Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Cancer Chics!

If this would have never happened to me then I would not have been blessed enough to have met these 2 awesome friends of mine.

Ashleigh is just Awesome!! She is Richard's old roomates sister. 24 years old and diagnosed last year. I finally met her a few weeks ago when she visited Atlanta to see her brother. She lives in Seattle. Such a neat girl. She started her own coffee shop business when she was 21. So full of life and so positive! I wish she lived in Atl!! Please check out her website at

I met Rachel on the Hodgkin's facebook page. She wrote something about being a health nut so I felt like I should contact her. She is Awesome! She is 28 years, same college degree as I have, she is and I was a personal trainer. She was diagnosed exactly 1 month after me. We have treatment on the same days. So much in common. She has been a great sound board when you need to talk with someone who has been there. I haven't met her yet in person. I can't wait! She lives in Washington, DC. Please check out her website at:

Hair Loss Hot Flashes Oh My!!

Chemotherapy has not been that bad but the Lupron shot has been the devil. For those of you who don't know what Lupron is; it is hell on wheels. They wanted me to take this drug to try an prevent as much damage as they could in my ovaries. "Save the Babies." I am not worried about not being able to have children but this is just another preventative measure that comes with a couple of side effects... Poor Richard!

First of all, the hot flashes. OMG! I can be driving down the road and all the sudden sweat start pouring down my back. Not to mention the constant throwing off the covers one minute and freezing the next. I am in full blown menopause. I take back all those things I said about how hot flashes where a crock.. never mind. just kidding. They are for real.

Mmmmooooddd swings. I try to limit to one per week. That way Richard wont think I am psycho and leave me... just kidding y'all... He loves me and gosh I am SO lucky to have him..

Hair Loss.....hmm this just plain sucks!

I have always had a lions mane; now I look like I have a birds nest on my head. I chopped it off so it would be a bit less traumatic. I am desperately staking my claim in every bit that's left. I will not shave it. I can't let go of it. So I was supposed to be bald by my second treatment. Lets just hope it makes it through 5 more. Although I have met some stunning people with bald heads. Eyelashes, eyebrows are still intact . The hair is falling out exactly like my plan; legs and underarms. This is a great alternative to waxing.

In my opinion these are the worst things that happen.....

Excuse me one minute while I beat the shit out of cancer....

So what do I do now? I have the best doctors around. I am ready to fight this little battle and marry the man of my dreams. It doesn't sound too hard does it?
The Plan:
6 Cycles of ABVD- 12 treatments 15 days apart. NO RADIATION!!))

ABVD is now one of the most common chemotherapy regimens for treating Hodgkin's Disease.Regimen Drugs:The following are the drugs used in the regimen. Select a drug to see pertinent information:
Adriamycin (generic name Doxorubicin) • Bleomycin (common brand name: blenoxane)• Vinblastine (common brand names: velban, velsar, velbe) • Dacarbazine (common brand name: DTIC, DTIC-Dome)


• These drugs can cause nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. There are medications your doctor can prescribe such as Zofran or Kytril that may lessen chemotherapy induced nausea.• Fatigue is common during chemotherapy treatment. Proper rest and pacing oneself may be helpful. • Treatments can be delayed if the patient has a low white blood cell count (neutropenia). Blood counts can be raised by drugs such as Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor (G-CSF, brand name Neupogen ®) - a drug used to stimulate the production of granulocytes in the bone marrow. • The drugs will make your hair tend to fall out (alopecia) - you might consider headcoverings.

Sounds a little scary, but this is the least invasive chemotherapy out there. I don't mean its easy but compared to others I will take it. I just finished round #7 with 5 to go. It has been relatively easy for me. I take a nap during the day for a few days after treatment. Fatigue has really been the only side effect. I have not been sick at all. I consider myself extremely lucky! My fiance Richard kicks my butt up and down the trail about every day for 5 miles. I think this helps tremendously but its not the most fun thing when you feel like you have been hit by a Mack truck. Exercise and diet have made me feel good while going through this. I have turned into a organic hippie. Although I have lost quite a bit of weight (Richard too) I feel its the diet not the chemotherapy.( If you want a copy of my nutritionist notes please email me your email address.)

My Cancer Killing Homeboys

Dr. Shepherd Dunlieve, Internal Medicine, MD

S. Sheppard Dunlevie, Jr., M.D.Internal Medicine(404) 350-1122

Dr. Dunlevie, a native of Atlanta, received his medical degree from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. While in medical school, Dr. Dunlevie received several distinguished awards recognizing his academic and personal achievements. He completed his internship and residency at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. A member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, Dr. Dunlevie is board certified in internal medicine.

"This man pretty much saved my life. He found the cancer after many months of being "overlooked" because I was so young and looked healthy. He also referred me to one of the Top Oncologist in America. Dr. Perry Ballard."

Dr Perry Ballard, III, MD

Dr. Ballard graduated from Emory University School of Medicine in 1978 where he was a member of Alpha Omega Alpha. He completed his internship and residency at the New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan – Kettering Cancer Center. After residency, he did a yearlong fellowship in Infectious Disease at the Tufts – New England Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts. He then returned to New York where he did a three year fellowship in Hematology and Oncology at Cornell. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and is Board certified in both Hematology and Medical Oncology.

Dr. Ballard has been elected to represent the medical staff on the Piedmont Medical Center Board of Trustees. He has served as Secretary of the Medical Staff of Piedmont Hospital as well as the Chairman of the Cancer Committee. He has also served as a member of the Advisory Board of the American Cancer Society. On numerous occasions, he has been listed as one of the “Top Doctors” in his field in Atlanta Magazine as well as being listed in the directory of “Best Doctors in America”.

"Dr. Ballard is Awesome! From day 1 I immediately felt like I could talk to him about anything. He took time to spend with me and my family to explain everything that was going on and how he was going to fix it. I would recommend him to anyone going through this."

JOSEPH P. MIMS, MD, FACS is a graduate of The Medical College of Georgia and is Board Certified in General Surgery. Dr. Mims serves as managing partner for Piedmont Surgical Associates and has been in practice at Piedmont Hospital since 1993. Dr. Mims was named one of Atlanta's top physicians by Atlanta Magazine.

"Dr Mims biopsied my lymph node and found the cancer. He knew when I first met him that something wasn't right. He was diligent in getting me right in for my biopsy. He has been wonderful. Dr. Mims also put in my infusion port in my chest. He hid it perfectly. It just makes my boobs look a little bigger! Ha! Thanks I defiantly need that. Looking forward to seeing him again in August to get this thing out."

Hodgkin Lymphoma and my Super Lucky Cure Rate

Strangely my first thought in my head when I was diagnosed was OMG I have to do chemotherapy and my hair is going to fall out. I know this is vain and by no means ranks in the priority list of am I going to die? It's something about a girl and her hair... If you have been through it then I am sure you understand. I will get to the hair part later....

The good news is I caught this a very early Stage II . It is also the most common form of Hodgkins so the medical team knows exactly how to take care of this minor little bump in the road...

I copied this off of Wikepedia for any of you who are curious. "Cancer is not the death of us, its the beginning of a new life."

Hodgkin Lymphoma

"The disease occurrence shows two peaks: the first in young adulthood (age 15–35) and the second in those over 55 years old. The survival rate is generally 90% or higher when the disease is detected during early stages, making it one of the more curable forms of cancer.[2] Hodgkin's lymphoma is one of the handful of cancers that, even in its later stages, has a very high cure rate, in the 90's.[3]
Most patients who are able to be successfully treated (and thus enter remission) generally go on and live long and normal lives, due to a remission success rate of 90% to 95%."

Whoo hoo...God is Good.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

February, March April...

I have what??!!I am quite ahead of myself from this point. Blogging about this experience has been something that I had planned to do from the beginning. I am finally at a place where I feel that I will come out "a better person" when this roller coaster is over. I now feel that I can talk about it without completely loosing it. I am three months behind blogging schedule. So I will go back to the day when my life changed instantly.

Months leading up to my biopsy....

I am a absolute hypochondriac. Its the reason I didn't go to nursing school. For months I had swollen lymph nodes in my collarbone area and under my arm. I went to my doctor three times; none of which he seemed concerned. He never once mentioned this could be cancer. He drew some blood. Everything looked perfect. They called it an infection and it would go away... After 5 months I knew it wasn't an infection. I am not that laid back. I feel very in tune with my body. I wanted to believe nothing was wrong. I got a clean bill of health because the doctor said so. I should celebrate. If I had a glass of wine my neck and underneath my arm would hurt so much that I would have to take advil to make it go away. The swelling in my neck was so much that I could not see my collarbone. My roomie Amber recommended a "amazing doctor" It took a few weeks to get an appointment, but it was so worth it. He mentioned that it could be lymphoma. He ordered a biopsy immediately. I wish the other doctor would have figured it out six months ago. There is a reason for everything and I am thankful he didn't. After the lab work came back there were no signs of disease. I have always been an extremely healthy eater and exercise junkie. I guess that really helped me out in this situation.

February 5, 2009

Today I went for the lymph node biopsy in my collarbone area. My surgeon is amazing. I have never had surgery so I was a little nervous. I was just ready to find out this was nothing and go back to living the normal wonderful life I had going on. After the biopsy I knocked myself out with painkillers and had the best sleep I have had in a while. The last thing I was worried about was the results of the biopsy.

February 9, 2009

Today was going to be GREAT!! I was getting ready to go plan my September wedding! My fiance and I had been planning this week for months. We had appointments made with vendors. Not to mention today was day 1 of our 12 day vacation... I could not wait!!I jumped in the shower around 7. I was looking for Richard and couldn't find him anywhere... Finally, I walked out on the porch and he was in the corner on the phone crying... He never cries... In my four years with him I have never seen this... I knew immediately it was cancer....I took off running...I can't explain the feeling .Absolute terror! Cancer has always been my worst fear. I was trembling all over, screaming. Now my life will never be the same...
Today called for Emergency Chocolate!