It's not easy being bald, a bald physician, and a bald wife. This is my third dance with Hodgkin's Lymphoma (HL). I first met HL in college, as many young girls meet their first pivotal relationship. Sadly for me, I attended an all woman's college, so my pivotal 'boyfriend' came in the form of a first cancer diagnosis.
For a pre-med student, while a disturbing and scary diagnosis, it was also interesting. A way to experience medicine and learn from it firsthand. My oncologist at the time was an excellent teacher and he generously spent the time explaining all details of my illness, showing me my biopsy slides and explaining those strange Reed-Sternberg cells.
A short four months of daily radiation treatments later, I finished my spring semester finals a week late and was pronounced 'entered into remission'. A pronouncement I'd hear again, and again. Fast forward nine months. I'm still gunning away through college at an accelerated pace with the intent to enter medical school. Then one casual Tuesday morning, while getting a routine follow up CT scan, I learned that HL had decided to revisit.
For the first time since starting school, I withdrew from college to return home for the remainder of the semester to undergo six months of chemotherapy. The first hair loss, and the start of a 25-year pattern of hyper drive, hyper work, beat this jerk who came back in my life. I enrolled in courses at the local community college to continue gaining credits toward graduation. I took my MCAT, with special permission to drink my ginger tea throughout the test so I wouldn't vomit on my exam. That September, I received the exciting news that my career in medicine would begin.
So squish in here four years of medical school and five years postgraduate training in both general psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry. One failed marriage, married again, moved to Las Vegas, started a family and a practice, and haven't stopped to catch my breath. We have our miracle perfect child, Allison.
At 38, after several months of progressive weight gain and sluggishness, I was diagnosed with Papillary Thyroid Cancer and had a total thyroidectomy. But none of this would slow me down, our careers soared, our daughter is a daily joy and pleasure, I was giving back to the community serving two non-profit boards for groups for whom I have a great deal of passion.
And then the fateful summer blast of 2016, the cancer was back. I cleared my calendar. There was only one focus now - beating this for good, but also beating the monster in my head telling me I had to go at full speed to outrun him.
Today, I had my second to last chemo. My most recent PET scan showed remission of the tumors and this time, he really got the message through, loud and clear. There's more to life than work, career advancement, focus outside your home. Look inside - yourself, your family, your friends. These are the individuals most important in forming life stories, memories, and networks of support. In just a few weeks, I'll be a bald cancer survivor again. Only this time I'm going to be a post cancer lover and experience life - at whatever pace I want. I've earned it and you guys fighting HL with me will earn it too.