At my age, most of my friends are in one of two general places in their lives. Either they married and or had babies right after graduating high school and are now researching daycare, preschool and shopping for college rule loose leaf paper. Or they finished up college, some grad school and are starting to settle into life as they travel to foreign countries, get engaged to their college sweethearts and carve out a path for the future. I fall into a middle limbo of those things.
I have been with my hubs for 7 years now, but only married for what will be 3 years in September. We never were interested in pushing to start a family as we are still waiting for our lives to settle a bit more and once we are reassured we can take care of ourselves will we attempt to care for another human. We are both wandering souls of sorts. Not sure what we want to be as adults, not sure how to get there since we don’t know where there is. Enrolling in and then stopping school is a reoccurring pattern. Sucks to be our parents! Ha!
So in 2011 we had some big life shake ups. In July, Matt moved about 3.5 hours away to immerse himself back in a sober life. (Read rehab) He had fallen off the train and he fell hard, creating some major hardships in our relationship, our finances and life itself. I took this as an opportunity to step out and say hey, you are going to need to be able to be independent and self-thinking no matter what he does with himself, how about you get back in school and actually finish something you started. Insert art school here. I applied for loans;enrolled and got on my way to a design degree that I felt was going to be epic. It was hard. Full time school, full time employment, and an absent husband. Whoa! But my positive little 25 year old self could handle anything!
In November I was exhausted, I blamed it on hours of homework, work stress and relationship stress. Once the semester was over I would relax and get back to normal for a few weeks. Beside, this girl doesn’t break down, this girl is constantly optimistic and this girl doesn’t get sick. Then I discovered a lump, on my left side, behind my clavicle bone. Eh, I’m sure it’s nothing, just a weird fluke like having my overly round nose or funky moles. I’m not one to seek medical attention unless I feel like I may die. That being said, I mentioned the lump to a co-worker and her maternal instincts telling me to make a freakin’ dr. appointment got the ball rolling.
By December my dr. had referred me to a surgical oncologist for a biopsy. I saw him and at the end of the week I was in for a needle aspiration of the lump. A week later the results had come back inconclusive. That is when I knew. I knew inconclusive meant that whatever had shown up wasn’t normal. Whatever they had seen was abnormal. This all happened right before Christmas. The surgeon was out for a vacation for a few weeks and I was moving out of our 2 bedroom apt. into a studio to save cash. It turned out the husband preferred living in the mountains and wasn’t moving back to Denver anytime soon. Mid-January arrived and I was to have a full lymph node removal so they could get a better sample to test. On January 20th, a Friday afternoon, I was sitting at work and knew I was getting the call at any time. My cell phone rang, and Dr. Young, my super-hot surgeon, (Did I forget to tell you he was hot earlier? My bad!) Was on the other side of the phone. He simply asked how I was doing and then told me the results indicated that I had Lymphoma. He followed it up with, “I’m really sorry to tell you this on a Friday afternoon before your weekend.” Really? As if hearing you have cancer on a Tuesday would have somehow been better? My response was, and I am not joking, Ok cool! Thanks for letting me know! Seriously Kaylee? It was like I had just gotten a call to remind me that my new glasses were waiting for me or that the book I put on hold at the library had come in. Ok cool.
Matt too was waiting to hear from me so he answered as soon as I called him. He was in the break room at work and the conversation was weird.
Matt: So what did they say?
Me: Well, it’s Lymphoma.
Matt: What does that mean!? (He yelled it. He isn’t a yeller at all.)
I had been completely composed up until now, I mean after all I thought it was cool remember? But as soon as the word cancer came out of my mouth, I lost it. I started crying, he started crying and then he promptly told me he needed to leave work. When he hung up, he punched the refrigerator in the break room, and told his boss he had to go. He called his mom, cried some more and walked across the street to Chili’s. Yes, that fine American chain with the baby back commercials you dearly miss. He then turned off his phone and ordered fajitas. And that is how he dealt with the news, how he let it sink in. This may seem weird, but I was stoked with that response. He has only cried one other time in our 7 years together and that was when I called him out on relapsing. He was finally showing some feelings and emotions and instead of burying it with drugs, he chose fajitas and it made me happy.
The next days were filled with referrals, family phone calls, and my dad being convinced I was about to die. He took it the hardest and it was really draining on me. There was a completely overwhelming sense of love and support but also an overwhelming amount of questions, and attention and I hated it all. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I felt fine, I had never had symptoms, and I wasn’t about to start acting like some sort of victim. Please people; stop calling was all I could think!
It was determined that I had Stage 2A Hodgkins Lymphoma. Blood Cancer. It’s weird how the word Cancer comes with so many stigmas, images, ideas. People weren’t very good at trying to find creative ways to ask, are you going to die? How long do you have? What are your chances? Then there is the good ol’ Well your lucky its only Hodgkins, the cure rate is so high! If you had to get a cancer, this is the one to have! Yeah, you know I guess I am lucky, but it’s still cancer, it still sucks, and it still messes up a lot of my plans!
Some of the first thoughts and images that came to my mind were these:
- Major weight loss
- Weakness in general
- No Babies
- My mom’s best friend who past away from Breast Cancer, leaving behind 3 beautiful kiddos and her husband
- Death, but not in a fearful way. Just that I know it kills people every day and that is pretty heavy
My sick second thoughts were these:
- Heck yeah! I have wanted to shave my head since I was 12, I am soooo having a head shaving party! No vanity with me.
- Cancer Diet? Instant skinny? Sign me up!
- Weakness? Me? Never!
- Eh, I love kids and all but we are both adopted, and who would want our genetics anyway? If the times comes for kids, we can try for a miracle baby, adopt, or something I have always wanted to do while I am still young and able to relate, is foster the teenagers nobody else wants.
- Her kids are amazing and strong and mature and becoming people she would be so proud of!
- Dying isn’t scary to me, at all. Call me cold, heartless, out of touch with myself. But really it’s really never bothered me. I am comfortable with it. Life is the present and I love living it for what it is every day!
The chemo started in February. My mom came up and stayed with me for the first few weeks to help out and it was so great! But as I mentioned, I had just moved into a studio so we go in each other’s space far too often and it became pretty clear that I could handle it on my own for the most part.
I made a lot of immediate changes. I switched to an entirely vegetarian diet, cut out most dairy, started that hippie nonsense they call yoga, actually loved it, and read and read and read.This is the one book that had the most impact on me, that I could most relate to and constantly fell back on!
Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips by Kris Carr.
Oh trust me I have been reading smut too! Don’t think I didn’t read 50 Shades of Grey and other embarrassing novels. Hey, I spend 6-7 hours sitting in a room receiving chemo every 15 days and have major amounts of down time. It was books or Netflix. I have started and completed so many tv series from season 1 to current that I estimate I have put in 350 hours of just tv shows on their own. That doesn’t include movies and that fact that I just discovered Saved by the Bell is on there! All seasons!
I plan or posting stories of several different experiences, from when my hair started falling out, the different phases of chemo, the physical toll it took and how I got through everything that was thrown at me. But not today.
On June 1st, I completed my 4th cycle of AVBD chemo. I was hoping it was over. 2 weeks later I had my 3rd PET scan. It show the exact same images as my mid way April scan had shown. Meaning my chest was now clear, but there was still activity in my neck. What? How can that be? My oncologist explained that some lymph nodes will still be “hot” or active, but aren’t actually cancerous. The only way to determine that would be another node removal for biopsy. I was told this on June 25th. July 2nd, I met with another surgeon, turns out hot Dr. Young was out of town, the nerve! But have no fear, my new doctor was attractive in that older fellow kind of way, you know salt and pepper and Midwestern charm? Well on July 3rd I went in, added to my scar collection and had another hole put in my neck.
July 9th I find out my fate. Though, I don’t actually look at it as fate, rather the next step in the long fight that I will eventually overcome and one up!
I want this blog to be fun and funny. All that tossing around of the word cancer makes me gag. But I’m a realist and this is happening so I have accepted it.