Being back as a member of the MDA team always brings me back to my first encounter with this beast. I'll do my best to take you back there with me, but obviously it will be abbreviated. Who am I kidding.... Abbreviated in a Jen kind of way....lol Bare with me as I ramble.
Cancer has been a part of our family since June 30, 2006. Everyone asks me how did you catch the original occurrence and the only thing I can tell people is I had a mole on my leg that I needed to start going around when I was shaving. It didn't look gross, it didn't look completely abnormal, it didn't hurt, wasn't oozing, I didn't feel or look sick, it was just slightly raised but the point I am making is it could have been easily over looked. I could have easily missed it and we got lucky that I didn't.
The only thing that saved me was my pediatrician's rec. when I was younger to start going to a dermatologist due to my skin color, the amount of moles, and eye color. I went religiously every year. When I started having to go around this particular mole, I made an appt to go have it checked. Even the dermatology office said, we don't think it is anything but we will send if off for testing just to be sure.
We were pretty new to Houston as we moved for Jeff's job less than a year prior. Jeff and I had just gotten engaged in April 2006, wedding plans in CA were under way in CA for 7-6-07 and I was teaching at a school here near Hobby Airport. Our lives were as full as they ever have been. I remember the moment of diagnosis so clearly. I was at a Teaching Training seminar June 30th at the Westin in the Galleria and my phone rang. It was the dermatologist. I needed to come in for an immediate wide local excision as the mole they took was malignant. I had CANCER!
The fact that we had just moved to Houston was yet another reminder that someone, something bigger, something better than me...My GOD! This same feeling holds true today. He was with me and has always been there to carry me along the way. What are the chances that I would get Melanoma and move to a place where the #1 Hospital/Research facility for Cancer was in our backyard? My doctors back home said they would have sent me here too. Litterally 10 miles away at the time. Serendipitous, but definitely no accident.
That is where my relationship with MDA began and what a journey it has been. I had 3 surgeries, one of them discovered a positive lymph node which led to a major surgery. I had a lymphdectomy. All my lymph nodes in my right leg were removed. This caused me to have many months of physical therapy at MDA. I had drainage tubes coming out of my legs and had to relearn how to This was to retrain the lymphatic system to move all the fluid out. I had drainage tubes coming out of my leg and so needed to learn how to manage lymphodema . I wear compression stockings and had to figure a new plan to exercise other than running.
This is where the perspective. Life is too short, live now, do it, embrace the moment BE. I underwent biological chemo (Interferon) which pretty much killed me and was def. not my friend. I am a fighter and don't give up and thought chemo was supposed to do that for you so I pushed through all the horrendous side effects. Probably pushed a bit too hard. That November, while injecting myself 3x a day having 104 fevers, I couldn't eat, lost 45 lbs, Jeff and I realized working wasn't going to work and HISD wasn't going to make it easy on me to financially continue treatment.
This is how I know I am the luckiest girl around. Jeff, my soul mate, my perfect puzzle piece, the most selfless man I know married me and let me know then that I wasn't going to have to do this alone. I pulled myself away from the bed, got dressed in sweats, on chemo, and we married Nov. 22, 2006 at the Justice of the Peace here in Houston. I was puking and all. I now could be taken care of on his insurance and we wouldn't have that stress. After all, we were essentially already married as we have known one another since 2002 and our official wedding was already being planned and date set. Well we made it to the celebration and what an emotion one it was. I was in the hospital for an infection the week before the ceremony. Also as a side note, I was in hair extensions because my hair was falling out. Man, has it been a ride.
At this point I now could quit teaching and focus on getting my body well. Much different then having no child and now. My desire to fight is even stronger now. My chemo experience was less than desirable as interferon shut down my thyroid and put me in a mental institution for nearly 5 1/2 weeks where I was catatonic, on heavy meds, hearing voices, paranoid, suicidal etc. All this time, my husband was there fighting with and for me and not giving up. He never left my side even when I didn't know who he was. It takes a real MAN, a special MAN to do this. Jeffrey is that guy. Remember we had just married Nov. 22nd and my thyroid crashed around Feb/March. Here is a guy that just got married and he's pretty much looking at his new bride in a vegetable/catatonic state not knowing if she will ever return to him. This is Jeff's story as much as it is mine. We still had the 7-6-07 nuptial ceremony planned but the whole time it was touch and go as to whether or not I was going to make it. We truly weren't sure. At my dress fitting they had to reorder me/rush me a knew dress because the orginal fitting before treatment was now huge. They ordered two sizes smaller because of all the weight that I lost. The only positive thing about interferon. We joke about going on the interferon diet. No thank you, and I'd rather lose it another way but boy did those pounds shed. I also had no energy so that isn't good either.
If it wasn't for his brother Colby coming down and Nat to convince the doctors that something was wrong I would prob. still be in the psychiatric ward. Makes you think about how many people stay in those places unnecessarily. I am lucky to have such advocates on my side. It was them that figured out what my condition was, not the doctors. The doctors just kept putting me on antispychotic drugs like haldol which pretty much trapped me in my own head. Makes you think...Know your body. It's so important. Colby and Jeff figured out that my thyroid crashed, not the doctors. Had to write it 2x because it is so shocking. I am forever indebted. We got me on the proper thyroid meds and I snapped out of it. All the while having Jeff there ALWAYS. Not many people get to see how there spouse will treat them for real in sickness and and health and I KNOW. I know the love of my life will be by my side during the elderly years and I would do the same for him. The bond we have is almost like having a crystal ball and nobody can take that away from me. Now that is a gift. What Jeff and I have goes beyond anything I can even put in words. I love you ALWAYS Jeffrey Dean and will always be with you just the same as you are for me.
Cancer does bring gifts....you just have to be willing to see them. All our the outpouring of love and support from everyone is another gift that I will always cherrish and be forever grateful for. As to everyone that donated, you are all beautiful angels. I can't thank you enough. I will personally thank you. In the meantime, I'm thanking you all. My story and my journey wouldn't be so powerful without such an audience. You guys rock!