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!
Cancer taught me what is really important. I've learn to cherish moments, create memories and celebrate milestones. I've learned that everybody dies, not everyone lives.
Cancer has allowed me to meet the most amazing people. I have raised over $350,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society #FightinFins.