14 years ago yesterday, July 5, 1997, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease. I had never heard of it but was told it was ?the good cancer??because it was treatable. I was so clueless I had to confirm that it was cancer and not a disease. I knew nothing about it.
I was 47 years old, working in the corporate world in Silicon Valley. What moments I wasn?t working, and taking care of my family, I was at the gym. I would go in at 4a.m. to get access to the StairMaster before the crowds started coming in. That way I could use it for 90 minutes uninterrupted. In the evening I would walk 5 miles. Life was good. I had been healthy my whole life. And then?I noticed that my right leg started swelling. I first thought I was working it harder?and needed to make my left leg do equal work. No change?it kept getting bigger. Although I was convinced I needed to adjust my routine I checked with my doctor. I had just had a physical 2 months earlier and had a clean slate. She guessed that I was overdoing?and suggested I slow now and cut the time for a while. I did. Nothing changed.
I finally went into the doctor so that we could figure out what was going on. My exam showed nothing?so she scheduled a CT scan. Scary. I had never done anything like that before. Sure enough?the results came back as having an enlarged lymph node deep in the groin area and the blood flow was normal going into my leg and slow coming out. Time for biopsy. Even that took time. The test showed clearly it was Hodgkins Disease?but I met no criteria?which was men and boys over 50 and under 15, and in the neck area.
We discussed treatment. An aggressive one for 13 weeks. Once a week for the first 3 weeks then twice a week on the 4th week. I was on a rough regimen called Stanford V?including Adriamycin and mustard something?all complicated. I was on my lunch hour from a corporate position I signed on to be available to the CEO?s office 24/7. I was only on the job 3 weeks. I could not tell my boss since I would lose my job. If I lost my job I would lose my insurance. I was being treated at Stanford. I did not want to jeopardize that so I told no one. I immediately bought a human hair wig to match my hair and threw myself into the job getting close to no one. Chemo was scheduled the end of the day Fridays?and I was dog sick all weekend. I had to be back at work Monday at 7a.m. No one could know. The risk was too high. I kept it even from my closest co-worker since I felt she would feel obligated to tell my boss out of concern. I had to get tough, act tough , and appear well. The secret was mine and with my immediate family. I followed my chemo with 26 radiations. I was able to schedule them in the evening after work. I pushed and I pushed and I won. NED. No evidence cancer. Hodgkins Disease was gone. I could go on leaving the nightmare behind me. And I did.
My daughter was pregnant with my grandson during this time. She came to every chemo and I tried to keep her comfortable. Darren was born on the first day of my radiation. I was at the hospital and knew I needed to leave to go have radiation. I made her promise she would wait until I got back. And she did. It was surreal?radiation?then back to the maternity ward.
Since that time?Darren has been my measurement of being free from cancer. Watching him grow gave me confidence. We did it!!! Watch me survive!
So I am including the picture of Darren and me while I was going through radiation 14 years ago. And then?I am including a picture of Darren taken at the Tour of California in May this year. Look at my measurement now. Hodgkins has never come back!
Unfortunately, I am now being treated for my 3rd primary cancer. I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma 6 years after Hodgkins Disease. Lymphoma has not returned. 6 years after Lymphoma diagnosis I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer. I will receive my 34th round of chemo for this cancer on my 14th year anniversary of my first cancer. The most freeing thing for me is that cancer is no longer my secret and that has allowed me to heal and to help others in their journeys through cancer. I am truly a veteran cancer survivor and proud to call myself a LIVESTRONG Leader!