|Pre-hair halo, in line for desserts|
While I had my chemotherapy at Pennsylvania Hospital's Joan Karnell Cancer Center and it's part of Penn Medicine, I had never ventured up to Penn (my alma mater) to see what it had to offer. This was my very first visit to the place.
It was roomy and seemed brand new - lots of big windows everywhere and you could see down below to the ground level from the second floor. Kind of like a giant great room. Up on the second floor, tables were set up with small eats (spanikopita, some risotto and shitake cakes, a bread with a slice of roasted meat and jelly), hot and cold beverages, and desserts for the noshing while the registrants were encouraged to "Ask the Experts" seated around the big room. There were experts on coping with emotion (ha h-ha ha ha), survivorship, complementary medicine (I forgot to sign up for a free massage - doh!), and other topics, but no one on fertility (as advertised in the brochure).
|Big plate of small eats|
After grazing (mini-pumpkin tarts were the highlight for me) and browsing some of the experts' literature, we decided to meander over to the Center's wig/hat/scarf/bra extraordinaire boutique (Faith and Hope). There, I selected a car magnet (purple! and labeled, "cancer sucks" since I think it would be limiting to just pick lime green for lymphoma - all cancer sucks), a lime green wristband (gotta show some support, right?), a super cute tweed-ish hat and some bangs.
You read correctly. I bought me some bangs. They fit around your head like a halo (this is how the woman described them) and then you can fix your scarf or hat right on top so it appears that your hair is peeking out from underneath. Who would know that you have a very large bald spot hiding under the scarf?? It was surprisingly cute and I wore it right out of the shop (Like when you were six years old and you went shoe shopping? Way too excited to put those kicks back in the box! You had to wear them home!). The sales lady kindly cut the tag off for me while I signed the receipt.
We listened to some opening remarks, clapped for some honorees, hugged my college roommate's parents (who had not been previously informed of my situation...) and then found our way to the conference room where we would hear a presentation on the topic of Large B and T Cell, Mantle Cell and Other Agressive Lymphomas (they really getcha right from the start, right?).
|See the bangs? Cute, huh?|
While our lecturer/doctor was extremely knowledgeable, I needed her to present the 3rd Grade version of Diffuse Primary Mediastinal Large B-Cell Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, Stage II, Intermediate (that would be my full diagnosis). And how it came to be here, in my body, having started from a single pisspoor reject cell that mutated and then proliferated (see? I learned what it meant).
Damn, there's a whole lot of science involved in cancer, and still, they don't have the answers. How can we know (not me, we, but the collective we) so much and it's not enough to prevent it or cure it?
I learned about autologous stem cell transplants being a possibility in case of relapse. There is also the potential for more - MORE!! - chemo or even another biopsy in the future, since no doctor will treat you (again) just on the basis of a PET scan (hence, Tissue is the Issue). And while that's all so daunting, I realize it's so much better than the alternative: to have a cancer (such as Mantle Cell, or the most aggressive, Burkitt's Lymphoma) that has zero cure rates and high likelihood of recurrence, if you can get to remission. While I don't love the idea of more chemo or even of a transplant, the numbers we left with ringing in our ears were that for my type of cancer and treatment, 75-80% of patients never see it again. Rock on! Those are high numbers.
Life's still not exactly perfect. Having radiation puts me at a higher risk of a second malignancy later on down the road (even decades from now). Any healthy tissue that is exposed to high doses of radiation is at risk (neck, thyroid, breast, lung...). So there's always that to worry about, even if I can recognize that my chances are high of coming away from this lymphoma for good. Never fear, I will not run out of possibilities to worry about.
The bright side of this evening's ventures is that I left thinking (and saying), "It could be worse." And I hadn't felt that way in a while. Of course, I'm off to collect my chemical intake for tonight, thus helping myself to a solid night's sleep, but me and my 80% (stick to the high side) chance are cozying up with the facts. Tonight, they appear to be in my favor.