I thought about updating my blog many times in the past couple of weeks, but I’m glad I decided not to. I’ve had a different plan literally everyday– from this treatment in Texas to that treatment in Tennessee, from having to drop this semester of college to being able finish, and until yesterday I had an appointment scheduled to get treatment in California. Plans have been all over the place so I didn’t want share what was going on and confuse everyone until I knew for sure what exactly was going to happen with my treatment.

It has been a bumpy ride to get here but I think we ended up with the best option out there! It seems like its been months since I found out about the cancer coming back, although its only been a few weeks.

I know this sounds weird but from my experience both times, cancer hasn’t come without blessing. After denying coverage for the chemo once already, our insurance company still hasn’t given us an answer about covering the chemo for over a week now, so the Pharmacy Billing lady at Vanderbilt got the actual drug company to agree to provide the chemo for free regardless of what the insurance company says! Praise God! I don’t need an insurer, I have ‘the Ensurer’! So I get to finally start treatment tomorrow!

After a CT scan in the morning, I will start my first treatment of Brentuximab (chemo) at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville. I will have very few side effects while taking this chemo (i.e. I get to keep my hair and immune system), and I think I will only have to miss a couple more classes, so I am going to try my hardest to finish out this semester of college! I will have 4 rounds of chemo every 3 weeks and after I finish the Brentuximab, I will start the stem cell transplant this summer. In case you haven’t guessed or assumed by now, there is no way the wedding is happening in May. I have way too much going on.

The stem cell transplant will take about two and half months including some testing that has to be done prior to it. The stem cell transplant will involve freezing my stem cells after collecting them from my blood through a process similar to giving blood, but it will “filter” out the stem cells and the blood will go back into my body without them. Then I will have to have 5 treatments of  another type of chemo for 5 days in a row. This will be some seriously “hardcore” chemo that will wipe out my entire immune system and make me completely hairless in 5 days! After the 5th day of treatment, I will then get my thawed stem cells back and start growing a brand new immune system! During that time I will have to go to the hospital everyday for 20-30 days so that my blood counts can be monitored and to make sure I don’t need a blood transfusion. And after this whole process is complete, even though statically its a 50/50 chance, we expect that the cancer will NEVER come back.

It’s not that I’m excited about starting chemotherapy for the second time at 21-years-old, but I am excited to get the ball rolling so that I can put all this behind me and move forward. My hopes are to be done with everything in time to finish school next fall so that I can graduate from college in December 2012. But we shall see…

IN A NUTSHELL

  • The milder chemo (Brentuximab) that I wanted is paid for and I get to start it tomorrow! (Wednesday, March 28)
  • I will have 4 treatments of Brentuximab every 3 weeks and after that I will start the stem cell transplant (which will take around 2 and half months) during the summer
  • If everything goes accordingly, I should be able to finish out this semester of college!
  • Praise the Lord! He provides and rewards patience.

hard one to swallow

March 13, 2012

If only it were as simple as swallowing a spoonful of cancer syrup to make it all better…maybe someday it will be.

I met with Dr. Morgan last Friday, and didn’t really want to post the plan he suggested on my blog just yet because I knew it wasn’t set in stone. Even though my mom and I came to Houston for a second opinion, I think I kinda had hopes that Dr.Younes, Hodgkins lymphoma specialist of MD Anderson Cancer Center, would have the same opinion and just agree with Dr.Morgan’s treatment plan.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t exactly the case. Although Dr. Younes did agree with Dr. Morgan on the stem-cell transplant part, their opinions differed on the initial chemotherapy. Unlike Dr.Morgan, the type of chemotherapy suggested by Dr. Younes would not allow me to finish this semester of college out like I had hoped and might even require me to move to Houston for a few months. Though it would be inconvenient, convenience isn’t the priority right now. When is cancer ever convenient anyway? I’m going to do whatever it takes to get rid of this and move on with my life.

I’m not sure what treatment option I am going to decide on because it also depends on what my insurance company will cover and what further research reveals about the different drugs. The hardest part about all this is that ultimately, the decision to choose the best treatment is left up to me. It’s a blessing to have options, but I wish that I didn’t have to be the one to make the choice. I feel too young and incapable to make a decision that is so crucial to the rest of my life.

It was also a bit unsettling to find out that the cure rate of stem-cell transplant for Hodgkins is 50%. Being an optimistic person, I thought it was going to be a lot higher. I know that God is able.  That no decision that I make, no treatment that the doctors do or don’t give me, and no statistic can change His will for my life or hinder His power and ability to heal me.

 28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  “Yes, Lord,” they replied.

-Matthew 9:28

IN A NUTSHELL

  • We’ve discussed possible treatment options with my oncologist in Nashville and another oncologist in Houston
  • Your prayers as we are weighing our options and considering both opinions over the next few days to decide which treatment path to pursue are greatly appreciated

I mentioned this in my blog back in December, but now it is actually happening: “The only thing scarier than finding out you have cancer is finding out you have cancer again.”

My oldest sister Amorey came all the way from Virginia to “surprise” me this week in Boone. On Tuesday morning after a finance exam, I drove home and there was Amorey, standing in the driveway. Though happy to see her, I knew there was more to her visit. But since I wasn’t expecting the results from the biopsy until the end of the week and was in a sleep-deprived state from all my finance cramming the night before, I didn’t really suspect that she was here to give me the “bad news”. She had driven 6 hours and made arrangements to leave her family for a few days just to simply be here for me; that’s a pretty great sister. I really enjoyed spending some quality time with her this week in Boone.

Next Friday and through-out my spring break, I will be meeting with Dr. Morgan, my oncologist, to come up with my treatment plan. I don’t know all of the specifics, but I know that my biopsy tested positive for Hodgkins Lymphoma and apparently there was another small inflamed nodule near my collar-bone on my last scan. I also know that treatment will involve chemo and a stem cell transplant, but the good news is, I will most likely be able to finish this semester of college.

I have a long road ahead of me. We’re talking months and months of treatment. I have a lot of really important decisions to make, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do about my wedding yet. The whole treatment process is going to be harder this time for many reasons, but I know I can make it through.

Cancer isn’t supposed to happen to healthy 21-year-olds. I really can’t believe it. I really don’t want to do all of this. I’m supposed to be finishing my senior year and getting married in a couple of months….

But I read on Pastor Steven’s Blog the other day: God’s plan may not be perfect to you, but it’s perfect for you. There is nothing I can do to change who I am. God chose me to be in this place, so I’m just gonna go with it. I’ll try to live my life the best I can, because it’s the one God gave me. I’m trying to just keep in mind that God is using me, and I’m trying to just focus on the blessings: I’m blessed with an army of people praying for me and supporting me. I’m blessed with great doctors and medical care. I’m blessed with options to be cured.

IN A NUTSHELL 

  • My Hodkins is back, or it never really went away…
  • I’m meeting with Dr. Morgan next Friday, March 9, to discuss my treatment plan
  • Please pray for my family and fiance during this time, for discernment in all the decisions I am facing, for strength and courage for the physical and emotional hardships to come, and for a positive perspective throughout my situation always keeping God’s purpose and glory in mind