A Message from Rachel:
I can still picture the way the light shone through the window and hit the chair I sat in when the doctors told me I had cancer. I was 27 years old.
Let’s rewind to when I first noticed a small lump on my neck. I was 22, extremely healthy, and in great shape. My doctor told me to keep an eye on it and if it changed in any way, I should get it checked out immediately.
Five years later, I noticed that my once pea sized lump had now doubled in size. Following an exam, my doctor insisted that I get the lymph node biopsied. A week later, I walked into NYU’s cancer facility for a biopsy, and walked out with stage 2A Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Days later, I underwent surgery to remove the cancerous node.
My oncologist then determined that I would undergo 12 treatments of chemotherapy over the course of six months to get rid of the remaining cancer. But before I could begin, I needed to consider my reproductive options. I was told that chemo could render me infertile so as insurance, I could freeze my embryos. We decided to move forward with fertility and the day after the retrieval, I started chemo.
The doctors weren’t kidding when they said I would be tired. I was exhausted all of the time. My cocktail of medications took a toll on me. My mind was always racing, but my body couldn’t move. I had to stop working after a few weeks because I didn’t have the stamina for an eight-hour day. My new focus was getting better. I took walks and taught myself how to crochet.
As I suspected, I lost my hair. It happened within a month of starting chemo. It was depressing to wake up to a pillow full of hair each morning so I decided to get ahead of it and buzz my rapidly thinning hair. I invited my best friend over for a head shaving party and my husband did the honors. I was relieved when it was gone.
I went to doctors appointments weekly. We monitored my progress with exams and scans, and after 3 months, I was told my cancer was gone. Treatments got easier. I looked forward to seeing my infusion nurse and developed a special bond with my oncologist. My husband and family were there with me every step of the way and I had a supportive group of friends. When treatment was over, I threw myself a huge party and let go of the weight I had been carrying around for the last six months.
I had a cancer scare recently and some old emotions bubbled up to the surface. It was a sobering reminder that cancer will always be a part of my life, for better or for worse. So as I sit here, cancer-free writing my story, I think about how cancer forever changed me. Life is precious, and that is why I tell my son (who did not come from a lab) each and every night that I love him and I promise to see him in the morning. I look forward to my many more mornings to come.