Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Changing the Facts

At the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Light the Night awards event a few weeks ago, I met a beautiful woman about my age. From across the hall, crowded with people sipping wine from plastic cups and munching on bruschetta, crudite, and cheese cubes, I'd noticed a white lily, signifying survivorship, pinned to her blouse. My reaction: "Wow, is she gorgeous. How can someone so beautiful have cancer? Right, cancer attacks you on the inside."

I introduced myself to V. and her boyfriend. She has a form of Non Hodgkin Lymphoma, which her doctors think may have been caused by the treatments she received to cure a childhood cancer. She is not yet in remission. We chatted for a while, and I mingled my way over to the appetizer table.

The organizers announced the presentation would begin in five minutes, and that food was not allowed in the auditorium. Since I hadn't eaten dinner, I huddled near a potted plant and crammed cheese cubes into my mouth. My mouth full, someone tapped me on the shoulder. V.'s boyfriend had come back into the hallway to tell me they'd saved a seat for me since I was attending alone.

I thanked him and joined the pair. The ceremony began. One of the first presenters spoke of her inspiration for becoming involved with the association--her sister-in-law, who was battling Non Hodgkin Lymphoma. I'd been trying to hold back the tears all evening and gave up. V., sitting next to me, reached over and gripped my hand. She was crying too. To her, the story wasn't about "someone else's" life.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Unbroken (Barely)

At 3:50 this morning, while kneeling on the bathroom floor, I thought about Louis Zamperini in Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken. In comparison to him, I felt weak and inadequate.

Since I began the 15 days of ATRA Tuesday morning, the migraines have been so bad my cheek bones ring. The bones in my legs and lower back ache like I have the flu. Pain medication doesn't help because it compounds the nausea I'm experiencing from the ATRA, even with the aide of anti-nausea medicine.

I think about having to endure six more rounds of this treatment and despair creeps in. Prayer is comforting. But since ATRA is an answer to our prayers, how can I ask God for even more?

In comparison to a relapse, this is nothing. In comparison to being a Japanese POW during World War II, this is nothing. So why does the thought of six more rounds of this nearly break me?

I suppose it's easier to feel brave after the fact. Zamperini had to have had moments of despair while sharks were circling his life raft. Once this round is over, and I've begun to forgot how bad I felt, it will be easier to embrace Round Three (of Eight), and to feel grateful this drug is saving my life.

A must-read biography of a WWII POW

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

ATRA Round Two (of Eight)

This morning I took the first four of 120 pills for this 15 day round of ATRA. Four pills each morning, four at night. The migraines and nausea should be begin by late afternoon today. A minor discomfort compared to a relapse, which these should help prevent.