/50. I was numb and in a fog yet my mind was racing with questions like "Do they make chemo that doesn't make your hair fall out?" and "How much time do I have left?"
I have a wonderful supportive family and friends but I felt as if no one really understood what I was going through. A social worker at Masschusetts General Hospital recommended The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Patti Robinson Kaufmann First Connection Program. Through conversations with my First Connection volunteer we learned that not only did we have the same name, but our moms have the same name also. We are only a few years apart in age and she was diagnosed at the same age as I was. She is at the same career level, lives alone, is a dog owner, loves flowers and gardening, has long dark hair, and even went to high school with my cousin. We had so much in common that I felt as if I had known her for a lifetime. This person who is so much like me had gone through the same experience and made it through. She became my inspiration.
I am pleased to say this story does have a happy ending. In January I found out that I am in remission, in May I started a new job and in June I traveled to Ohio and got to meet my peer connection!
When I think back on the last few months and 2009, I would hope that anyone going through an experience like mine remembers to live every minute with every ounce of his or her being. They may feel that they can't get through this, but they will surprise themselves when they find out that they do have the strength inside to fight the toughest battle of their life. And when they win, life will be sweeter and more precious than they ever thought it could be. Your support makes a difference.
For more information about LLS's vital work, visit www.LLS.org.