This is not a journey I would wish on anyone - but it is journey I am glad I took.
I was 49 when I was diagnosed with Mantel Cell Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma stage 4. I was healthy, in great shape, and a vegetarian. There are no bumps or lumps with my cancer. What led me to a doctor in the first place was chronic hives. That was the beginning of my journey to become a cancer survivor!
The medical team was shocked to see me. I was the first female they had treated with this cancer as it usually hit men working in toxic environments. For the first 3 months I was at St. Jude's Hospital in Fullerton, CA. I was on one of the most toxic chemotherapies at the time, with 3 chemo agents in my cocktail. My doctor let me know that two men had to be taken of the regiment because they couldn't handle it. My attitude was: this is not going to easy but I am going to fight it with all the inner strength I have! I simply told cancer: "too bad I’m moving on. I'M NOT DYING. I will not let this defeat me." I was at the hospital once a week every 3 weeks on chemo 24/7 and finished that treatment!
The next part of my journey took me to the City of Hope in Duarte, CA. I lived there for 3 months, the first week in a small apartment. While at City of Hope I received chemo and full-body radiation twice a day for 5 days. I then moved into the bone marrow transplant unit. That is where I got my stem cell transplant and waited until my counts recovered so I could get to my family. Once home I was making the trip to the City of Hope every 2 days so my counts could be checked. Each time I made that drive I always told myself: "this is the I won't need a platelet or blood transfusion." It took 9 years before my counts were real people normal not "Pam's normal!" Along the way I had 12 bone marrow biopsies and made a lot of special friends. I was so excited when my distance between visits to The City of Hope became longer!
I was given 3 years and I am now celebrating 20 years cancer free, 50 years married, and turning 70!
I have two wonderful children, Jenni and Chris, who have married two awesome individuals, Brain and Andrea. I am enjoying two fabulous grandsons, Wyatt and Ian, whom I babysat for a long time. This is not a journey I would wish on anyone but it is journey I am glad I took! It was worth it!
I now understand there are so few things you can control. I control what I can – taking care of myself. I'm in greatest shape of my life.
As a person who went through this journey another thing that has stayed with me the simple kindness that of friends and acquaintances how it changed me! I now reach to help out when can. Whether it is a card in mail, flowers real or silk (like I had to have in the hospital), or a meal on the doorstep. Those are things made my journey easier - knowing that people cared about me.
A few things I would like to share that made a difference in my journey:
1) I was in good shape when I was diagnosed and a vegetarian. So I say stay in shape or get in shape so you can fight this battle.
2) Get a medical team you trust, listen to your doctors, and work with them to help with your journey.
3) Get an advocate. I was incredibly lucky that I had the best advocate in my husband. He is a big part of why I am still here!
My faith in God grew and I don't take life for granted! I found freedom and peace in Christ!