Apr 132011

Taking my victory lap with the Old Bay Bombers!

Since my diagnosis I have written and told my “cancer story” countless times, but I’m excited to be able to share it with fellow roller derby players who will be able to appreciate how much it has affected my derby life. I should clarify, as the president of my league, a coach, and an ever-improving jammer, my entire life is derby. I don’t attempt to, or desire to keep roller derby separate from other aspects of my life. It is my life calling and passion. What I really meant was that I am excited to be able to share my story with people who understand that. The hardest part about Chemo is that I’m not able to play.

“I skate every practice and coach, but can’t do contact.” I have to tell people that all the time. They seem to think that it’s no big deal, but you can imagine and appreciate the difficulty of watching my team from the sidelines.

I was diagnosed with primary mediastinal b-cell lymphoma on December 20. On December 11 I ran a 5k in the morning and really sprinted my ass off, got my best time actually. That night I went to sleep feeling fine and then I woke up around 3AM with shortness of breath. It’s hard to explain what that felt like, mostly just like I couldn’t get a deep breath, like something was in my chest. I had my boyfriend take me to the ER. They did a chest x-ray and a CT scan, but I was starting to feel fine.

My boyfriend, Bryan, and my mom were with me and I told them that I was embarrassed for coming to the hospital with (what we thought was) muscular soreness from the run. I was getting ready to pack up my stuff and head out, when the doctor came in and told us that there was a fleshy tumor in my chest. We called my dad and my sisters who were headed to the hospital. We all knew immediately that there were two options: malignant or benign. While we were waiting to find out the next step, we made jokes to pass the time. I wasn’t scared because at that point I still didn’t know what to be scared of.

They sent me home and I immediately began doing research. I ordered books, articles, googled everything. When I came back to the hospital on the 14th to meet with the thoracic surgeons, I already knew that it was probably lymphoma. My doctors were amazingly upfront with me. We scheduled my biopsy and I felt 100% confident about the surgery. My doctor told me that my prognosis was the same whether it was benign and we had to do extensive surgery, or it was malignant and we had to do Chemo.

I went in for the biopsy two days later and was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma on December 20. The most important thing I did for myself at that point was not skip a beat. I would’ve started treatment that day if they had let me. But by the time that we got the second opinion, ran more tests, got my infusaport in and healed up- it was January 20th.

I’ve had 5 treatments now and I only have one more to go!  I thought that I would be done in time for our bout on May 21, but I’m going to have to wait until June. My last treatment is going to be April 27th and I have to wait for my blood count to come back up, get another PET scan, get the port out- which is a minor outpatient procedure, and then heal from surgery.

Of course I’m bummed that I won’t be able to bout until June, but there is no point in being upset. When I come back I know I’ll be stronger than ever. I’ve been training for a half-ironman triathlon, skating, working out, eating well, and learning a lot by watching. I’m going to be blood thirsty when I can finally play, I miss it every day.

The way I see it is that you choose to be happy. You can’t choose your circumstances, but you can choose how you react to them. Anything can be positive if you want it to be. I know that seems easier said than done, but I really do think it can be that simple.
Cancer can be an excuse to be miserable, or a great opportunity. I have been able to demonstrate to people the power of having a good attitude, learned a lot about myself, and made a lot of irreverent jokes. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point? I’m not saying this has been easy, but I make every day a good day- no matter what.